Ken Robinson: Government “Standardization” Blocks Innovative Education Reform

“I never blame teachers or schools… But there is this deadly culture of standardizing, that’s being pushed on them, politically. My core message here is that we have to personalize education, not standardize it. That all children are different, and we have to find their talents and cultivate them.” ~Ken Robinson

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Appearing on “CBS This Morning” on April 21, 2015 (see CBS News video), Ken Robinson explains how the “culture of standardization” being promoted by governments (and the commercial testing industry) has actually been inhibiting innovative education reform and effective learning. There to discuss his new book, “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education,” Robinson talks about how truly successful reforms encourage creativity, personalization and collaboration in schools, not conformity to fixed standards. Below are excerpts from his appearance on CBS…

“I think education is a personal process. Anybody watching this who has children knows that. I would make people a bet, if they’ve got two children or more, I bet them they’re completely different. And they are, they’re completely different. The trouble is that education currently, the culture of education, is all about standardizing. And its alienating teachers, its alienating kids. It’s not doing its job.

I never blame teachers or schools, I’ve worked with teachers my whole life. It’s a fantastic profession, and most teachers I know don’t like this either. But there is this deadly culture of standardizing, that’s being pushed on them, politically. My core message here is that we have to personalize education, not standardize it. That all children are different, and we have to find their talents and cultivate them.

[My book is full of examples.] One of the things I say in the book is people sometimes ask me about my theories. Well, I say, its not a theory. It’s actually about what works. It depends on how you think about teaching. If you think about teaching as having people sit in rows all the time, and you have to talk to them, its very hard to control them on that basis.

If you engage children’s imaginations, their curiosity, you get them working in teams, you get them doing practical project work, it’s a very different dynamic in schools. My wife used to teach forty kids in the classroom, and the place was buzzing because they were working collaboratively. So a lot of the book is about that, the art of teaching.

There’s a problem with the standards culture, which is they see teaching as a kind of delivery system, like some branch of Fed Ex… dropping off the standards. Teachers are there to engage and motivate and inspire [young] people. Great teachers do that.

What governments have tended to do is go into “command-control” mode, to tell people… they think the answer is to standardize everything. Incidentally, its a position that has led to a huge industry. The testing industry in this country is bigger than Hollywood. It’s bigger than the NFL. It has massive commercial interests.

A lot of the schools in [my] book (such as Boston Arts Academy) follow the same sorts of principles. They have a broad curriculum, because children have very different talents. It’s important they should do math, language and so on, but music and theatre and dance are just as important for talents and for engaging kids. It’s not just about that. It’s about a creative approach to science. So its a broad curriculum and they have flexibility in the way they teach individuals.

[Finally, concerning parents] Parents should be partners with schools. Parents know their kids better than anyone else. Parents working collaboratively with schools is a big part of the strategy I’m recommending.”


* Sir Ken Robinson on Facebook * Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: How Schools Kill CreativityToward a More Creative & Holistic Model of Education * Sir Ken Robinson has a lot to say about U.S. school reform (it isn’t good) *  Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing *  Children Need to Be Free to Learn *  Common Ingredients of Successful School Reform * Real Learning is a Creative Process * Flow- The Psychology of Optimal Experience * Understanding How Our Brains Learn  *  Every Child is an Artist by Nature * Educational Malpractice – The Child Manufacturing Process * Flaws at the Heart of Current Education Reforms * Schools That Learn – Peter Senge * Standardizing Education – Common Core’s Hidden Agenda  *


About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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18 Responses to Ken Robinson: Government “Standardization” Blocks Innovative Education Reform

  1. E. says:

    Mr. Robinson is right. Unfortunately, what he proposes is not possible in government-run/institutional schools and never has been. From Day 1, the system has been meant to standardize; it’s not a new phenomenon. Individualized/personalized education only happens in one place: at home, with the child’s parents – the people who know him best and love him most. Until we dismantle the system and insist that parents take personal responsibility for their own children’s education, the robotification of our children will only increase.

    • Not true, there have been many successful learner-centered programs that did well, which is what he shares in his book. The examples are out there in the US, they just don’t get much media attention. But I agree, the government has been trying to standardize and limit the growth of such innovations, especially over the last 15 years…

  2. maryjanelong1981 says:

    I ordered this book months ago and can’t wait to read it!

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