Thoughts After Finishing “The Element” By Sir Ken Robinson

Author Sir Ken Robinson points out that we tend to give a hierarchy to everything, even concepts as dynamic and difficulty defined as “intelligence”. Essentially, many of our educational and societal systems teach us (through no fault of teachers) to conform our own development and perceptions as individuals to the prevailing standardized, Western framework, telling us by default that this is the model on which success will be achieved, when I would argue that the truth is that the value of our individual histories, creative ideas, enthusiastically pursued interests, and nurtured personal talents within the context of a group is what has always made the world the vibrantly interesting, successful, and positive place it can be when at its best.

In an era which will be know for both specialization and standardization, it has become increasingly rare for individuals to be truly given permission to value something different from the norm, without a very real stigma and consequence attached to such risk-taking activity. Standardized testing is now a big business, and individual states in the U.S. (according to the Government Accountability Office) will spend in the range of $1.9 billion and $5.3 billion each year to implement tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind act. It is important that we invest ourselves much more in the general welfare and education of students and teachers throughout our country (and the world).

Rarely are we taught to question the systems which completely encode our society. Do you know which monetary system our government uses? Have you taken the time to personally read scripture from the religion that you identify yourself with? Have you read scripture from a religion that you don’t identify with yourself? Have you actually studied statistics and research done on global warming? Do you understand the impact of the current health care bill being debated by Congress, and are you advocating based on a position which is informed by a negotiation of personal ethics with the subject matter, or are you basing your information loosely on a party association or “authority” source?

Are you doing your personal best to recycle, conserve and use alternative sources of energy? Are you investing your time and money into things that are sustainable and ecologically friendly? Are you supporting positive globalization? Are you aware of current statistics on the rates of incarceration in the United States in comparison to the rest of the world? Are you mentoring somebody, or trying to make a difference in another person’s life? I find that reminders (such as the ones I have highlighted from this book), are essential for refueling enthusiasm for the future and humanity, and are important to supporting creativity in its myriad manifestations.

I believe that being able to see synergies and make connections has always been the most powerful positive force for personal change and collective good, and is the better alternative to the separation of distinct categories and highlighting differences. It is also important to encourage educational and learning environments that focus as much on the pedagogy of teaching and the value of knowledge as they do on a state-wide, mandated curriculum and assessments of students through standardized testing.




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