It is too standardized. It reduces students to test-taking-machines. It forgets connections between intellect and feeling. It neglects the imagination. It doesn't permit people to make mistakes. It forgets that sometimes the most important things in life -- love and trust and hope -- are vague. It confuses clarity with wisdom.
That's what Sir Ken Robinson says. He knows that there is also some good education today. But he believes that the talents of many, many children are needlessly squandered by forms of education that are modelled after factories rather than, say, a good jazz concert. We have rendered unto classrooms that which belongs to assembly lines.
Robinson is one of the world's leading thinkers on creativity, innovation, and learning. He is the author of many books, including The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything and Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. (GO) And he is also very, very funny.
His talks are worth listening to for the humor alone. You'll see. The first one has now been viewed by almost a million people around the world.
If you are interested in a philosophy that supports Ken Robinson's point of view, you will be interested in the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.
Whitehead was a mathematician and philosopher who taught at Harvard late in his life. His process philosophy is now being developed by scholars around the world, especially in East Asia. Late in his career he became very interested in education and wrote a famous book called The Aims of Education, which is often used as a seminal text by people interested in educational reform.
Here are some key ideas in Whitehead's philosophy which resonate deeply with the ideas of Ken Robinson.
1. The Only Subject. There is only one subject in education, and that is Life in all it manifestations.
2. Creativity. Creativity is an essential dimension of life and it is found at every level of existence. The planets and stars are creative in their ways, and so are the quantum events within the depths of atoms. Animals are obviously creative in their capacities for innovation and adaptation. When educators stifle creativity, they are going against the very grain of the universe.
3. Collaborative Creativity. We are not skin-encapsulated egos cut off from the world by the boundaries of our skin; we are persons-in-community whose very identities are established in relation to others. Even if a person develops ideas in isolation, the ideas are a synthesis of countless forms of creativity developed by others.
4. Intellect and Feeling. The Western Enlightenment was mistaken to present the mind as if it were disembodied and disaffected, separable from feeling and movement. The intellect ought not be separated from feeling. Even thinking is a form of feeling: a feeling of ideas. This includes even mathematical thinking. It is a felt exploration of pure potentialities.
4. Multiple forms of Intelligence. It is a mistake to reduce intelligence to science and mathematics, or even to book learning. There are multiple forms of intelligence: kinesthetic, empathic, mathematical, emotional, verbal, imaginative, practical, geometric. All are important in different circumstances.
5. Aesthetic experience. Aesthetic experience plays an important role in education, because all experience is aesthetic. The very aim of education at its best is to provide people with ways of finding beauty in their lives and adding beauty to the lives of others. Even wisdom and compassion, even truth and goodness, are forms of beauty. Beauty