Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms

OK, so I’m 2 years out, but thanks to a blog post from Karl Fisch, of Did You Know/Shift Happens fame, I have tracked down Sir Ken Robinson’s address to the RSA after his award of the Benjamin Franklin Medal.

This is an adaptation of the key points on the need to continue seeking a paradigm shift in education.  The full presentation can be viewed on the RSA’s you tube channel.

Educators have always sought the “magic bullet”. In the UK, state schools have been subject to endless reform, politically motivated, for decades. Independent education has largely reinforced establishment ideology. It is a cycle that is hard to break, presenting questions about the purpose of education that prove difficult to answer coherently. Unless (as the Lorax might have implied…) education finds a third way between the input of the skilled practitioner and the desires of the student who is enabled to chart their own learning journey.

Knowledge is important – and there is a growing debate in the UK about the merits of ED Hirsch’s approach – but so too are the behaviours that will enable our young people to collaborate and be happy, productive members of society. For me “how” we teach is the most important question we can ask ourselves.  The “cultural literacy” espoused by Hirsch is compelling and the children we teach ought to have reference points that inform their own worldviews.  However, we must ensure that they are encouraged to probe and question, challenge and debate, so that they really can combine knowledge and skill.

So is there such a thing as the “third way” in education?  Well apparently there is.  As I write this piece I’m listening to Radio 4’s Analysis programme from October 28th on “Hirschian” Philosophy and the Knowledge v Skills debate in education.  About 19 minutes in their is a brief interview with Professor Sir Michael Barber who touches on the notion that knowledge and skills are an integrated whole and states that:

“the road to hell in education is paved with false dichotomies”

Fran Abrams, in summing up her programme, recognizes that knowledge matters and that more should be done to ensure that “cultural literacy” is achieved by as many people as possible.  Yet also important are the teaching of skills and these should not be seen as romantic or idealistic.  It is, given Karl’s presentation and the “Shift Happens” movement, pragmatic and essential for citizenship in the 21st century.

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