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Sir Ken Robinson visits schools in Pasadena, Part I: Change, an old paradigm, the problem

Sir Ken Robinson  speaks to faculty and staff of local Pasadena private schools
Sir Ken Robinson speaks to faculty and staff of local Pasadena private schools
Rhoto by Hess-Quimbita

Faculty from seven Pasadena schools listened to Sir Ken Robinson as the opening event for their first in-service meeting at Polytechnic School this past Monday. The group consisted of Chandler, Crestview, Flintridge Preparatory, Mayfield Junior, St. Mark’s, Polytechnic, and Walden which is the most, and if not, the only progressively-leaning school of the bunch. The morning began with a lavish breakfast hosted by Polytechnic School which was followed by Sir Ken Robinson’s lecture in Poly’s Garland Auditorium. He also signed books after the lecture.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human potential. A past professor of arts education, he is originally from England and currently resides in the Los Angeles area. His latest book is called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. He travels the world speaking with business and educational leaders about how creativity must be developed in all people in order to meet the challenge of adapting to a changing global economy.

In his usual funny and witty style, which includes a good dose of dry British humor, Sir Ken Robinson shared his perspective on education in the United States which he believes needs to be transformed, not merely reformed. He addressed several topics the best he could within a one-hour lecture. While Robinson’s lecture was expansive in subject, he did lay a framework supporting an educational transformation from a standardized curriculum to a personalized education, albeit not as clearly as desired. What follows are synopses of selected topics that Robinson addressed which highlight the need for a transformation of the educational system.

(Except where noted, this author has tried to capture, as best as possible, Robinson’s own views as presented at the in-service. This is the first part of a three-part series.)

(1)  Changed World and an Old Paradigm

Robinson began by emphasizing that these are unprecedented times. There are forces working upon all of us that have unpredictable effects on society and our future. These forces, technological and cultural, are bringing tumultuous change into the world. The forefathers of public education lived in a very different world from the one we currently live. They could not have ever imagined what our current world looks like. Even more unbelievable, the future that our children will live in, will be so much different than ours, and yet comparatively, another grand step further away from any idea that could have been imagined by our educational forefathers. As such, we are trying to solve a current problem with models created in the late 19th century/early 20th century, around the time the seed for public education began to take root.
He continued by saying that No Child Left Behind is based on the misconception that: The way to do better in the future is to do more of what we did in the past, but better. This is based on the old model. Since, the world has changed, our educational paradigm, the way we see education has to change as well. What we did in the past is not working today and will not work for the future.

(2) The Problem

Sir Ken Robinson continued to explain that the goal of obtaining a college degree was to get a job. Back in the 1970’s, it was guaranteed. But that is not the case anymore. In addition, the changes occurring in the workplace plus the need for greater innovation, has employers complaining that new hires are unemployable because they cannot think creatively, independently. They expect to be told what to do because, Robinson briefly remarked, that students are spending too much time on tests in school. He stressed that current legislation, like No Child Left Behind is not the solution; it is rooted in an outdated model. It won’t work because “education is always and inevitably personal.” People in leadership roles see humans as industrial outputs, like cars. However, he stated, “Cars have no interest in how they are made – [but] humans do!”



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