Bring on the Learning Revolution

In Sir Ken Robinson’s second most notable TED talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution, he talks of a 2nd climate crisis. One as severe as the one coupled with global warming, but not a crisis of environmental resources. Rather, a crisis of human resources. He says that we poorly use talents- people endure life rather than enjoy it. You can do what you love and in these cases what you do springs out of who you are. Sadly this is only true for a minority of people. According to Sir Ken Robinson, education is one of the major reasons why most people don’t do what they love. Because, education “dislocates many people from their natural talents.” These talents, says Robinson, “you have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around.” One’s talent, or talents, need to be searched for and discovered, a job that education ought to fill. Unfortunately, too often, it doesn’t.
All across the world, education systems are attempting reform. But, Sir Robinson believes that “reform is no use anymore. Because that’s simply improving a broken model.” What he calls for is a revolution that transforms the system into something new. “Not evolution, but a revolution!”

Sir Robinson’s education revolution aims to put innovation fundamentally at the core, to help us do what is difficult and challenge what we take for granted. Robinson quotes Abraham Lincoln as saying, “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

I think that’s a brilliant quote, and highly fitting to the occasion. In this new era, we must get a new set of standards, and we must move with the times, not merely after the fact. As this scenario is new, we must adapt and think of new ideas. Finally, we must let go of the ideas that we take for granted and thus save our country from the education crisis that befalls it.

Robinson goes on to talk about the outdatedness of our system, saying that  “there are ideas that all of us are enthralled to which we take for granted. And many of these ideas have been formed, not to meet the circumstances of this century but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries, but our minds are still hypnotized with them. [Therefore,] we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them.” In education, according to Sir Ken Robinson, one such idea we harbor, is linearity- that if we stay on the right track, it’s a bee line to success. But life is not linear, life is organic- we “create life with our talents in relation to our experiences.” Education linearity is shown with our so-called obsession with college. Robinson says “not everybody needs to go and not everybody needs to go now.” Yet college seems to be the pinnacle of many people’s education goals.

He goes on to say “Human communities depend upon our diversity of talent not our singular conception of ability.” The key challenge is reconstructing our sense of ability, which is hampered by this linearity- “A 3 year old is NOT half a 6 year old…”

Robinson then throws out another provocative idea- “We base our education system on the fast food model, where everything is standardized. It’s impoverishing our spirits and energies as much as fast food on our bodies.” To escape this model, we ought to reject conformity and embrace customization. After all around individuality is part of our DNA. “Human talent is tremendously diverse; People have very different aptitudes…. But it’s not only about that, it’s about passion, and what excites are spirit and our energy.” Which of course takes us back to one of his earlier points, the goal of doing what you love. And according to Sir Robinson, the reason many people are opting out of education is because school fails to “feed the students’ spirits, their energy or their passion(s).”

At this point my thoughts trailed off… How can schools transform into a passion fueling institution? What if students were allowed to pick all of their courses (and choose their level for the core subjects: english (or some form of lit course), a science, and a math course)? Would that help? What then would the role of school be? Research supports the idea that our current education system is in the business of creating factory workers. But innovators, not machine people, is what we need.

Robinson has his own ideas on how we can reach this innovative school model. In his opinion, if we based our school on the agricultural system, students would be given the right conditions to grow and then be left mostly to their own devices. (Sign me up!) He says that making a successfully school model is about “customizing them to your circumstances and personalizing education for the people who are actually being taught… It’s not about scaling a new solution, it’s about creating a new movement in education, where people develop their own solutions but with external support, based on a personalized system.”

Towards the end of his talk, Robinson touches upon a point that resonates strongly with me: technology. I believe that just as technology has transformed the way we interact in the real world, it can play an important role in transforming another area- education. Sir Ken Robinson says that with technology and extraordinary teachers, we “provide an opportunity to revolutionize education.”

So what are we waiting for?? “Bring on the Learning Revolution!!”


Story time with Students

So last night, I was thinking… This year I’ve met so many students with ideas like me on how to make school a better place. Wouldn’t it be great if all these students had a place to share their stories and make their voice count? Along with some other students, I’m creating a student voice blog, and I thought in tandem, I could have a project where students share their stories of how they have changed school, how they are learning outside the school walls, how they put into practice what they wish to see. This project takes the idea of bright spots, pinpointing areas of positivity, so that educators, politicians and the world can see that the learning revolution IS possible, and like it or not, it’s on its way. After sharing their story, students could then have the opportunity to submit a piece on one quality they think the new school should have and why, to the student voice blog– and possibly join the force of its writers.

Please let any interested students know and let me know what you think in the comments.