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Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! (TED Talk 2010)

September 18, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! TED Talk 2010 (CC-BY-NC-SA)

This is the 18-minute TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson (2010) that sparked the TEDxLondon gathering that I discussed in my last post. In this talk, he argues that education systems require more than just reform. Rather than trying to improve a broken model, fundamental innovation is required. Robinson explains that we are enthralled by the factory approach to education, which assumes, and values, modes of production and behavior that are limiting and outdated.

I think we have to change metaphors. We have to go from what is essentially an industrial metaphor 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 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 is, like a farmer, is to create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.

With the talents and technologies that we now have at our disposal, Robinson argues that we can customize the best models of education to serve specific contexts and the needs of individual students. In this “learner-centred” approach, students exercise more freedom in their intellectual development, assisted by teachers and peers who provide guidance and assistance as required, when required, and where required.

To illustrate the scale and extent of the changes that are needed, Robinson quoted from a speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln at a time when another difficult, but necessary, shift in attitude and behavior was required [Annual Message to Congress – Concluding Remarks, December 1, 1862]:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

One month after delivering this speech, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

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