Discussion of Ken Robinson’s ‘Bring on the Learning Revolution!’

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

In our current discussion on “The Zen in Online Learning” (17 June 2019), Harry Keller says, “Life is about joy. Find your joy, and immerse yourself in it” (19 June 2019). His comment reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talks “Bring on the Learning Revolution!” (Feb 2010).

The transcript is available here. This video runs 21 minutes, but Robinson’s wit and wisdom make it seem much shorter. His message is similar to Harry’s, which is to change our model for education to develop and celebrate each student’s talents, interests, and dreams. Please make the time to watch this video. It was released in 2010, but its message is relevant today.

Also make the time to comment in the forum attached to this article. (If you’ve never posted a comment in ETC, it will be held for approval. I’ll be standing by to speed up the process. Once approved, future comments will be automatically published.)  There’s a wide-ranging discussion on the TED site, so in our discussion, I’d suggest focusing on the takeaway for higher ed. What are your thoughts on Robinson’s call for an “organic” revolution? How does this apply to higher ed?

If you’d like to submit a longer comment as a stand-alone piece, email it to me at jamess@hawaii.edu. If this is your first submission, then please append a brief (1-to-3 line) professional bio and snapshot.

Related Videos:
Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity? Feb 2006 (20 min).
Sir Ken Robinson: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, Apr 2013 (19 min).

One Response

  1. In this Feb. 2010 TED Talk, Robinson amplifies the theme of wasting diverse student talents, which he introduced in his Feb. 2006 TED Talk (“Do Schools Kill Creativity?”). Our education model, he says, is industrial, and like an assembly line, it is linear and “obsessed with getting people [from preschool] through college.” In fact, schools and colleges are measured almost entirely by their ability to move students, in conveyor-belt fashion, to the next level. Today, in 2019, this model is even more pronounced. The problem is that we, as a nation, are focusing on a very limited range of talents, and this focus is detrimental to the large number of students with talents outside this limited range.

    Robinson correctly traces the source of our obsession to industry, which values a very narrow band of talents. The upshot is that we’re squandering students with extraordinary talents that aren’t in demand by industry. When or if they successfully emerge at the other end of the conveyor belt, they end up in jobs or professions that they don’t enjoy. I’m sure we all know lawyers who would rather be carpenters, doctors who would rather be chefs, programmers who would rather be professional surfers, and teachers who would rather be comedians.

    The deeper problem is that we’re unable to get untracked. Robinson, again, correctly observes that education, at all levels, is in a perpetual state of reform. However, this reform is aimed at fixing or evolving a model that’s hopelessly broken. What we need, he says, is revolution. Real change. And that can only happen when we trash our factory model for an organic alternative. He calls it an “agricultural model,” one that nurtures each student according to her/his innate talents.

    In his third TED Talk on this subject, “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley,” Apr. 2013, Robinson mentions the Finnish education system as an example of an organic model. The one fact that should stand out for us is that the Finns don’t have a dropout problem. Their emphasis is on diversity rather than conformity, nurturing curiosity rather than compliance, and creativity rather than standardization.

    And in a final bit of irony, he observes that, in the U.S., our alternative education system for students who don’t “fit” in regular schools is actually less mechanical and more organic.

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