In his TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson shares his observations regarding recent changes in the education paradigm. According to the speaker, there are two reasons for considering a transformation: economic and cultural. The new generation lives in an ever-changing world where making predictions is oftentimes nigh on impossible. In light of the current social and political trends, a lot of young people are confused as to why they need to commit to education, which may take years before completion.
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In contrast, the older generation did not have such doubts. For them, their life paths were pretty much linear: to get anywhere in life, you would need to be diligent, study well, and work hard. Older people knew that once they have received their credentials, they would not have trouble seeking employment. While wealth and prosperity were not a guarantee, at least, stability was.
Problems of the educational system
As one may imagine, today, the established educational system might not be cutting. The main issue that many are now taking with it is its ineptness for the modern world, mostly because the key principles were conceived back in the 19th century (“RSA ANIMATE”). The system that exists today was created in the intellectual culture of enlightenment and with the ideas of the industrial revolution in mind. Thinkers of enlightenment drew a clear line between those who they considered worthy of receiving education and those who would allegedly not benefit from schooling at all.
At that, the founders of the educational system interpreted intelligence in light of the predominant ideas of their time. They were convinced that an educated person had to possess deductive reasoning and be familiar with the classics (“RSA ANIMATE”). It is abundantly clear that theoretical knowledge was prioritized over practical skills. While back then, that might have as well made much sense, in today’s economic reality, a person cannot survive without knowing how to apply what they have learned.
As stated by Robinson, the ineptness of the classical educational system for the modern realities has wreaked havoc upon the United States. One of the consequences of the academic disaster is the soaring rates of ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) in young Americans. Robinson himself does not believe that in all cases when ADHD is diagnosed, children have an actual disorder. He sees ADHD as a symptom of a society where children are bombarded with information the amount and intensity of which make them lose their focus. At the same time, the schooling system does not change: subjects do not become any more interesting and engaging.
No wonder children have a hard time concentrating on the contents of a lesson. Interestingly enough, the rates of ADHD rise as one moves further to the East of the United States (“RSA ANIMATE”). However, Robinson does not elaborate on his understanding of the trend.
Robinson is not pessimistic about modern young children and teenagers. He believes that there is a way to help them and prevent ADHD symptoms from manifesting themselves. The speaker contrasts anesthetics with aesthetics with the former being the numbness that many children are trained to feel and the latter being the authentic experience they could have had. According to Robinson, aesthetics can be compared to the sensations of a person in the process of appreciating art. When he or she looks at an art object, they are fully engaged. They are happy to be in the moment, and their mind is focused on the object.
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Anesthetics, i.e. the pills such as Ritalin and Adderall that many “ADHD” patients are prescribed, deprive them of seeing the true beauty of the world. Thus, to fix the problem, it is imperative to stop sedating children and start to wake them up.
How to solve existing problems
One way to wake up to the reality of life is through divergent thinking. Robinson states that divergent thinking is not the same as creative thinking but it’s one of its prerequisites. A divergent thinker pushes the limits of knowledge: he or she tries to come up with alternative versions or find innovative solutions. All in all, they take pleasure in breaking the mold and promoting originality. Robinson cites a longitudinal study where children were tested for divergent thinking. At the age of 5, 98% of them were classified as geniuses at that particular skill (“RSA ANIMATE”). However, as they got older, they lost that ability – partly or completely. The speaker draws a rather optimistic conclusion: he states that all people can be brilliant, but they need to know how to reconnect with their roots.
All points taken into consideration, it seems like the educational system of the US might benefit from becoming less rigid and more humanistic. I agree with the speaker comparing the current system to a factory. Children are molded to fit a standard that they did not choose. Subjects are separated from each other with no interdisciplinary intersections, and classes are formed based on age, not skill or interest. I think that to get the attention of children back, schools need to show them the real value of education. Namely, students need to become independent learners and seek connections between different fields and subjects.
“RSA ANIMATE: Changing the Education Paradigm.” YouTube, uploaded by the RSA. 2010. Web.