How to escape education's death valley - Ken Robinson

What a hero. I take my hat off to yee, Sir Ken Robinson!That devil sure knows how to win a girl's heart. A talk with clear, short lists, amusing little re-enactments, a dry humorous tone, a vivid analogy and an inspiring quote to finish off. My heart was stirred.

Some of my highlights (of which there are many and which you should probably just stop reading here and start watching the video because it'll basically be the same thing. I warned yee):

"...the dropout crisis is just the tip of an iceberg. What it doesn't count are all the kids who are in schoolbut being disengaged from it, who don't enjoy it, who don't get any real benefit from it."

"There are three principles on which human life flourishes, and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure.

The first is this, that human beings are naturally different and diverse."

"Education under "No Child Left Behind" is based on not diversity but conformity. What schools are encouraged to do is to find out what kids can do across a very narrow spectrum of achievement."

"Real education has to give equal weight to the arts, the humanities, to physical education.... Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents, not just a small range of them. And by the way, the arts aren't just important because they improve math scores. They're important because they speak to parts of children's being which are otherwise untouched."

"The second principle that drives human life flourishing is curiosity. If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often. Children are natural learners... Curiosity is the engine of achievement."

"Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you're not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor,stimulate, provoke, engage."

"The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. That's it. And part of the problem is, I think, that the dominant culture of education has come to focus on not teaching and learning, but testing. Now, testing is important. Standardized tests have a place. But they should not be the dominant culture of education.They should be diagnostic. They should help."

"So in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance. Our children and teachers are encouraged to follow routine algorithms rather than to excite that power of imagination and curiosity."

"And the third principle is this: that human life is inherently creative. It's why we all have different résumés. We create our lives, and we can recreate them as we go through them. It's the common currency of being a human being. It's why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic."

"Finland regularly comes out on top in math, science and reading. Now, we only know that's what they do well at, because that's all that's being tested. That's one of the problems of the test. They don't look for other things that matter just as much. The thing about work in Finland is this: they don't obsess about those disciplines. They have a very broad approach to education, which includes humanities, physical education, the arts.

Second, there is no standardized testing in Finland. I mean, there's a bit, but it's not what gets people up in the morning, what keeps them at their desks."

"But what all the high-performing systems in the world do... One is this: they individualize teaching and learning. They recognize that it's students who are learning and the system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity. That's how you get them to learn.

The second is that they attribute a very high status to the teaching profession. They recognize that you can't improve education if you don't pick great people to teach and keep giving them constant support and professional development. Investing in professional development is not a cost. It's an investment.

And the third is, they devolve responsibility to the school level for getting the job done.... The trouble is that education doesn't go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students, and if you remove their discretion, it stops working. You have to put it back to the people.

"Not far from where I live is a place called Death Valley. Death Valley is the hottest, driest place in America, and nothing grows there. Nothing grows there because it doesn't rain. Hence, Death Valley. In the winter of 2004, it rained in Death Valley. Seven inches of rain fell over a very short period. And in the spring of 2005, there was a phenomenon. The whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers for a while. What it proved is this: that Death Valley isn't dead. It's dormant. Right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about, and with organic systems, if the conditions are right, life is inevitable. It happens all the time. You take an area, a school, a district, you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities, you cherish and value the relationships between teachers and learners,you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and schools that were once bereft spring to life."

"There's a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. "There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don't get it, or don't want to do anything about it; there are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it; and there are people who move, people who make things happen." And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that's, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that's what we need."