Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

1. Back to Basics

  • Ken starts with a case study where a problem school changed when it realized that it needed to: 1 Make sure the kids come to school. 2 Make the students feel safe. 3 Help make each student feel valued as an individual. 4 Teach an appropriate curriculum that students need for future success. It’s important to let students know you value what they are interested in. This also involves building relationships with each student.
  • Up until No Child Left Behind in 2001, the role of the federal government was relatively weak. In practice, this plan was deeply flawed as is Obama’s Race to the Top. The basic strategy is to standardize curriculum, teaching, and testing. At the same time, more successful countries allow a looser framework.
  • The standards movement features direct instruction rather than group activities, and it is skeptical of creativity, personal expression, and nonverbal, non mathematical modes of work. It is also skeptical of portfolios, open-book tests, and other approaches that are not easily quantifiable. It features competition between teachers and schools. It lead to the big business of providing curriculum materials and tests required by the standards. Ironically, the corporate leaders pushing standardization claim to prioritize adaptability to change and creativity in generating new ideas.
  • As Yong Zhao points out, there is an inverse relationship between countries that do well on standardized tests and those that demonstrate entrepreneurial flair. Meanwhile, standardization is having catastrophic consequences on student engagement and teacher morale. Bored and disaffected students drop out and often end up in prison. It’s clear that a shift from the old industrial modal to one based on entirely different principles and practices is urgent. We need a better metaphor.

2. Changing Metaphors

  • We are reminded that when schools started they borrowed from the industrial model used by the emerging factories. Mass production and quality control are essential for making items that are identical to each other. People, however, are not identical to each other, and it is the individual nature of each student that causes the industrial model of schooling to fail. Different students learn at different rates in different disciplines. The problems we see are not an accidental by-product of standardized education; they are a structural feature of these systems.
  • Ken sees four purposes for education. They are: 1 Economic: It is up to schools to produce students who can take up jobs to enhance the economy. As our economy changes, we have to ask how education needs to change as well. See page 46 for the list of learning categories that Ken sees as essential today. 2 Cultural: In short, your culture is defined by the values and forms of behavior that characterize a group. Cultures overlap and interact with each other. Students need to develop cultural sensitivity and tolerance of others. Teachers need to see cultural differences a opportunities rather than problems. 3 Social: Schools should be the gateway to fulfillment and prosperity for all, but sadly they are not. The standards movement does nothing to address inequities and everything to exacerbate them. 4. Personal: Education should enrich the minds and hearts of living people. Students are unique with their own hopes, talents, fears, passions, and aspirations. Engaging them as individuals is the heart of raising achievement. Unfortunately, most schools pay little attention to the child’s inner world. This can result in boredom, disengagement, stress, bullying, anxiety, depression, and dropping out.
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