Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson divides opinion. His stint as a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last week prompted a wave of responses from educators. You can hear the broadcast online here or download a podcast here.

As a contemporary thinker and communicator, Sir Ken has a comprehensive website here. His biography says that:

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers on these topics, with a profound impact on audiences everywhere.

You can get a flavour of his thinking in this RSA video.

RSA animate

Some commentators claim that he’s an ego-driven self publicist, popularising his arguments through charm and persuasion. Others see him as a brilliant creative visionary who can save education from a system that isn’t working for far too many people. Of course, neither of these extremes of opinion is mutually exclusive and both are simplistic. One is about assumed motivation – and it can only ever be assumed – and personality and the other is about promoting a single approach to teaching and learning.

I heard him talk to a comparatively small audience several years ago. There was no doubting his charisma but his arguments, to educators and policy makers, were also very compelling. The quote below is typical and especially relevant to adult and community learning, where we often work with people who didn’t flourish or find their skills and confidence before they left school.

“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”

How do we decide on the validity of his theses and respond to the counter claims of his critics?

I’m with John Dewey on this. We all filter evidence through the lens of our personal experience. I’ve read and listened to some of the pros and cons relating to Sir Ken’s approaches and tried to be objective but personal experience of learning and teaching tells me that he talks good sense. Are people suspicious because he does so with such panache? Being a good communicator isn’t the same as dumbing down.

What do you think about the RSA video and Sir Ken’s vision for creativity in education?

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About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/1GI0QK1

2 Responses to Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Sir Ken Robinson

  1. chrisw.morton@btinternet.com says:

    Dear Ann Many thanks for the blog, Ursula and I listened to Desert Island Discs and found Sir Ken fascinating to listen to. We also watched a documentary on Population Growth recently on BBC which was also relevant. Many thanks for the supporting papers for the next ESC meeting. Very best wishes Chris

  2. infostocksy says:

    Ann..

    I’m missing your blogs…

    Thanks for highlighting this article. As previously discussed, I’m VERY impressed with Sir Ken and his insights into education and learning.

    So impressed that I wrote a little about him here :-

    http://infostocksy.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/fantastic-educational-speaker-sir-ken-robinson/

    I personally discussed some of his ideas at a recent presentation I gave to Chesterfield College :-

    thank’s, always, for the guidance, signposting, coaching, mentoring and Sir Ken’s podcast !

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