TransformSC guest speaker: Public schools fail to ignite creativity

Sir Ken Robinson knows a thing or two about education. His speech challenging the current public education system went viral on Youtube garnering over 10 million hits. For the audience at the TransformSC Fall Education Summit, the English author and education adviser reminded them that the debate over public education shouldn’t be about what the system is doing for kids, but rather what it isn’t do for young people.

“Our education systems do not address themselves fully to the talents and aspirations of the students,” he said.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks to a room of educators at the Transform SC Fall Summit. Photo by Kelly Petty.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks to a room of educators at the TransformSC Fall Summit. (photo by Kelly Petty)

Robinson offered his view of the effects of American public education to the room full of teachers, administrators and education policy advocates, telling them that public schools are failing the nation’s children.

He said that the current system emphasizing standardized testing is not designed to face the challenges of today. Instead, he said, it discourages creativity in place of compliance and that notion is creating a generation of students completely checked out of the public education system.

“We’re a system that overlooks the egregious talents of others,” he said. “It’s not a problem of individuals, it’s systemic.”

Robinson said that the education system is a dated one that reflects the historic shift of American and European cities from a rural to an industrial heavy society back during the early 20th century. The school system that developed during that time, Robinson said, is one based on conformity and efficiency.

He said this system led to the idea that most baby boomers grew up hearing: If one worked hard and did well in school, and even attended college, they would be guaranteed a job.

That’s not today’s reality, Robinson said. Recent college graduates are strapped with debt to the tune of $1.3 billion. On average, a student leaves college with roughly $30,000 to $40,000 in outstanding student loans.

Robinson also pointed out that America has the highest incarceration rate, noting that a high proportion of those in prison did not complete high school.

Robinson said that it is up to parents, teachers, administrators and advocates to go about a revolution in education.

Grounded in four principles — economic, cultural, social and personal — American schools must transform the way they reach students.

Like any company, Robinson said, schools must be adaptable and flexible enough to harness the innovative ideas of individuals. The humanities, arts and social studies need to remain in education to encourage creative thinking.

He also encouraged the practical application of civics, not just lectures.

“Every generation has to rediscover democracy,” he said.

Robinson pounded the point that education is a personal experience and something that can be molded by teachers to create a child-centric classroom and curriculum.

“Education is about people. It’s not a data-driven process,” he said.

The public school system, he said, must go through a radical personalization of education that is controlled on the ground by the very people that are affected.

“What is true of South Carolina, is not true of Montana,” Robinson said. “There is local character in every community.

It doesn’t happen in committees in the Capitol. Education happens in the classrooms of our schools and the hearts of our community.”