Sir Ken Robinson on Common Core, Creativity, & Technology in the Classroom

This quote sets the tone during Sir Ken’s closing statements during the 2013 Annual conference keynote: “standards are subsidiary to the real purpose of education”. The complete transcript:

Sir Ken: Death Valley is the hottest place in America, close to Palm Springs actually and the driest. Nothing grows there. Nothing grows there because it doesn’t rain. At one inch of rain falls on Death Valley a year. In the winter of 2004, it rained. Seven inches of rain fell on Death Valley and in the Spring of 2005 there was a phenomenon, the whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers. You can Google this, look at “Death Valley Spring 2005.” People came from all across the country to see this phenomenon they thought was impossible, Death Valley was alive.

What it proved of course is that Death Valley isn’t dead. Death Valley had become a pasture temporary then of course it stopped raining and the sun beat down and they all fell beneath the surface again but it showed that Death Valley isn’t dead, it’s dormant. Right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility, waiting for the right conditions to come along and if the conditions are right, life is inevitable, that’s how it is with organic systems.

It’s the same way with human beings, we are organic creatures. I have seen it time and again in my career, schools in desperate areas which had become oasis of achievement and hope and possibility because they had … visionary Head Teachers and gifted teachers who saw their job was to personalize learning and make it relevant to each individual and to fill them up with hope and a sense of ambition. I’ve seen brilliant schools in good areas go under because Head Teachers come in who didn’t get it and thought their job was to deliver the core standards, not to teach children. The standards help, but they are subsidiary to the real purpose of education.

I believe we have an opportunity now to fertilize the whole of education by the ambitious and creative use of technologies where the kids also teach us because of the things like the Dalai Lama that we don’t know that they do and I think if we celebrate our creativity along with their creativity, we’ll see a new sort of harvest starting to evolve.

There was a wonderful quote from Anais Nin, the poet and there was a little poem called “Risk.” She talked about her creative development as an organic process and she said, “There came a point when the risk of remaining tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom.” And I think that’s right. I think all the efforts that too often the policy makers and others put in to constrain the talents of our children and suppressing them invertible very often take more time, more effort, more resources than the resource it would take to cultivate these talents and give us this new possibility, this new harvest of talent and I think it’s an historic mission we face that I talk a lot out of a revolution. There is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, he said, “There are three sorts of people. People who are immovable, people are movable and people who move.”

That’s right. There are people in the system who don’t get it but they want to get it and don’t worry about them. There are people who do work with them and then there are people who move and I think that’s what CUE is trying to mobilize and if enough people move, that’s a movement and if the movement is strong enough, that’s a revolution and that’s what we need. Thank you.


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