Friday, August 30, 2013

Your child's education: One size does NOT fit all

As someone who was pushed in the wrong educational direction (with all good intent), this is something I think all parents should watch.

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In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.

Full Transcript

I think there are many possible explanations for it. And high among them is education, because education, in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents. And human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves. And you might imagine education would be the way that happens, but too often it's not. Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment and it's not enough. Reform is no use anymore, because that's simply improving a broken model.What we need -- and the word's been used many times during the course of the past few days -- is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.
So let me ask you something you may take for granted. How many of you here are over the age of 25? That's not what I think you take for granted, I'm sure you're familiar with that already. Are there any people here under the age of 25? Great. Now, those over 25, could you put your hands up if you're wearing your wristwatch? Now that's a great deal of us, isn't it? Ask a room full of teenagers the same thing. Teenagers do not wear wristwatches. I don't mean they can't or they're not allowed to, they just often choose not to. And the reason is, you see, that we were brought up in a pre-digital culture, those of us over 25.And so for us, if you want to know the time you have to wear something to tell it. Kids now live in a world which is digitized, and the time, for them, is everywhere. They see no reason to do this. And by the way, you don't need to do it either; it's just that you've always done it and you carry on doing it. My daughter never wears a watch, my daughter Kate, who's 20.She doesn't see the point. As she says, "It's a single function device." (Laughter) "Like, how lame is that?" And I say, "No, no, it tells the date as well." (Laughter) "It has multiple functions."
But, you see, there are things we're enthralled to in education. Let me give you a couple of examples. One of them is the idea of linearity: that it starts here and you go through a track and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life. Everybody who's spoken at TED has told us implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, a different story: that life is not linear; it's organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us. But, you know, we have become obsessed with this linear narrative. And probably the pinnacle for education is getting you to college. I think we are obsessed with getting people to college. Certain sorts of college. I don't mean you shouldn't go to college, but not everybody needs to go and not everybody needs to go now. Maybe they go later, not right away.
And I was up in San Francisco a while ago doing a book signing. There was this guy buying a book, he was in his 30s. And I said, "What do you do?" And he said, "I'm a fireman." And I said, "How long have you been a fireman?" He said, "Always. I've always been a fireman."And I said, "Well, when did you decide?" He said, "As a kid." He said, "Actually, it was a problem for me at school, because at school, everybody wanted to be a fireman." He said, "But I wanted to be a fireman." And he said, "When I got to the senior year of school, my teachers didn't take it seriously. This one teacher didn't take it seriously. He said I was throwing my life away if that's all I chose to do with it; that I should go to college, I should become a professional person, that I had great potential and I was wasting my talent to do that." And he said, "It was humiliating because he said it in front of the whole class and I really felt dreadful. But it's what I wanted, and as soon as I left school, I applied to the fire service and I was accepted." And he said, "You know, I was thinking about that guy recently, just a few minutes ago when you were speaking, about this teacher," he said, "because six months ago, I saved his life." (Laughter) He said, "He was in a car wreck, and I pulled him out, gave him CPR, and I saved his wife's life as well." He said, "I think he thinks better of me now."