On Creativity and Literacy


“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

– Ken Robinson

The Destruction of Divergent Thinking


‘There was a great study done recently of divergent thinking. It was published a couple of years ago. 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 what Edward de Bono would probably call laterally – to think not just in linear or convergent ways. To seek multiple answers, not one.

So there are tests for this, I mean, one kind of cod example would be people might be asked to say how many uses can you think of for a paper clip; one of those routine questions. Most people might come up with ten or fifteen. People who are good at this might come up with 200. And they’d do that by saying, “Well could the paperclip be 200 foot tall and made out of foam rubber?” “Does it have to be a paperclip as we know it, Jim?” Now they tested this and they gave them to 1,500 people 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 at divergent thinking.

So my question to you is what percentage of the people tested of the 1,500 scored at genius level for divergent thinking. Now you need to know one more thing about them – these were kindergarten children. So what do you think? What percentage at genius level? 80? 98%. Now the thing about this was it was a longitudinal study, so they retested the same children five years later aged 8 to 10. What do you think? 50? They retested them again five years later, ages 13 to 15. You can see a trend here can’t you?’

– Robinson, K. (2008, June 16) Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from Ted.com

Anaesthetics and Conformity in Schools


‘If you think of it the arts, and I don’t say this exclusively, the arts, I think it’s also true of science and of maths, but 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.

And aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you’re present in the current moment, when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing, when you’re fully alive. An anaesthetic 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 anaesthetising 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 modelled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it. I’ll give you a couple of examples.

Schools are still pretty much organised on factory lines; ringing bells, separate facilities, specialised 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. Well I know kids who are much better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines, or at different times of the day, or better in smaller groups than in large groups, or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you’re interested in the model of learning you don’t start from this production line mentality.

It’s essentially about conformity and increasingly it’s about that if you look at the growth of standardised testing and standardised curricula and it’s about standardisation. I believe we’ve got to go in the exact opposite direction. That’s what I mean about changing the paradigm.’

– Robinson, K. (2008, June 16) Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from Ted.com

Old Ideas of Public Education


‘So people say we have to raise standards if this is a breakthrough, you know, really, yes 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 and 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 come to think of as academic ability.’

– Robinson, K. (2008, June 16) Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from Ted.com

Reforming Education


‘Every country on earth at the moment is reforming public education. There are two reasons for this. The first of them is economic. People are trying to work out how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century? How do we do that given that we can’t anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of next week, as the recent turmoil is demonstrated. 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 globalisation? 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 the way they’re alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school. When we went to school we were kept there with a story which is if you work hard and did well and got a college degree you would 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 marginalises most of the things that you think are important about yourself.’

– Robinson, K. (2008, June 16) Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from Ted.com