Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson

Creative Schools by Sir Ken RobinsonEducation. The key topics for everyone.

In his incredibly famous TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity“, which might be some of the most important 20 minutes that you will spend this year, Sir Ken Robinson argued about the current state of the education.

In this great book, “Creative Schools”, he goes a big distance
What is the current format of the schools & universities serves best for ? For the factories, as in the 19th & beginning of the 20th centuries we have had the biggest need in the factory workers and this is how the schools are planned for. With fixed schedules and bells marking the end of the periods, with fixed progression rates (if you are 11, you can learn mathematics that far only and if you are genius in math, then you must be a genius in everything else), the current education systems are not focusing on enabling different point of views of the creativity.
“Being different and being “silly” are not what our society needs” – Really ? Who defined this ? Why ?
“We need people who learn sciences more…” – Are we still trying to out-math the calculator ? This is not to say that we don’t need scientists, but I think most forward-looking people agree, that in the future we need more culture, diversity and definitely fun in our lives. We all want the higher quality of life, we all want to have more fun.

Does anyone has any idea what kind of specialists will our society need in the next 5 years ? If you are a Database professional, can you point at the technology that will succeed in the next 5 years ? Can you name it ?
Go further and think about the training companies that are training people for the current needs and how many of them are actually pushing the envelope for the future technologies.

Sir Ken Robinson spends a good part of book arguing on the uselessness of the standardised tests. I can’t think of any reasonable arguments in the favour of the universal tests, which are simply putting everyone under the same measure, turning people into a battery in a factory.

That is all interesting Niko, but why is this topic so close to you ?
I never wanted to go to the university. I almost vomited thinking about it when I was younger.
The reason is simple and I keep arguing on this topic for well over 20 years:
What is the true value that the universities are providing ?
Consider this:
– 5000 years ago the education was for the chosen ones.
– 2500 years ago in some countries if you were part of the ruling class, you would be able to get education for your family’s next generation
– 1000 years in Europe you would be able to send your kids into Monastery to get educated.
– 400 years ago the books started to spread and the literacy started to grow
– ~250 years ago public libraries started to conquer their space and the opportunity to learn spreader further
– in the last 100 years ago the free public education started to spread every
– 20 years ago we have got Internet
– now that we have more education materials on all topics than anyone can consume in their lifetime, what would you love to learn ? (Starting from Blogs and going to Khan Academy and Universities which are bringing your amazing education for free)

The knowledge itself is free and available. If you are reading this blog post, than you should be able to learn on the internet for free.

The whole idea is that universities will bring you some exclusive knowledge is badly wrong in the 21st Century. I have had my share of incompetent professors who definitely knew less than me on some particular subjects – they were simply repeating the same stuff for the 30 years.
This does not mean that all of the teachers and professors are useless – I know some extraordinary people, making huge differences in their schools and universities. Those people are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and sometimes legally allowed. They are bringing

Consider something else:
– 2500 years ago, in Greece, people were learning outside – walking on the street and discussing the matters that their teacher were bringing them over.
The number of students was limited, so that the teacher (the leader), was able to communicate and take care of each of his/her students individually, ensuring that every student has a chance of improving.
Walking outside, in the physical terms, ensures that we are pushing the fresh blood into our brains, bringing oxygen that is desperately needed for the better thinking and intelligence.
– Currently, we are putting 30-40 (and in the universities are even more) people inside a closed room with no fresh air, where professors are repeating old & useless materials from the different age. With no chances of giving a personal attention to everyone we are ensuring that a great percentage of students
– We define progress as a linear equation related to the age, with no regard to the interest and talent involved.
– How could we have fallen so far in the 2500 years where so many things have evolved ? Is this everything is simply a “factory thing”?

I hate exams. They are psyching out some of the people involved (and I once had a situation in the university where I almost quitted an exam before starting, just because of all the nervousness), and a couple of other times I simply could not give just 1 answer on the question which was not clear to me. I asked an assistant of what it could mean – receiving an answer that it was up to me to understand and answer.
That was at the point where I was doing my second startup with over 5 years of working programming experience and the exam’s name was the “introduction into programming”. Needless to say, I have failed that exam, and I felt incredibly infuriated by the fact that I could write down all those 3 answers, if only I could understand what exactly the tests was trying to reach.
If you want to create knowledge, you need to have the right approach for it. Like everything in nature, you need the organic process of the growth, which can’t be impersonal.
That is not to say, that tests are completely useless, but teaching for the tests and the tests that are not real-life related are not needed at all, in my personal opinion.

The actual point of certifications is that people study to pass the tests and not to learn the real stuff behind it. Passing tests does not give you any guarantee about anything. This is a human tendency of putting a simple number describing a complex process.
Well, surprise! Breaking news! You can’t do that.
If you are running a multiple choice standardised test, there is a chance that a random monkey will do better than you. Spend a minute thinking about it.

A lot of modern organisations are doing standards culture in order to be able to replace the workers. It’s a good strategy for a factory where you have robots, but it will not work if you deal with humans. No humans are the same, and there are emotions and feelings involved. I better leave this particular topic for another day, but I watch those big organisations trying and I cry because of the time wasted, the lack of creativity and imagination and all those people who are pushed to the limit of the tolerance of injustice.

At SQLSaturday Rheinland, I had a rather long conversation on this topic of education, certification and standardisation and the guy who I was talking to said to me – would you go to a doctor who has no degree ?
And I said instantly – Yes. I will. Yes, I did.
Degree means nothing. Degree is not a description of a competence. Degree is not a type of compassion, that everyone so desperately needs from a doctor.
Degree is a proof that someone spend a lot of time in some particular system, passing its standardised tests.
I know enough people with certifications who are not able to execute the tasks that they were certificated on.

If you want to understand the current problems of the education, I highly recommend to read this book. It might not bring you the answers, but it will help you to shape a better understanding on the current state of the education, which is touching your own area and not only schools and universities.

I will be posting more on these topics this year, hopefully. I am working on something … 🙂

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