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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Ken Robinson’s New Talk on Education Paradigms

Take a look at Ken Robinson’s new talk on education paradigms through RSA Animate:

Ken Robinson is so brilliant about identifying the systemic problems in education that perpetuate and escalate ennui, lack of creativity, and the failure of wisdom to take root (that Barry Schwartz discusses in his recent TED talk).

What are the solutions to these problems?

Here are five, and they comprise the bones of a new book I’m working on about how to solve all of our problems in education and the world through a new vision of schooling:

  1. Embrace a new purpose for schooling: to educate a generation of solutionaries. Create curricula, courses, overarching topics, structures, clubs, and teaching approaches with this purpose always in mind.
  2. Abandon No Child Left Behind in favor of creative, useful assessment strategies built upon a this new goal for schooling.
  3. Turn teaching into a high status, highly creative, well-paying, sought-after job; have students evaluate teachers and have teachers assessed by the new goal for schooling articulated above; replace poor teachers with the great ones who will be lining up for the opportunity to have such a meaningful, important, well-funded job.
  4. Restructure how schools are paid for and create real school choice for every family; public funding for schooling based on zip code is inconsistent with our core values. Providing equal and adequate funding for every child that can travel with the child to any school will provide opportunities for creative school approaches to flourish and a variety of teaching and learning styles to meet the needs of each child.
  5. Abandon grades and excessive homework; grades can become a holy grail for kids motivated to get into prestigious colleges, but they are often an end in themselves, encouraging rote memorization (quickly forgotten) and cheating; independent work is important, but can be folded into the school day rather than requiring round-the-clock work from kids, something we don’t expect from adults. Instead, find creative and effective assessments that include narrative and evaluation of projects that serve the new goal for schooling articulated above.

Stay tuned for more.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life

About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.


6 thoughts on “Ken Robinson’s New Talk on Education Paradigms

  1. I very much agree with these precepts, Zoe –

    My mentor and I were talking this week about how to track life outcomes for students who experience progressive schooling like that at a Sudbury school. I argued that we’ll eventually see a new gap between those who can make a living doing what they love without a college degree and those who have to pursue a college degree to avoid poverty because their elementary and secondary schools didn’t prepare them for an information-age workplace. My mentor wondered if we could find research suggesting that would happen –

    Coöp community members, have you seen research about life-outcomes or earnings potentials for students who either leave high school as entrepreneurs or attend progressive schools before college? Is there a significant gap between what kids in traditional schools go on to do and what kids in progressive schools go on to do? Is there enough of a progressively educated population to study yet?

    Thanks for any help, links, articles, books, studies, theses, dissertations, and/or other resources you can offer – perhaps in this case data and measurement are the wrong trees up which to bark, but I remain curious, nonetheless.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | January 12, 2011, 9:58 am
    • Chad,

      I haven’t seen any reports on what you ask for exactly. I have seen the articles on HuffPost and elsewhere (don’t have the links right now) about if college is worth it and $100k grants for social entrepreneurs to drop out of college and get to work.


      I love this. It’s a great five point plan. Worth using to convene large-scale conversations of stakeholders to move it forward.

      All the best,

      Posted by Adam Burk | January 12, 2011, 10:22 am
  2. Chad, Just a quick set of thoughts. The questions you are trying to get at are too broad, from a research point of view, to produce “definite” answers. “Outcomes” (of what type? Economic? Social? Happiness?–and we sure as hell don’t yet have good measures for happiness yet) are hard to disentangle from social class, from a research point of view, since one of the most robust findings in the research is that if you start out middle or upper class, that’s the best predictor that you will end up there–class predicts class, as it were. Almost without regard to what kind of schooling you attend, social class tends to predict what social class you will end up in, with some exceptions of course.

    Many progressive schools are also middle class or upper-middle class schools, if you see where I’m going with this, so looking at “how kids do” coming from these kinds of environments is hard to separate out from how they’d do in any environment.

    I think you are in a philosophical argument here, that pieces of research can bolster or support–an argument about human nature. How much poking and prodding do human beings need to do become the people we want them to be? Check out these links on “extreme parenting” and the article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

    I just read this Opinionator series in the NYT and found it really interesting–I think you’ll see why this seems like a philosophical argument, a cultural argument, rather than an evidence based, data-grounded conversation.

    How do kids who go to very progressivist schools “turn out” as learners and people? Check out this new book by Rick Posner about the Jefferson County Open School in Colorado
    or this book on life after Sudbury Valley

    Both of these are anecdotal accounts of how passionate kids who go to open schools are about their learning and lives. There is no data about the kids for whom this kind of school isn’t right, or didn’t work, in either book.

    But really I think your question is about whether traditional, conventional, teacher-centered command and control schooling dampens entrepreneurial drive among learners? And that the “need” for conventional schooling is going away, as other kinds of learning environments become much more viable and available to everyone with an internet connection? That’s basically Anya Kamenetz’ thesis in DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, and in dozens of articles on the rise of the virtual high school

    Want to keep talking? Should we go to email on this? Let me know.

    Posted by Kirsten | January 14, 2011, 4:26 pm
    • I’ll scope those sources this weekend – thank you, Kirsten –

      I have a workday and some half days this week. I’ll email some times and dates – maybe a chat or Skype session would help me frame what it is I want to find – you know, the magic wand of school transformation 🙂

      Thanks again –

      Posted by Chad Sansing | January 15, 2011, 8:38 pm


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