Over the last few days I’ve been perousing some of the presentations from last year’s TED conference. TED, or Technology, Education, and Design, is an annual conference that brings together about 1,000 thought leaders from those three perspectives. The confluence is fascinating. Videos of almost all of the presentations are available online at no cost or even registration.
One of the topic areas was Bold Predictions and Stern Warnings, with presentations as diverse as genomics and our future, how technology will transform us, and the world’s killer diet. However the one I found most fascinating was by Sir Ken Robinson titled Do Schools Kill Creativity? It’s a relatively short 19 minutes, but well worth watching, and he’s a pretty funny guy to boot. If I can invoke some tech gods I’ll embed the video at the end of this post.
Robinson’s premise is that creativity is as important as literacy, however schools are killing creativity. His definition of creativity is "having original ideas that have value," which finally differentiates it from the ubiquitous "innovation." When kids are young they aren’t frightened by being wrong, but by the time they reach adulthood the focus of our (and he believes all the world’s) education system drive a fear of risk. In effect, as he puts it, we are "educating people out of creativity."
Our current education system is inherently focused on "creating university professors," not a generalized educated population. With math and science being at the top of the current knowledge pyramid, this is therefore a focus on one half of one organ, without any significant development of the rest of the body. He ends with how this is really limiting human potential, as "education has mined our minds for a few specific commodities." We are increasingly diluting the impact of such narrow education, as over the next 30 years the world will educate more people than have been educated in combined history until this point. A bachelors degree is already almost the same as a high school diploma, with a masters, and increasingly even a PhD, required for an educational differentiation.
Obviously in the business world we are often focused on science, math, and primary technical skills. But Robinson’s 19 minute talk will give you something to think about in a broader societal context.