Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution (2)
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." He said, "It was humiliating. It was in front of the whole class and I 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. You know, I was thinking about that guy recently, just a few minutes ago when you were speaking, about this teacher, 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. (Laughter)
You know, to me, human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.
And at the heart of our challenges -- (Applause)
At the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and of intelligence.
This linearity thing is a problem. When I arrived in L.A.
about nine years ago, I came across a policy statement -- very well-intentioned --which said, "College begins in kindergarten." No, it doesn't. (Laughter)
If we had time, I could go into this, but we don't. (Laughter)
Kindergarten begins in kindergarten.
A friend of mine once said, "A three year-old is not half a six year-old.
But as we just heard in this last session, there's such competition now to get into kindergarten -- to get to the right kindergarten -- that people are being interviewed for it at three.
Kids sitting in front of unimpressed panels, you know, with their resumes -- (Laughter)
Flicking through and saying, "What, this is it?
"You've been around for 36 months, and this is it?
"You've achieved nothing -- commit.
Spent the first six months breastfeeding, I can see.
See, it's outrageous as a conception.
The other big issue is conformity.
We have built our education systems on the model of fast food. This is something Jamie Oliver talked about the other day. There are two models of quality assurance in catering. One is fast food, where everything is standardized. The other is like Zagat and Michelin restaurants, where everything is not standardized, they're customized to local circumstances. And we have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it's impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. (Applause)
We have to recognize a couple of things here.
One is that human talent is tremendously diverse. People have very different aptitudes. I worked out recently that I was given a guitar as a kid at about the same time that Eric Clapton got his first guitar. (Laughter)
It worked out for Eric, that's all I'm saying.
In a way -- it did not for me.
I could not get this thing to work no matter how often or how hard I blew into it. It just wouldn't work. (Laughter)
But it's not only about that.
It's about passion. Often, people are good at things they don't really care for.It's about passion, and what excites our spirit and our energy. And if you're doing the thing that you love to do, that you're good at, time takes a different course entirely. My wife's just finished writing a novel,and I think it's a great book, but she disappears for hours on end. You know this, if you're doing something you love, an hour feels like five minutes. If you're doing something that doesn't resonate with your spirit, five minutes feels like an hour. And the reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn't feed their spirit, it doesn't feed their energy or their passion. So I think we have to change metaphors.
We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish. So when we look at reforming education and transforming it, it isn't like cloning a system.
There are great ones, like KIPP's; it's a great system. There are many great models. It's about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to the people you're actually teaching. And doing that, I think, is the answer to the future because it's not about scaling a new solution; it's about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions, but with external support based on a personalized curriculum. Now in this room, there are people who represent extraordinary resources in business, in multimedia, in the Internet.
These technologies, combined with the extraordinary talents of teachers, provide an opportunity to revolutionize education. And I urge you to get involved in it because it's vital, not just to ourselves, but to the future of our children. But we have to change from the industrial model to an agricultural model, where each school can be flourishing tomorrow. That's where children experience life.Or at home, if that's what they choose, to be educated with their families or friends. There's been a lot of talk about dreams over the course of these few days.
And I wanted to just very quickly -- I was very struck by Natalie Merchant's songs last night, recovering old poems. I wanted to read you a quick, very short poem from W. B. Yeats, who some of you may know. He wrote this to his love, Maud Gonne, and he was bewailing the fact that he couldn't really give her what he thought she wanted from him. And he says, "I've got something else, but it may not be for you. He says this: "Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with gold and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softlybecause you tread on my dreams.
And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly. Thank you.
Thank you very much.