Monday, October 19, 2009

Mike on Ken Robinson


I teach an undergraduate literacy methods block for Elementary teachers and in it my students are asked to reflect weekly on hat weeks readings and their classroom observations. I do allow them occasionally to deviate if they find a topic that is particularly appealing to them.
About a week ago Mike wrote this piece in response to a Ken Robinson piece (I am publishing this with his explicit permission):

"I'd like to take this opportunity to depart from the traditional format of the blogs and comment on something else. A friend of mine recently showed me this link:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

In the video, Ken Robinson talks about the nature of our education system. He says that our educational system is far too linear. We start kids off in elementary school preparing them for middle and high school where we then prepare kids for college. All of this is designed so that the kids end up getting a degree and can thereby be successful in the world. Robinson argues that it was a great idea back when college degrees were comparatively rare to high school diplomas, but today, we have a higher percentage of people going on to get their degrees than ever before. As such, a bachelor's degree is not what it used to be. So if everyone has a degree, what more can we do with education to keep improving? Robinson's answer is creativity. He says that we need to teach kids to embrace creativity rather than cut our arts and music programs from the school's curriculum.

I like what Robinson had to say, but I think he overlooked some key aspects of education. Yes, more and more people are going on to get their degrees in post-secondary education. And yes, it would be really smart to teach those graduates to be more creative and well rounded. But what about the students we have to specifically tailor our instruction around? Special needs students present some of the greatest challenges to us as teachers. I feel like Robinson completely glossed over this very substantial, important group of people. It's naive to think that our current education system is great if not for it's lack of emphasis on creativity. Yes, we're sending more kids off to college than ever, but we still have a lot of work to do with educating every one of our students. Belmont, especially, has driven this point home for me"

Mike's comments contextualize what many teachers are thinking, namely that before we attend to creativity there is a lot of other work to be done. I wholeheartedly agree with Mike that we are not yet great at teaching all children what they need to be full citizens. On the other hand there seem to be an underlying assumption that creativity is the cherry, like higher order thinking or comprehension instruction something that comes after skills.

This is the danger that talks about the big C can lead to- the fact that teachers, administrators and parents worry about regular everyday capabilities and rightly so. The little dancer from Robinson'sstory would be a heartwarming story if she grew up to be a world class dancer- but we all know the chances are slim. We need a Ken Robinson who follows up and says and look how we can use her dancing to enhance her learning so she feels empowered to learn and we to teach through it- so she can be successful in everything she chooses to be engaged in.

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