Ken Robinson on a New Paradigm for K12

Most of you know and likely have heard/seen Sir Ken Robinson from his appearances on TED Talks.  At the 2010 TED talk in Long Beach Sir Ken returned and gave a second talk. He noted that the first talk was downloaded over 4 million times. If, he noted, that means it’s likely another 20 people actually saw the video then it clearly reflects that there is a hunger in the world to see…. him!  Well, he delivers the line better than I but it’s a good intro to TED Talk #2.


It’s a 17:52 min talk, but the good folks at RSI have edited it down to 11: 40 min and added their magical hyper-speed illustration to match the wonderful pacing of his naturally engaging style of presentation.

His message is an extension of the earlier talk. We’re not educating our kids for the 21st century because the paradigm of last century just can’t work any more. No amount of tinkering with it, of trying to preserve core elements but change it around, will do. Our kids, he reminds us, aren’t industrial products that should go through an educational system in age-group cohorts, like eggs in cartons, the only thing shared or in common being their birthdays. The current educational system was designed and conceived in the context of the enlightenment, and shaped by the industrial revolution. Public education was resisted in fact, because many didn’t believe kids, all kids, would benefit from it. It was a remarkable achievement to have implemented mandatory public education and it served many well for decades. But is isn’t ‘serving’ us anymore.

We had an economic imperative. We needed trained people to participate in the industrial enterprises of the era. And at the heart of the model is a belief that some people are suited to be academically talented, and others are not (recall the division between those who are ‘college bound’ versus those who aren’t). A symptom of the problem he argues is the rise in attention deficit disorder. Kids are increasingly distracted at school. The proliferation of new information attractors combined with the deadening boredom that kids find in formal classrooms, results, he argues, in the lead kids to react to the classroom environment by physically rejecting it. As a result, tey act out, and we respond by anesthetizing them with drugs like Ritalin. Schools are pushing conformity, a perhaps unintended side effect of high stakes standardised testing. They have to because they need to get students to score well on the test that measures only a portion of the things that reflect creative thinking.

He cites a longitudinal study of divergent thinking, beginning in kindergarten and again every 5 years. The result: divergent thinking consistently declines with years in formal education. This finding is consistent with the headline-grabbing Newsweek article that reported the decline in creativity in US children beginning in 1990 and continuing through today. This data came from a reanalysis of the so-called Torrance Scores by the an academic then at The College of William and Mary by Kyung Hee Kim. Kim later published the article “The Latent Structure and Measurement Invariance of Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking-Figural” in Educational and Psychological Measurement (for those who don’t have access to academic libraries, the citation is: Bandalos, Deborah L (01/06/2006). “The Latent Structure and Measurement Invariance of Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking-Figural”. Educational and psychological measurement (0013-1644), 66 (3), p. 459.)

This talk is another in the meme that I’m continually emphasising – that change in educational paradigms can’t be evolutionary – no amount of revamping the current system will suffice when what we need is to rethink what we’re education our children for in the 21st century. And the same is true for higher/tertiary educational systems, as well.

— pdl —

About longpd

I'm a senior scholar at Georgetown University, in CNDLS, a technologist and lapsed evolutionary biologist with an incandescent passion for new modes of seeing and learning.
This entry was posted in formal_education, k12, learning_paradigm, Sir_Ken_Robinson and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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