Public Education: Start Again

If you could start from zero, what would public education look like?

We are not alone; this is encouraging!

Posted by Stephen Dill on September 22, 2008

I had the good fortune to be directed to TED Talks recently and started watching the videos.  The TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) I have heard and seen so far are all fantastic and well worth the time to listen/watch. I find them to be challenging and thought provoking, a direct hit to the brain!

Today I came across one from Sir Ken Robinson entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” 

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson

In it, Sir Ken cites many of the same themes we have brought up here: schools are still focused on teaching the same information to all children at the same age in largely the same way with little regard or accommodation of individual learning styles or interests. He laments the hierarchy of subjects taught in every school system around the world. Sir Ken wonders why schools teach the head, but not the body. Why is dance not taught to young children? They dance. They love to dance! He points out that our old model of intelligence puts the most useful subjects to work are at the top of that hierarchy: math and science have precedence. This is not useful in preparing people to capitalize on their strengths and passions. Sir Ken says: 

“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles upon which we are educating our children.” 

In an interview on a podcast I found called Phorecast, Sir Ken echoes the vision that education should continue throughout life, it should be intergenerational, and it should embrace the conduit for exchange called the Internet. 

“The only way we will do it [avert disaster] is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future. By the way, we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”

Isn’t reassuring to find that we are not alone in our vision, nor in our effort? I would welcome and appreciate a referral or introduction to Sir Ken Robinson.

Stephen Dill

5 Responses to “We are not alone; this is encouraging!”

  1. Musing Mom said

    I like that Sir Ken makes us think about the purpose of education, and he does it with humor. What is our purpose in educating our children? What are our goals and is what we are doing getting our children there? It is my opinion that we need to have an educational system that has enough flexibility and open-mindedness to support and nurture all strengths, gifts, and talents. The end product of education should be a person who can critically think and learn, not someone who has spent hours memorizing unrelated unintegrated facts that are quickly forgotten. We should stop penalizing children who are not “average” and compliant with the school mindset.

    Education should absolutely be intergenerational. “Socialization” is poorly accomplished by schools because they create an artifical environment in so many ways, and rely on peer group with inadequate supervision as a means of gaining social skill. The best learning experiences are also unlikely to happen in this rather artificial environment.

    Education does continue throughout life is you recognize that “education” is not something that happens between 8 am and 2 pm Monday through Friday on a school campus.

  2. srdill said


    Your observation about the shortcomings of a public school’s “artificial environment” is so right! Think of the best lessons learned, where did you learn them and what part did the context and environment play? Could home schools credit nearly as much success if their only consistent were the kitchen table? Note the post on Richard Louv and the “Nature-Deficit Syndrome” – we need to spend more time learning outdoors or in situ, gathering the multiple conditions of the subject being studied (weather, topography, climate, noise, traffic, co-workers, distractions, deadlines, etc.) if we truly want to create the independent thinker we all need to be.

    I highly recommend readers spend some time on Musing Mom’s blog for the very well thought out education ideas, questions and observations. Many thanks for your input here, Gretchen!

    Stephen Dill

    • Musing Mom said

      Thanks Stephen.

      Yes, one of the major advantages of homeschooling is the extreme flexibility for grabbing “teachable moments” and situations, and in utilizing the best environments including resources, experts, and relevent context that help make learning a strongly woven fabric. It is funny to me that “the socializatoin question” is the first protest given by those who know nothing about homeschooling, and yet proper socialization is one of the best advantages of homeschooling. Socalization includes academic and life education, and does not stand apart from it.


  3. Brad Brummel said

    I love your insite on public education. I really enjoyed reading the fact that we are not the only nation struggling with public education. Most schools that encounter a problem, implement a new program, or make an important decision look at comparible school districts who had success. Learning from other schools is a powerful tool. As a country, needing some help with our public education, I feel we could do the same. Look at other nations education and try to learn from thier successes and failures.

  4. […] is a very compelling presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, of TED Talk fame, animated on a whiteboard as he delivers it to a live audience. The presentation […]

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