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RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

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Sir Ken Robinson - Changing paradigms Every country on Earth at the moment is reforming public education. There are two reasons for it. The first of them is economic. People trying to work out how do we educate our children to take their place in economies of the 21 century? How do we do that? Given that we can't anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of the next week as the recent turmoil is demonstrating. How do we do that? The second is cultural. Every country on Earth is trying to figure out how do we educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity so that we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities, while being part of the process of globalization? How do we square that circle? The problem is they're trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past. And on their way they are alienating millions of kids who don't see any purpose in going to school. While we went to school we were tempted with a story which is: if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree, you'd have a job. Our kids don't believe that. And they're right not to, by the way. You're better having a degree than not, but it's not a guarantee any more. And particularly not if the route to it marginalizes most of the things that you think are important about yourself. Some people say, after Ray Stan, this is a breakthrough. Yes, really. We should. Why would you lower them? I haven't come across an argument that persuades me of lowering them. But raising them, of course we should raise them. The problem is that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. Before the middle of the 19th century there were no systems of public education. Not really - I mean you could get educated by Jesuits if you had the money but public education paid for from taxation, compulsory to everybody and free at the point of delivery, that was a revolutionary idea. And many people objected to it - they said it's not possible for many street kids, working class children, to benefit from public education. They're incapable of learning to read and write and why are we spending time on this. So there's also built into it a whole series of assumptions about social structure and capacity. It was driven by an economic imperative of the time but running right through it was an intellectual model of the mind, which was essentially the enlightenment view of intelligence, that real intelligence consists in this capacity for a certain type of deductive reasoning and a knowledge of the classics originally - what we've come to think of as academic ability. And this is deep in the gene pool of public education that there are really two types of people: academic and non-academic; smart people and non-smart people. And the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they're not. Because they've been judged against this particular view of the mind. So we have twin pillars: economic and intellectual. And my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people's lives. It's been great for some. There have people who have benefited wonderfully from it. But most people have not. Instead they suffer this. This is the modern epidemic an it's as misplaced as it is fictitious. This is the plague of ADHD. Now this a map of the instance of ADHD in America, or prescriptions for ADHD. Don't mistake me here. I don't mean to say that there is no such thing as attention deficit disorder. I'm not qualified to say if there is such a thing. I know a that a great majority of psychologists and pediatricians think there is such a thing, but it's still a matter of debate. What I do know for a fact is it's not an epidemic. These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out. and on the same whimsical basis and for the same reason - medical fashion. Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the Earth. They're being besieged with information and calls for their attention from every platform - computers, from iphones, from [advertisers], from hundreds of television channels and we're penalizing them now for getting distracted. from what? boring stuff at school for the most part. It seems to me not a coincidence, totally, that the incidence of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of standardized testing. Now these kids are being given Ritalin and Adderall and all manner of things, often quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down. But, according to this, attention deficit disorder increases as you travel east across the country. People start loosing interest in Oklahoma; they can hardly think straight in Arkansas; and by the time they get to Washington they've lost it completely; and there are separate reasons for that I believe. It's a fictitious epidemic. If you think of it, the arts - and i don't say this exclusively the arts, I think it also too of science and of math - I say about the arts particularly because they are the victims of this mentality currently. Particularly. The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you are present in the current moment, when are resonating with excitement of this thing that you're experiencing, when you are fully alive. An anesthetic is when you shut your senses off and deaden yourself to what's happening. And a lot of these drugs are that. We're getting our children through education by anesthetizing them and I think we should be doing the exact opposite - we shouldn't be putting them asleep we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves. But the model we have is this - I believe we have a system of education that is modeled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it. I'll give you a couple of examples: schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines - ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects, we still educate children by batches, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are? It's like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture. You know what I mean? Well I know kids that are much better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines, or at different times of the day, or better in small groups than in large groups, or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you're interested in a model of learning you don't start from this production line mentality. It's essentially about conformity and it's increasingly about that as you look at the growth of standardized testing and standardized curricula And it's about standardization. I believe we've got to go in the exact opposite direction. That's what I mean by "Changing the Paradigm". There is a great study on recently of "Divergent Thinking" Divergent thinking isn't the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn't a synonym but it's an essential capacity for creativity. It's the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways of interpreting a question. To think whatever de Bono would probably call "laterally", to think not just in linear or convergent ways. To see multiple answers, not one. There are tests for this. One kind of cod example would be: people might be asked to say How many uses can you think of for a paper clip ? Most people might come with 10 of 15. People who are good at this might come up with 200. and they do that by saying: and they do that by saying - "could the paper clip be 200ft tall and be made of foam rubber?" Does it have to be a paper clip as we know it, Jim? Now they tested this and they gave them to 1500 people, It's in a book called "Break point and beyond". And on the protocol of the test, if you scored above a certain level, you'd be considered to be a genius of divergent thinking. So my question to you is: What percentage of the people tested, of the 1500, scored at genius level for divergent thinking? I need to know one more thing about them. These were kindergarten children. So what do you think? What percentage at genius level? Eighty... Ninety eight percent. Now, the thing about this it was long to tune or study. So they retested the same children five years later. Age of eight to ten. What do you think? 50? They retested them again five years later, ages 13 to 15. You can see a trend here, can you? This tells an interesting story: Because you could of imagined they'd gone the other way. Could you? You start off not being very good, but you get better as you get older. But this shows two things. One is: we all have this capacity, and two: it mostly deteriorates. Now, a lot of things have happened to those kids as they've grown up. A lot. But one of the most important things that happened is that by now they'd become educated. They've spent 10 years of school being told there's one answer. It's at the back. And don't look! And don't copy! Because that's cheating! Meanwhile outside school that's called collaboration, but inside schools... This isn't because teachers wanted this way it's just because it happens that way. It's because it's in the gene pool of education. You have to think differently about human capacity, you have to get over this old conception of academic, non-academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational, and see it for what it is: a myth. Second you have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups. That collaboration is the stuff of growth If we atomize people and separate them and judge them separately, we form a kind of disjunction between them and their natural learning environment. And thirdly it's crucially about the culture of our institutions, the habits of institution and the habitats that they occupy.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 42 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Producer: RSA
Director: RSA
Views: 962
Posted by: marinildac on Jan 10, 2011

Talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson

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