Education Week - May 20, 2015 - (Page 23)

Q&A With Sir Ken Robinson Education Has to Be a 'Human Business' Education Week's Commentary editors recently spoke by phone with the internationally known education adviser and author SIR KEN ROBINSON about his latest book, Creative Schools (Viking Penguin). In the book, Robinson argues that many students are not receiving the kind of education that lives up to the economic demands of the 21st century or leads to the fulfillment of their "natural" interests. Throughout his career, Robinson has argued that the standardization of K-12 education-in fact, the public education model itself-has all but drained creativity from schools. In Creative Schools, he shares numerous examples of how schools are throwing this model, with its roots in the Industrial Revolution, on its head, largely through a personalized approach to learning. We asked the speaker of "How Schools Kill Creativity," the most-watched ted Talk in history-with more than 33 million views- and of the popular animated video "Changing Education Paradigms"-with more than 13 million views-about his thoughts on student engagement, standardized testing, the future of teacher education, and why vocational education matters. Commentary Intern Luke Towler, joined by Commentary Editor Elizabeth Rich, conducted the interview. Many schools have instituted innovative new programs to encourage student interest and have seen remarkable progress. What kind of school climate makes this possible? Robinson: I think the key to this [success] is that education has to be recognized as a human business. It's a personal process. We're dealing with living human beings in the middle of all of this. They're not statistics or data points. They're not data sets from a test schedule. As soon as you recognize that education is not a processing plant, it's about people, then the whole equation starts to shift around. What do you think about the opt-out testing movement? Robinson: I'm not arguing against any form of testing. I'm not arguing against any form of standardized testing. But it's really gone out of control now, and I think there's a terrible tendency to confuse standardizing with raising standards. It's always worth remembering, and I say it in the book, that this is an industry. This isn't some benign group of well-intentioned educators sitting around thinking how we can help our children. In your book, you describe the divide between academic and vocational education as a caste system. What is the first step in dismantling the hierarchy of school subjects? Robinson: [Career and technical education has] become demeaned largely because of the domination of education by universities. And we've reached a point now where it's too often seen as the ultimate goal of education to go do a four-year degree somewhere. We should at least give equal weight to other courses, other options, as some of the systems do, and recognize that ideas really often develop best in practice. So I think part of [the solution] is to broaden the curriculum. It's to take a more practical approach to teaching and learning. It's also important to recognize that [practical work] needs to be assessed in appropriate ways. In your "Changing Education Paradigms" animation, you note that public education was based on the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment. This system, you said, has created chaos for many people. How can schools change from the current model into one that is less chaotic? Robinson: We don't organize our days in 40 minute bits and pieces and blow whistles at home and move on to the next thing. We just do that in schools. And it gets in the way of learning very often. We don't sit people in desks all day long when they're at home and get them to fill out multiple-choice tests. I'm not saying it's all been terrible, but I'm saying that, on the contrary, there are wonderful schools and wonderful people that work in them. But the dominant culture has its roots in another time. It's been reinforced by this testing mania. The system has to change, and it is changing. It has to change because it's not serving enough children well enough. And it has to change because the world is changing so rapidly, and we need people to be educated differently now to the way we thought was suitable for industrialism. " Teacher education continues to get bashed in America. What needs to happen to improve teacher-preparation programs? Robinson: [Teachers] need a proper professional preparation. They need to know their disciplines; they need to know about how learning works. And they need pedagogical skills. They need the social skills to work with complicated and diverse groups of people, and they need the pedagogical skills to know how to engage them in their material. The heart of all of this is having a really effective program of teacher education in higher education, which works closely with the school system. Do you think improving teacher education is something that would take a generation, or could be done in a faster, more efficient way? Robinson: [A]t the national level, we do need policy to mature a bit. And it's worth remembering: It's been more than 30 years since A Nation at Risk, and we've had almost 15 years of No Child Left Behind. In 15 years, we could be deeper in this hole or we could be out of it. There will be a time 15 years from now ... and we need to look ahead of that and say, "Well, what type of education would we like that to be?" Where do we want our children's children to be going to school? And I think if we keep that in mind, we might get on with the job more quickly. n This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To read a longer version and to listen to the full conversation, go to As soon as you recognize that education is not a processing plant, it's about people, then the whole equation starts to shift around." EDUCATION WEEK | May 20, 2015 | | 23 Photo by Cindy Gold

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 20, 2015

Education Week - May 20, 2015
Gifted Programs Miss Disadvantaged Students
Army of Scorers Tackles Common-Core Tests
Groups Aim to Smooth Student-Police Relations
U.S. Senate Proposal Puts Spotlight On ‘Open Educational Resources’
Civil Rights Data Detail Increase In Complaints
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Accountability Measures for Traits Like ‘Grit’ Questioned
Long-Term Gains Seen for Kids Who Move Out of Poverty
Blogs of the Week
Selective Public Schools Struggle to Diversify Enrollments
Illinois Policymakers Scramble After Pension Law Struck Down
Student-Data Use a Key Issue In Debates Over Privacy Bills
Blogs of the Week
Why Not Practice What We Preached?
Education Has to Be a ‘Human Business’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Making the Right Commitment to Student-Data Privacy
Is the Public Ever Really Private?

Education Week - May 20, 2015