Sir Ken Robinson, who boasts the most-watched TED Talk of all time, was in Dallas on Thursday for an education conference called “Changing the Odds.” Robinson argues that the current education system has some outdated assumptions about intelligence and creativity.
No two people are the same. And when it comes to kids, what grabs the attention of one child may not pique the interest of another. That’s why Sir Ken Robinson, the British-born author and speaker wants to upend the education system.
“If you run an education system based on a narrow conception of ability – based on just reading, math and some forms of academic work– you automatically create a whole group of people who are thought to be disabled,” Robinson said.
He said what really drives achievement is creativity. Robinson learned this when he was a child. He was sent to a school for the physically disabled. He’d contracted Polio, which left him nearly paralyzed. At school, he met a student who wrote with his feet and kids who were talented in other ways.
“When I got out of it and when I got into education, I realized that everybody – every child – has special needs. Everybody," Robinson said. "It’s not a separate category and it’s about figuring out what they are and it may not be the thing that you think it is.”
Robinson said teachers are the keys to guiding students toward their passions. Teaching, he said, is a conversation, not a monologue. He also challenges groups like Mensa, which is for people with high IQs.
“ If you’re going to have an organization for the most brilliant people on the planet, shouldn’t there be some other kind of test to get in? Robinson asked. "Like, could you write a symphony? Could you play it? Could you perform a dance that would move people? Could you take a lead in a ballet? Could you design a building that stayed up? Could you run a successful business? You know, do you have any friends?"
The crowd laughed. They loved him. Afterward, a long line of people waited for him to sign a copy of his latest book, “Creative Schools.”
One of those was Amy Montemayor. She works with teachers in the Grapevine Colleyville school district, who help students with reading disabilities. She said they’re trying to do what Robinson talks about.
“School is not easy for [the students] and so not only working with the kids but working with the parents that school’s important, but also outside of school – giving the kids multiple opportunities to see what their interests are.”
Brent Cumbie works with high schoolers at an alternative campus in the Birdville district. He tries to encourage students who get in trouble to focus on their natural talents.
“It may be a kid who’s a tagger, but because he’s a tagger, he’s an artist," Cumbie said. "There’s an artist within. And so how in the future can his talent as an artist be developed?”
And that, Robinson would say, is where a teacher can turn a student’s life around.
Watch Sir Ken Robinson's famous TED talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity?