“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

         Sir Ken Robinson, author, speaker, and international advisor on education in the arts, has a unique perspective on the world’s education system that captured my attention – TED video. For many years I have wondered why Language and Math are the most important subjects in school. Robinson questions why it is, and why we are still following the education structure developed a century ago. It was designed for their culture then. Times have changed, why hasn’t it?

                He claims that universities are designed in the image of professors; that they best you can become is to become a professor. As a professor himself, he says that “they live in their heads, and slightly to one side. This is not the only way to be successful in society today, so why is the educational system catered to that direction? I visited prestigious universities such as Cambridge and Oxford last summer and the first thing I noticed when learning about their program’s structure and talking with their students, is that the school’s curriculum is designed for their student to follow the path to either research for them or become a professor. One graduate student actually confessed that her advisor forced her into researching for him on the subject, which she wasn’t interested in, but he has been for years. He was responsible for getting her into the program and funding at Oxford, so she felt obligated to do what he said. She wanted to enter the working world after she graduates, but the specificity of her research only left her a few options; plus her advisor was pressuring her to continue research and become a professor. This was only one example in addition to the typical path that administrators said their students typically follow. Why is teaching the subject so much more prestigious then putting your knowledge to work outside of the classroom.

                Robinson’s lecture also made me think about all of the unnecessary disciplines that are incorporated into the education system. I understand history is important for children to know, but why would that be a degree? How much can you really do with a history degree in higher level education besides teach it? Work at a museum, research, maybe get a job with the history channel? Great! Hundreds of universities across the United States offer history to mainly just pass it on and teach it to the next generation. One of my friends is majoring in history at a different school and has been struggling to find a job. He eventually stopped looking into history related fields, and failed at others because his classes didn’t teach him many practical things. We are taught the basics of our past, but that’s all we really need. History will repeat itself anyway, so why waste your time learning the details of who really killed Lincoln? More effort should be focused on learning practical knowledge like how to do your taxes, get a mortgage, finance your money, or even just how to properly take care of your home. My biggest pet peeve: being taught useless knowledge. I don’t remember who was president during the cold war, and honestly, I don’t give a ‘care’.

                Sorry for the rant, but back to Robinson’s point. Creativity is being stripped away from children as they are educated in our system. Creative subjects are rarely being taught (music, dance, theater, art, etc.) and the other subjects are being emphasized, narrowing their thought process to one type of thinking: “there is only one answer, and it’s at the back of the book. But don’t look, because that’s cheating.” It also doesn’t help when children who find a passion in something other than subjects that will help them succeed (according to professors), are being suppressed by parents that say “you won’t be a dancer…you can’t play tennis for a living.” This will hold back many potential geniuses from thriving. “Highly, talented, brilliant people believed they weren’t, because what they were good at, was not valued.” To hear a great story about this, see 15:20 – 17:45 of his lecture. Passion in anything is what makes you succeed. If you enjoy something, you will find a way to make a career out of it. All the greats have, and it was without knowing math, science, and English – there are many dropouts who have become happy millionaires.

                Our education system today is too narrow and focused on what older generations believed to be essential. Instead of deadening their senses with medication to pay attention to things they are uninterested in, we must wake them up to the passions they want to follow. Why push them to earn several degrees? Degrees are overinflated according to Robinson, because everyone is pushed into having one in order to succeed. There are millions pressured to get one to succeed, so they must pick one on the list that will supposedly make them money, forcing them to crowd those who actually want to follow that path.  I believe there should be many changes to our current education system, what do you think?

Here’s another similar video by Robinson that might explain his point better (has cool drawings too) – I think everyone will learn something from this

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One response »

  1. Zach says:

    I’m actually a little confused by what you are saying. Robinson’s talk focuses on how schools kill creativity. I definitely see his points. However, you seem to be advocating for the elimination of degrees like History. You claim that’s it’s not practical. I happen to agree with you. However, in this instance, I sort of view practicality as the antithesis of creativity. If school just focused on practical matters, would that not further stunt creative thought?

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