MMG is one of my Facebook friends. I've known her since before she was born, so technically she's more the daughter of our friends than my own friend.  Yet thanks to Facebook, in recent years I've had more contact with her, and know more about what's going on in her life, than with her parents.

This is a particular blessing, not only because it keeps up a connection that would otherwise have been lost, but because I enjoy her perspective on life.  She and I differ and disagree in multitudinous ways, from thoughts about God to the importance of televised hockey games.  As Hercule Poirot is fond of saying, she "gives one furiously to think."  But best of all, she is adept at finding (and posting) links from all over the Web, some of which lead me down very interesting paths.  Here's a recent one:

A cool presentation of part of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

If, like me, you enjoyed this version but are frustrated because it has obviously chopped bits and pieces out of a longer talk—and couldn't help noticing that it is missing some critical numbers in the section on divergent thinking—here's the original talk.  Be warned: it is nearly an hour long, and goes off on all sorts of tacks, some of which are more interesting than others.  It's good if you have a spare hour, but since you probably don't, the key numbers on divergent thinking are:  kindergarteners 98%, 8-10 year olds 32%, 13-15 year olds 10%. adults 2%.

And here's one more by Robinson, a second TED lecture that also overlaps a bit with the above .  With all Robinson has been saying about education, this is the first time I've heard him mention homeschooling (very near the end of the lecture).  He's neither positive nor negative, but acknowledges it as a legitimate form, which is progress, anyway.  (This one is only about 18 minutes long.)

I've written about Robinson before, notably in:  Sir Ken Robinson, Creativity, and Education, and also a review of his book, The Element.  And of course I can't miss the opportunity once again to plug John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education, which confirms and elaborates on what Robinson says about the industrial model of education.

Here are a few side notes I've taken from the above talks.

  • There are no school systems anywhere that Robinson knows of that teaches dance every day, giving it as much importance as mathematics—which he believes to be a mistake.  Long ago I concluded that music should be given that same importance; that learning music should be no more optional than learning to read or to brush one's teeth.  But I apologize to our dancing daughter for not recognizing the similar importance of dance.  Sigh—if only the value of dance had been separated from silly little girls in frilly tutus, I might have been more understanding.
  • "We still educate children by batches.  We put them through the system by age group.  Why do we do that?  Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are?  It's like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture."  Amen and amen.
  • Since 1970 in America, spending on education has more than doubled in terms of real money, class size has steadily declined, but literacy has remained the same.  Robinson believes this supports his thesis that the education system cannot be reformed but requires revolutionary change.  John Taylor Gatto and John Holt gave much of their lives to reforming the schools, and in the end concluded it couldn't be done, instead throwing their support and work into alternatives.  Robinson still has hope that the revolution can occur within the public educational system.
  • The paradigm shift Robinson recommends is that we discard the industrial model on which our current view of education is based, and instead adopt an agricultural model.  I believe he's right, but with all the diversions he took in his longer talk, I wish he had pointed out that many would claim our schools are indeed based on an agricultural model:  that of agri-business and the CAFO.  The agricultural model we need for education is that of Polyface Farms, in which the "pigness of the pig"—the individuality of the student—is respected.
  • Robinson has many important things to say about schools.  But for all that I agree with him, he is working from a view of humans—of life, the universe, and everything—so fundamentally different from my own that it's a wonder we have so much in common when it comes to education.  He comes to his conclusions based on his belief that human beings are insignificant in relation to the cosmos, that people are basically good but wrong circumstances cause us to go bad, and that we have risen from a lower state and continue to improve.  My own conclusions come from the Christian belief that human beings are of infinite value (importance being unrelated to size), that we have within us the potential to be far better than we can imagine, but that the evil streak within us is innate and cannot be eliminated by improving our circumstances.  And yet those fundamental differences lead us to many of the same conclusions!  Maybe we're right.  Wink
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:32 am | Edit
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I liked the condensed speech better. The longer one didn't seem to add much. It was interesting to me how I could visualize exactly what was drawn in the condensed speech when those parts came up in the longer speech. I wonder if I could actually remember some history if lectures were illustrated like that.

I guessed at the numbers and wasn't too far off. 90%, 20%, 8% (I didn't guess about adults).

Posted by IrishOboe on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Yours is the third blog I have seen with the RSA Animate video.

Posted by dstb on Friday, October 22, 2010 at 7:49 am
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