‘It’s hard to overstate the importance of leadership’, says Sir Ken Robinson. School leaders and education ministers have a massive impact on the culture of a school, for better or worse, influencing almost every aspect through their individual outlook, personality and ability to connect with people.
Loy Machedo’s Book Review – Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson Out of Our Minds is a book of 286 pages divided into ten chapters where the main focus is Education Versus Creativity, the History of Creativity, the Drawbacks, the Challenges and the Changes required in the Current Educational System to promote. It is the sixth anniversary of this commitment, and seeing the faces of the previous winners does my heart good knowing how they are going to impact their worlds. For jazz lovers: I invite you to check out the Amelia Island Jazz Festival that is taking place this week, virtually. Visit their website for ticket information.
Sir Ken Robinson: ‘The education system is a dangerous myth’ In an exclusive extract from his new book, Sir Ken Robinson argues that our approach to teaching is wrong – and hundreds of years out of date. Sir Ken Robinson at TED Talks. Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Sir Ken Robinson Do schools kill creativity Sir Ken Robinson – TED Talk TRANSCRIPT. It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving.
Everyone has different ideas about the role leadership should play in education, but most can agree that the idea of top down control, with leaders and followers, is somewhat outdated. Just as teachers are becoming facilitators, co-learners and guides, will we see the roles of school leadership and government changing with the times? Considering how important leadership is, it’s vital we get it right.
For Robinson, great leadership is where each part of the leadership chain enables the end goal to be achieved, as he explains, ‘The role of a leader in education is to understand the conditions in which people flourish, just like a great teacher understands the conditions under which children learn best..The role of a head teacher is to create the conditions in the school where teachers can do that. The role of a district is to create conditions where schools in the district can do that through collaborating. The role of the government is to create conditions where districts can do that.’
In many democratic systems around the world, teachers find that they are at the whim of whichever newly elected party is trying to make their stamp on education. Constant flux and change is not exactly in support of a coherent and strong education system. Laura Kirsop, former teacher and now Product Manager at FutureLearn, explains how constant change affects UK teachers.
It would be fantastic if teachers and schools were able to professionalize on their own terms..to create a more sustainable way of doing things that is less subject to government whims.
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‘The role of the government in education is something that’s traditionally a cause of great conflict in the UK. You’ll have a Conservative government who prefer this style of teaching and this way of doing things, so they’ll introduce some measures, and then the Labour government will get in and take them away and introduce other things. As a result teachers feel quite disempowered.’
So what’s the answer? Kirsop argues that educational professionals should be allowed more agency, ‘It would be fantastic if teachers and schools were able to professionalize on their own terms..to create a more sustainable way of doing things that is less subject to government whims.’
Does this mean government doesn’t have a part to play in schools? Not at all. Mark Londesborough, Associate Director of Creative Learning and Development at the RSA, argues, ‘I think government’s role in education should be to make sure that it is an innovative and entrepreneurial system, a platform for growth and development, and for empowering school leaders and educators to make decisions about what works, based on knowledge about what works.’ Similarly to Robinson’s argument, Londesborough explains that government’s job is to foster a culture where schools can flourish.
But any decisions on curriculums should always be kept flexible and open to change, as Londesborough explains, ‘There’s a fine line between doing that and getting too involved in what the actual knowledge base should be. We don’t want these kind of totalitarian states that assert what we should teach and what we should not.’
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Ultimately, teachers and education professionals see the daily reality of what’s happening in schools and have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. 21st century school leadership is one that creates an atmosphere where educators can flourish and governments can play a vital role in providing the infrastructure and support to help innovative teachers and leaders to succeed.
Speaker: Ken Robinson
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Ken thinks that creativity is as important in education as Literacy. However, children are being taught how not to be wrong. Ken argues that being creative means that you have to be willing to be wrong, and the education system treats being wrong as the worst thing possible. In doing this, education teaches away children’s natural urge to ‘give it a go’.
All education systems globally have a ‘hierarchy’, with math and language at the top, social sciences in the middle and arts at the bottom. This is because the childhood education system was developed to satisfy the industrial revolution of the 19th century, where math and science was essential for jobs, but times have changed. While once people just needed school for a good job, then a bachelor degree, and now that alone is no guarantee for a job. Degrees have had a form of inflation over time, and this shows it is shifting too quickly. Having children go to school just to attend university is not really equipping them to work any more.
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We know 3 things about intelligence
- It is diverse – we think in many ways – visually, in sound, movement, abstract
- it is dynamic – original ideas come about from the interaction of many different ways of seeing things.
- it is distinct – people have their way of doing things – Ken’s example is a ‘problem student’ who couldn’t sit still at school, but when moved to a dance school fit in fine – she needed to move to think. Her dance skills went on to give her immense fame and fortune, bringing value to millions of people. In modern times, she would probably have been given ADHD medication and been put told to calm down.
We need to redefine our education system – our current way is one of ‘strip mining’ our children for the most desired properties, in the same way we mined the Earth for ore. We now need to use our imaginations and creativity wisely, to face an uncertain and problematic future. We may not see this future, but need to equip our children to conquer it.