Open Letter to Sir Ken Robinson

Open letter to Sir Ken Robinson

Dear Sir Ken Robinson,

I was recently shown your video presentation done with RSA Animate entitled “Changing Education Paradigms.” In fact, it has now been shared with me in one PD session, from a fellow staff member on email, and tweeted to me by 4 other educators.  I congratulate you on the strength of your brand and network. Your video is fairly persistent and has a good scope.  I have written this letter though for another purpose.  Twice on twitter, I have attempted to engage you in debate about your presentation.  I have mentioned to you (@sirkenrobinson) and thus brought to your attention my objections in very brief form, but you have yet to respond.  Perhaps in their brevity, they didn’t seem like serious enough concerns to warrant your attention.  If that is so, I am hoping that the same concerns below in more robust form will elicit a response from you.

While I really enjoyed the animation style and thought the presentation was professional and polished, I was deeply concerned with its content. Lacking for rhetorical flourish, I will itemize my concerns as they appear in your presentation. I will try to refrain from addressing all my concerns and just focus on the aspects of your presentation that I find the most objectionable. I will use the version on youtube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U with time references for anyone interested.

1) At 0:23 to 0:39 you state that every country on earth is reforming education. Why do you choose to start with a hyperbole? You go on to say the first reason is because of economics, but you then link this statement to how do we educate our kids to take their place in the global economy given that we can’t see what it will be like in one week. First concern: I am deeply troubled by the notion that the primary purpose of education is to produce people who can serve the economy.  Is that the concern of every government? I would consider it a sad and troubling state of affairs if this was their concern. Is that your goal? Is there no government who is concerned about producing well-rounded and knowledgeable citizens who will be ready to take their place as citizens and participants in a democracy?  Or as capable heads of families? Or as empathic and law-abiding adults?  When Aristotle stated that knowledge was a good both with what one could do with it and a good unto itself was he merely talking about the economy?

2) 3:47 you start introducing your critic of ADHD.  You first present a map of prescription rates across America. I am very concerned about your cavalier attitude towards your own source and as such, your limiting of your audience’s ability to be critical of it and to analyze it properly. We must accept your analysis because you so effectively deny us the ability to construct our own.  I was unable to find your apparent source. Luckily for me, a colleague was able to find it.  It can be found at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/vol111/issue2/images/large/pe0235938002.jpeg and is copied below:

If this is the map you used, then I indeed have am quite troubled.  First, you would lead your audience to believe that the States in white have no prescriptions, when the truth is that they have no reported prescriptions because they didn’t participate in the study.  You would also have had to change the scale to be white = no data to 2.6 percent.  Or you could have changed the scale to be non-standard.  Either of these creative use of scale would be considered an abuse of data by most; when you are analysing data, don’t you prefer standard scales?  Neither would get a passing mark were this to be a learning activity or class assignment.  If this is the map that you used, then I think you need to defend your choices or admit your mistake.  If it is not the map you used, then you should reference it so that we can see the data for ourselves.

3) At 4:00 you mention that you are not qualified to say whether there is such a thing as ADHD but that the vast majority of medical providers do believe it to exist. You then say that it is a matter of debate still. This is misleading. The main debate now is not the existence of ADHD, but how best to treat it and to categorize it. For example: is it ADHD or ADD-hyperactive? You misrepresent the debate to be about existence. The truth is, and it is a truth you must be well aware of, the existence of ADD hyperactive disorder is a well established medial fact. Why would you attempt to mischaracterize the debate in this way?  To what end?  Upon reflection, do you think it is defensible?

4) Your presentation that Ritalin is a medical fashion and that it is an aesthetic is deeply troubling. Ritalin is not prescribed because it is fashionable.  That is a flippant comment and dismissive of the medical professionals that are dealing with real families and real children, and who are trying to help them.  I think that you owe them an apology—perhaps your next TED talk.  

My main concern with this section of your presentation, however, is your lie about Ritalin, presented at 4:26, when you put up the poster of a zombie, and later at 5:20-5:30 when you refer to it as an anesthetic. Ritalin, as you well knew when you made the presentation, or have been told and could have chosen to retract by now, is a stimulant. It stimulates the brain so that it can exercise control. As an analogy, when one is tired and acting silly, a coffee will sometimes help them control themselves. You are too well educated not to know the truth about Ritalin, and to know that when a child without ADHD (or ADD-hyperactive) takes it, it stimulates the brain. You know that the black market of Ritalin is used, not as some date rape drug, but by university students, or such, to stay up and study more effectively (or at least for longer). If you don’t know this, then I’m afraid you are guilty of negligence and as such, are still guilty of an academic error in this point. I think, however, that you are aware and that is the reason you try to distract your audience at this point with undeniably clever images and jokes (5:19-5:30) so that they are amused and not analytical (refer to 4:26 – 4:58). While a good rhetorical device in debates, I don’t think that it is academically honest and appropriate in your presentation.  Do you?  How do you defend your choices in this area of your presentation?  I can only think of a Machiavellian defence; I am hoping you have another.

5) At about 5:00 you talk about the rise of ADHD and the rise of standardized testing-you seem to conveniently conflate and confuse correlation and causality. While I don’t wish to defend standardized testing, I do wish to defend academic honesty. Surely, you know the difference between correlation and causality. Why then, do you try to imply a causal relationship without argument? Surely ADHD and standardization tests are only correlated (unless you have data that you wish to share that I don’t have access to—can you share it if you do?).  This is especially true since ADHD is a medial fact and not ascribed to taking a standardized test. There are equally strong correlations to internet use, global warming, the popularity of American idol, the return of breeding pairs of seals in the North Atlantic and the sales of Katy Perry albums.  I wouldn’t wish to imply a causal relationship in such instances, by what defensible position do you?

6) One of my 2 most serious areas of concerns happens at 6:59-7:30. While your charge about conformity and the role of standardized tests has some merit, and we should ever strive to bring the individual out of the child, your other points are seriously misguided if it is an attempt to value children.

First, we teach kids in batches based on their “date of manufacture” because schools are their primary public of socialization and public to socialize. Students are with their peer groups. They develop relationships and the ability to have relationships at a more or less equal footing. This is why we no longer fail students, because we value their emotional and social well being (not just their future economic role or function). To put them in skill groups regardless of age does 2 destructive things. First, it destroys peer groups and emotional well-being. Students who are struggling get left behind and socially isolated. They don’t fail, they just go with the younger students. Your picture shows the advancing talented child, and not the struggling left behind child. Secondly, that child, left behind with younger children loses his peer group. Are these new age-gapped peer learning groups beneficial? An advanced 5 year old with a struggling 13 year old? Will they socialize normally? Will they make good study partners for health?  

The second most tragic consequence of your model is that we take the misguided belief we have for adults: that being, you are your success / job and we transfer it to our children. They are no longer a peer group or age, they are no longer a stage in life, and they become their academic ability. They become their relative success in school; if you’re advanced, you move forward, if you struggle, you stay. Friendships, self identity, development, are trumped by academic success (sounds more like an economic model than the one that you are criticising). This is a shameful attack on the existence of childhood (refer to Neil Postman’s the disappearance of childhood). Have a moment to consider the ramifications of your vision. Value the peer relations of students, value the socializing mechanisms in school, and value the whole child. Don’t sacrifice these benefits to put good 5 year old readers with struggling 13 year old readers.

7) You state that creativity is not the same as divergent thinking. Fine, you get to set the terms because it is your presentation.  Thank you for taking the time to clarify; however, the only difference is that creative seems to be the ability to filter out ones divergent ideas that don’t have value.  I think this is a fair extension of your definitions. Am I wrong?  If I am correct, then why would we value divergent thinking (if the product is perhaps valueless?) so highly?  Why would losing divergent thinking, and perhaps replacing it with creative thinking, be bad?  Why is the number of ideas better than having good ideas (maybe on an initial brainstorm but as a blanket hierarchy)? What if kids get more creative as they get older—as they replace divergent thinking with creative/critical? Only ideas that have value, not just stupid ideas. How is that bad?  The trend of lowering percents of divergent thinking – I agree it probably was being educated that did it – since you define creativity as ideas that have value, education has probably developed them from the randomness and uselessness of divergent thinking into the useful ability of creative thinking.  Why do you present that as bad?

8) At 9:18 you state that 98% of kindergarteners scored at a genius level according to the tests protocols…hmmm… you might have to standardize those protocols.  No kindergartner at my school would come up with 200 uses for paper clip…no one in my school could even focus on the question that long. So what does it mean? How is it scaled? How was that scale determined? Further, what does genius mean if 98% of people are that?  How can 98% of people be well above average?  Did the other 2 % score well into the negative 200 % range?  Isn’t it the case, that with valid testing, a bell curve is produced?  How do you bell curve 98% genius?  What is the standard deviation?

9) In the end, I think that the most troubling aspect of your presentation is that it doesn’t present a new paradigm. What exactly are you advocating? I mean specifically. What exactly should we change? Why is your system better (what is your system?)? In the end, we can’t argue against you or the values of our preferred system over yours because you haven’t really presented us with a system. Lots of talk – no real vision. You have left me with a lot of questions, not so much against the current system, but about the nature of your proposal. A lot of problems for no real benefit. How can we justify your talk? What is its value? 

Is your talk about treating children as individuals?  To quote you, ok…”Yah let’s do that…I mean, why wouldn’t you.  I haven’t heard any arguments to not doing that….”  The only other thing I can construct from your talk is: no Ritalin, let them work in groups, but not about academic topics-then about what?  I don’t know; you never say. Perhaps it goes back to how best they can serve the economy. By not knowing any content, but by knowing how to get along with others, they will be capable lemmings ready to follow the group over whatever ledge industry (or educational presenters) may want them to. By the way, into what do you invest your money?

I look forward to your response, regards;

Patrick Tucker

Father / Teacher

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  1. #1 by Justin Nanu on April 6, 2011 - 1:14 pm

    Hi Patrick. You make some very good points. I’m unable to respond in detail now, but I just wanted to quickly comment on the animation itself. As far as I know, the animation is not made by or in collaboration with the author. There are many videos of any talks on many different subjects all animated by the same RSA Animations group. As such, I’m not certain if any comments on the animation itself or its misleading nature should be directed to Sir Robinson himself.

    • #2 by mrpatricktucker on April 6, 2011 - 8:07 pm

      That might be the case, but if you listen to the text, he comments on the same map. I think that he retained intelectual property rights to his presentation, so it would have to have been done with his approval.

  2. #3 by Mr. Ayers on April 8, 2011 - 4:12 pm

    Mr. Tucker,

    Without having time at the moment to write a detailed response, I’ll point to a couple of objections. Your third point is this:
    “You then say that it is a matter of debate still. This is misleading. The main debate now is not the existence of ADHD, but how best to treat it and to categorize it.”

    This would seem to repeat what Robinson does; that is, you assert a summary of research without providing evidence. Who says that the existence of ADHD is beyond debate? What evidence do we have that the medical community has overwhelmingly agreed upon its existence? Are you claiming that the data at the source of the map is incorrect? If not, what other explanation for the data are you proposing?

    I simply disagree with your fifth point; I thought he was pointing out a correlation, not causation. I’d love to see a direct quote where you think he’s saying A causes B.

    I agree with the general point that Robinson is more interested, at times, in rhetorical flourishes than in cold, hard facts. But I wouldn’t say that he has no facts. His intention, it seems to me, is to give a speech that rouses his audience to the defense of creativity in school. One would expect a different speech at, say, the conference for AERA this weekend.

    I also wondered if you’d seen the entire speech, which is available on Robinson’s website. It’s about an hour long, I think, whereas the animated version is around 15 minutes (?). He might have addressed some of these points more to your satisfaction.

    • #4 by mrpatricktucker on April 10, 2011 - 5:18 pm

      Thanks for the reply. You raise some points that I’d like to address.
      First you write: that I “seem to repeat what Robinson does; that is, you assert a summary of research without providing evidence. While I think that I have characterized the current understanding and debates of ADD accurately, I guess I agree with you to a point. I could take the time to present source material. Hopefully, Sir Ronbinson will be able to do that since he himself states that there is agreement. I stand ready for him to defend himself. I do, however, find it ironic (at least) that you criticize me for doing the same think as Sir Robinson, but have offered no criticism of him.

      You then state: “Are you claiming that the data at the source of the map is incorrect? If not, what other explanation for the data are you proposing?”
      I am not claiming the original information is incorrect. I am saying that he has actively misrepresented the data for his own purposes. The original that I found seems entirely accurate; his is different. To the point that they disagree, I am saying he is being deceitful or misleading. I am claiming no other explanation of the data; I can only assume that it is accurate, but it doesn’t seem to offer a pattern like he suggests. In short, I think that the conclusion’s he ‘draws’ from it are wrong.

      You then say: “I simply disagree with your fifth point; I thought he was pointing out a correlation, not causation. I’d love to see a direct quote where you think he’s saying A causes B.”
      I’ll re-watch it and respond later; however, what’s his point if he is not suggesting a causal relationship…he just thought he’d mention it even though they are not especially related?

      You then say: “His intention, it seems to me, is to give a speech that rouses his audience to the defense of creativity in school.”
      This may well be; I’ll admit that his point largely escapes me. Why does he need to discuss Ritalin in his talk? So much of his talk seems directed to other purposes. I think that he is a great speaker…I cannot believe that someone who is such a good speaker could be off message that much. Since he is such a good speaker, I must conclude that he has other purposes besides creativity in schools.

      I have never seen the rest of his presentation. I don’t know if I have the strength…perhaps the summer will afford me more time. I suspect, however, that he won’t talk about his misrepresentation of Ritalin or its prescription data among the other problems I have with his talk. Perhaps he will stick more to his creativity in schools message, and less about being creative with data in presentations.

  3. #5 by Bridget Schaumann on April 10, 2011 - 4:36 am

    Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for commenting on my blog. In response I think I’d reply that Ken Robinson is pitching a product – Ken Robinson. What I like about him is that he makes people listen and think about education, people who wouldn’t generally be engaged in the topic. He is very good at the sound bite and while you may be right in some your points above, at least he captures an audience, and pretty much in my world it is people who work in education mostly talking to other people who work in education and we all know what it is like out there. It is refreshing to get someone charismatic humming along too! There may be some problems with the stats, but I can forgive that in the light of the rest of the content.

    I’ve seen almost all of the RSA animate productions and I personally think them awesome.

    Cheers Bridget

    • #6 by mrpatricktucker on April 10, 2011 - 8:19 pm

      I agree with what you are saying. Firslty, I love the RSA animations…I think they’re engaging and…well…cool…but to the degree that they are entertaining, they serve to shut down our cirtical analysis or the content. That makes them dangerous too. I’d like to agree that Ken Robinson makes a good sound bit, but in truth he really bothers me so I don’t agree there. I would rather someone else defends or presents the idea of being creative in class. It seems to me that 1) its not new and 2) and Robinson’s purposals upset me too much. He talks about the advanced person being held back, but is purposal would hold struggling students back (defacto failing them…unless you wish to posit that if only they’d be allowed to be creative no one would struggle…which I don’t). I think that as much as he might appear to, he doesn’t value the whole child…or rather, his purposals would serve to undermine the whole child. Keep them in their peer group…let them learn to socialize as they learn….Value their peer bonds…don’t hold them back. I hate the idea that students become their success in school (and get moved around based on that)…they are kids…keep them together! Teach them where their need is and through the entry points they need, but don’t reward and move the advanced ones and don’t keep together the struggling ones. Less we forget, the most powrful argument for reintergration were about kids learning from each other and about diffeence…mixed groups are very powerful and necessary for our learners.

  4. #7 by @pocketsofhope on May 12, 2011 - 10:03 pm

    Hi Tucker,
    I applaud your thoughtful deconstruction of the content of the presentation. I agree with you that there were many statements that begged further examination.
    At the same time, I find myself agreeing with other commentators in that we need not lose sight of the purpose and audience of this presentation. If the content and specfics are being used to design a new vision of education, then yes, by all means we need to demand that the statements be supported and that misleading assertions be challenged. But as your colleague has mentioned- this is a sound byte aimed at envoking thought and questions. In that purpose, Robinson is successful. We may not agree with all of what he says but it does force us to stop and reflect- and to have pedagogical reasoning for what we are doing. I think it speaks to your competence and reflectiveness (is that a word?) as an educator that you do have an understanding and reasoning for the system that you are part of and the vision of education you support. Unfortunately, too many people are part of system and promote visions that they have no understanding of.
    Watching the presentation left feeling the way I did at the end of Schooling the World…with lots of questions, less so for the directors but more of myself and other educators in my sphere. I found myself talking a lot about what I saw and what I took issue with, and this invited dialogue with others, who in turn began to question and think…and it was in that moment that I really saw the value of the film. The directors no doubt have their agenda, but by allowing oneself to engage as an active citizen- allowed me to construct my own meaning of the text (the film).

    • #8 by Patrick Tucker on May 26, 2011 - 5:03 pm

      thanks for the comment. Sorry it took so long to approve it; for some reason, they put it in the spam folder and I never looked there. I cannot agree with all you said. I cannot accept the ends justify the emans type arguement that approving of Sir Ken Robinson requires. Your final thought is so wonderfully true, but sometimes when it comes to impacting the larger world, it is their purposes that have the most impact; Sir Robinson’s vision bothers me

  5. #9 by theo h on February 19, 2012 - 5:25 pm

    First a few critiques, then a few criticisms. In all fairness I hope to Sir Ken Robinson, who ignored yours, you won’t ignore mine;)
    First of all, spell check. Also, too much “very” and “quite.”
    Most importantly, your argument lacks a cohesive idea or alternative. Sir Ken Robinson does a good job of laying a problem he sees out systematically, and finding a philosophical thread that ties his theory together.
    I think you would do better to look at the same problems he addresses, lay out a solution that you think is better over several paragraphs, each having supporting evidence, and then contrasting your overall theory with his overall theory in a straw-man manner. The way it is structured now just sounds like a jag, and is hard to read through.
    I also think that you take his opinions on ADD too seriously, and it leads you off on a tangent or peripheral path that doesn’t make your overall argument more convincing. (I’m still not sure what your overall argument is, actually; is it that you think Ken Robinson is full of crap? That is hardly an article worth writing or reading).
    Finally, I disagree with you about placing children based on age rather than achievement or aptitude. If we grouped children based on development rather than age, children would care less than adults might. Parents and teachers convey their stigmas to children about being behind. If a kid gets held back a grade or put in special ed in school now, the kid isn’t usually the one who gets mad at the administration. Other kids might tease them, but that is a problem that has to be dealt with the bullies and parents who stigmatize special education efforts, not the consumer of special education services. In fact, Sir Ken Robinson had childhood polio, and was placed in special education because of it, but under examination later, he was found to be very capable of rejoining the regular classes. Age is an illusion, an irrelevant number. When do kids reach physical maturity? Between 15 and 21 probably? When do kids reach mental maturity? The answer is at many different times. What is wrong with putting people at the same mental and intellectual development together? Teachers would better be able to teach a whole class if everyone was on the same page, right?

    • #10 by Patrick Tucker on February 20, 2012 - 9:17 pm

      Sorry for the delay in approving your comment-had a busy weekend and am just getting to it now. Thank-you for your time and your comment. I always like it when someone reads this post; it was the reason I started a blog. I hope that this isn’t one of those responses that are longer then the original comment, but we’ll see…

      Honestly, the comment on writing style, I didn’t much appreciate. I am aware that there are errors in my writing.  For me a piece of writing is never finished, its just abandoned. I did as good a job on it as I could with the time and energy I had. There probably isn’t a special ed. student or, in this case, former special ed. student that doesn’t get particularly upset when someone implies that they are just being careless or lazy as does your spell check comment.  Your standard of, “if it isn’t
      perfect, then there’s a deficiency and something is wrong with it,” is a very problematic measure for me.  It would serve to censor me so completely that it would render me silent on all written mediums.  While you do have a rich field to correct within my blog, I would nonetheless suggest you visit Reddit to engage in such banter-apparently, they love it there!  Or, if you are going to correct my grammar (like the start of this sentence) then maybe you’d change your tone and point out specific problems and include solutions to help me rather then critic me.  You do it with less grace then my students do when they correct me.

      That being said, you go on to say, “most importantly, your argument lacks a cohesive idea.” That’s true. It is a list of objections. Its not intended to be unified or an alternative vision. Then you say, “Sir Ken Robinson does a good job of laying a problem he sees out systematically, and finding a philosophical thread that ties his theory together.” I think this is entirely too generous; I don’t think he does this in the least. Further, I would never create and critic a “straw man” construction of his argument; that is a dishonest tactic. I do agree that my post is a hard read—likely that is why he has never responded to it;) I will point out, that your response is structurally similar to the flaws you point out in mine (minus the spelling errors)…

      Then you say, “ I also think that you take his opinions on ADD too seriously…” and that it takes me on a tangent. I agree that it takes me on a tangent, but it is one that I am willing to be taken on. I think that I let him off a little easy here. It is by far his most objectionable series of statements. He is dismissive and dishonest. He says a great many things that are not a mere matter of opinion. His abuse of his sources to construct his argument is untenable and unforgivable. I should likely have expanded this into the entire blog post—it is the deal breaker. At then end of this statement, you do state precisely my intention, though I would word it in a more palatable manner (why is it worth responding to if it wasn’t worth writing and reading?).

      I liked your last paragraph the best as it presented an argument for me to address. I’d like you to read my post that more specifically addresses it at: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/organizing-schools-by-ability-instead-of-age-is-harmful-to-children/ . I will say, that I disagree with your implication that children don’t compare or judge or feel anxiety about ability without the awful taint of judgmental adults. Even if they did, that hardly matters; they live in a society that has these cultural tenants. They will feel the sting whether they learn that cultural tenant or bring it naturally. I remember the sting; I remember feeling it as I started your comment. Further, grouping by ability is unnecessary; a classroom can accommodate for all the distinct learning preferences he states at the end of the presentation. Teacher’s don’t need to start on the same page for everyone – in fact, I would argue it limits the dynamics of the class to do so. In the end, Sir Ken Robinson’s statements about treating students like individuals is hardly revolutionary (in fact to disagree might be the revolutionary statement) and he doesn’t need to do it in as objectionable a manner as he does-if anything, this takes away from his position; it doesn’t enhance it.

  6. #11 by Paul on March 14, 2012 - 4:38 pm

    Dear Patrick,

    I find it remarkable that theo h could criticise your language skills. Theo writes phrases that are almost incomprehensible, such as “In all fairness I hope to Sir Ken Robinson,” – I presume he meant “In all fairness to Ken Robinson, I hope…”. And how about this howler – “Sir Ken Robinson does a good job of laying a problem he sees out systematically” instead of the correct: “Sir Ken Robinson does a good job of systematically laying out a problem that he sees”. What a cheek of theo h to criticise you in such an offensive manner!

    Obviously you touched a nerve. I say to you, well done. You are one of the lone voices on the net to dare criticise Saint Ken Robinson. More power to you. I found your post to be a breath of fresh air.

    • #12 by Patrick Tucker on March 14, 2012 - 10:16 pm

      Thanks for your comment and support. I’ll leave the grammar analysis to you as you seem much sharper at it them me (I never noticed the 2 you pointed out). I don’t understand why the internet has so strongly endorsed Sir Ken Robinson. His final messages of treat students like individuals and value the arts seem almost for granted at this point and the means he employs seems questionable

  7. #13 by ACS on April 25, 2012 - 6:45 am

    Thanks for this post – I don’t think it’s possible to give the level of statistical detail you are requesting in the type of talk he’s giving, but I agree that he needs to use his brief synopses with honesty.

    In particular, I find the ADHD bit to be a real shame. It ruins an otherwise enlightening little video that I enjoy showing to my intro sociology students, as a method of questioning our educational “normal.” I’ve had to supplement the video with some basic neurology, because his characterization of medications and attention disorders is so misleading.

    I think there is something to be said about overdiagnosis as a result of schools teaching “boring stuff.” Schools have not, to be sure, caught up with the global, technological world, for the most part. Nevertheless, there are children for whom no amount of environmental change will allow them to attend to any kind of lesson, or control their impulses, resulting in not only academic but social/emotional decline.

    I am a fan of his “educating in batches” commentary. I do not think he is implying that we need to leave behind struggling students. My assumption is that he favors mixed-age classrooms – something that is already commonly done with success in other countries and in some US public and private schools. My own children attend a school in which students are grouped roughly grades 1-3 and grades 4-6. It’s been very effective in reducing comparisons between children, and facilitates mentorship relationships that enhance learning.

    Thanks again. I hope you were not too upset by the reference to your spelling errors. To be honest, they are distracting.

  8. #14 by Mitch on July 5, 2012 - 9:53 am

    Mr Tucker
    I was glad to find your piece as Ken Robinson has annoyed me for a long time. I remember when I first watched this video with other teachers about 3 years ago and how they all seemed to agree with him. I was shocked by all the points you made, the poor populist comment about ADHD, the pre 50s view of factory schooling, and most of all the ridiculousness of the creative thinking level of kindergarten students (20 foot rubber paper clips??).
    The huge support for him made me realise a couple of things:
    Firstly, don’t underestimate the ability of an entertaining and humourous speaker to convince people of anything, particularly if the presenter comes accross as a learned Monty Python type.
    Secondly, don’t underestimate people’s belief that they are a unique snowflake and it was school’s fault they didn’t grow up and reach their childhood dream. People do not want to think that it that it was their lack of hard work or low skill level to blame rather it was some teacher who didn’t see the potential in their crappy pictures or woeful guitar playing.
    Thirdly, some people do not seem to understand that there are fundamentaly differences between how children and adults learn. Piaget to most people is a Japanese toilet feature. These same people do not realise the point that if we are aiming for good thinkers and citzens rather than just making workers than maybe students might have to learn ‘some boring stuff’ that they won’t use every day.
    Now, as the comment above said I realise this was an abridged version of an already shorter version of his views. I admit I haven’t read his books but I did go on to watch his longer presentations but still finished annoyed at him. His frequent un-PC comments annoy me, his antiquated view of what actually happens in classrooms annoy me, and lastly, his lack of a workable proposal yet still containing a smug air that he’s somehow solved the great question on education annoys me most of all.

  9. #15 by IndpendentJournalism (@INDPENDENT_JEDY) on July 12, 2012 - 5:55 pm

    Hi,
    First I want to apoligize if my grammar is not the best because English is not my native language. Second, I have to recognize that you have made an inteligent criticism of Mr. Robinson speech. However, I would also like to write down about one aspect that you mentioned. Your words about ritalin and the ADD or ADHD are really annoying to me. It looks like if you were part of a pharmaceutical lobby. And I think you are missing a couple of relevant things.

    Ritalin is a hard drug. It contains some of the basic compounds of amphetamine. I’m not a puritan, but I don’t think such drugs are beneficial in treating children hyperactivity. The long term effects of being a regular consumer of Ritalin can cause severe damages on any brain. Imagine it applied to a child’s brain, simply devastating. In the long term they become literally zombies. I don’t have any doubs of this.

    There must be other ways of treating children hyperactivity and BTW I totally agree with Mr. Robinson about our deciduous method of education.

    Have a good day.

  10. #16 by Torn Halves on August 17, 2012 - 9:08 am

    A quick comment to say I was glad to come across your critique of another one of these pseudo-revolutionaries (and when revolutionaries get knighted by the Queen of England, it has to be a funny sort of revolution).

    And a suggestion: The strongest plank in your argument was not the stuff about ADHD, rather it was the first comment about the economy. In other words, there is something very hypocritical going on here. The teachers applaud what they here about individuals and creativity, and people following in the footsteps of people like Paul McCartney (an example he uses in an interview he once gave elseqhere). And Sir Ken spins an image of school that makes it almost sound like the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. The show was fun. School will be equally fun. They hear that, and they remember their own dreams of becoming a pop star (Mitch’s comment about the snowflake was spot on), but they don’t see things like the wording of the report Sir Ken wrote back in 1999 (All Our Futures) championing creativity in schools. He wrote the intro and was happy to refer to children in the second sentence as “human capital” (albeit in inverted commas), accompanying that opening paragraph with a quote from then PM Tony Blair: “Our aim must be to create a nation where the creative talents of all the people are used to build a true enterprise economy for the twenty-first century – where we compete on brains, not brawn.” Human capital for an enterprise economy. Britain needs lots and lots more stuff to sell. It’s you job to come up with the ideas kids. Let’s brainstorm for our true enterprise economy.

    It’s all about the economy. Genuinely revolutionary thought, however, would stop and think about what the heck is going on in that economy, but that would conjure up images of hammer and sickle flags and blue-rinse members of the audience would start to feel uncomfortable.

    Another pseudo-revolutionary is Sugata Mitra. Wonder what you make of him. My own attempt to point out how dangerous he is can be read here: http://tornhalves.blogspot.it/2012/08/prof-sugata-mitra-and-enemies-within.html

  11. #17 by David Topitzer on August 21, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    Excellent! Thanks for taking the time to reposnd to this crank. I sense that he is a front man for big tech and private education concerns that want to dismantle public education for profit. David Lynhc Topitzer. See me on facebook.

  12. #18 by Scott Goodman on August 22, 2012 - 10:20 am

    I have written an extensive essay criticizing Robinson’s presentation on how schools “kill creativitity” that has gotten very good responses, with many requests to see it when posted on the forum of his TED talk. If you are interested, you can email me and I will send it to you. arkbane@shaw.ca

  13. #19 by flerrie on December 4, 2012 - 1:58 am

    Hello, this is a very good article. He is a Pied Piper. There is a heavy pressure going on for change to 21st century education which is nothing but value clarification set by the Decade for Sustainable Development and the people are getting desperate to see their goals being met. Using this man helps strengthen the paradigm shift, never mind what rubbish he is talking. He is the right man for the right time – the same with Howard Gardner’s mulltiple intelligences. I think as soon as this shift has taken place and all plans are in place, this hype-talk will be out of the window.

  14. #20 by Sean on January 18, 2013 - 2:52 pm

    there’s the animated version that everyone is familiar with…and then there’s the full length talk that it was taken from.

    http://www.thersa.org/events/video/archive/sir-ken-robinson

    • #21 by Patrick Tucker on January 18, 2013 - 3:03 pm

      Its been suggested before, and perhaps some day I will. I just don’t know where I’ll get the strength to engage the whole session.

  15. #22 by Jorge on January 12, 2014 - 11:52 pm

    The great thing about Ken Robinson is that he has started a worldwide debate on education, which a lot of us believe has to change drastically.

    • #23 by Patrick Tucker on January 13, 2014 - 10:46 am

      What debate did he start? If it’s we need to add creative thinking to our understanding of education, he hardly started it. The debate that should have been started by him is why educators need to develop their critical thinking more and demand evidence from pundits.

      • #24 by Jorge on January 13, 2014 - 11:07 am

        This one, for instance.

      • #25 by Patrick Tucker on January 14, 2014 - 9:11 am

        I’m not sure that my blog counts as a “worldwide debate on education,” though I do admit it was because of Ken that I started this blog. I’m also not sure we should praise him for starting a debate about what’s wrong with his message…I suspect I could craft a message a lot of people could disagree with that wouldn’t be praise worthy…

      • #26 by Jorge on January 15, 2014 - 12:42 am

        Is not just you but a lot blogs, videos, debates, articles, social media, etc… I’ve noticed that a lot of people from different countries is talking about this topic because of his TED lectures and I think that’s what really matters.

      • #27 by Jorge on January 15, 2014 - 12:44 am

        It’s not just you but a lot blogs, videos, debates, articles, social media, etc… I’ve noticed that a lot of people from different countries are talking about this topic because of his TED lectures and I think that’s what really matters.

      • #28 by arkbane1 on January 15, 2014 - 1:25 am

        Jorge, the question is not so much whether Robinson has stirred up debate but whether that discussion is substantive and worthwhile. The idea of creative process being the centrepiece of an educational paradigm goes back at least to the 1920’s. As I said in my own critique of Robinson elsewhere on this site, Robinson offers nothing new. His criticism of education is a string of obvious banalities punctuated with insulting and false caricatures of educators as a group. We wring our hands at the continuing decline in educational achievement but refuse to connect the dots and see that it is precisely the sorts of ideas espoused by Robinson that are at the heart of it. All of the major intellectual and scientific achievements of the last century emanated from an education system that did not employ such nonsense. The next time you see a lecture bemoaning educational decay, with a graph showing declining scores over time, ask yourself not what new thing we can do to improve things but rather, what was it we were doing when that graph was at its high point that we have stopped doing since.

      • #29 by Jorge on January 15, 2014 - 6:43 pm

        Arkbane1, I repeat what I said: there’s a worldwide discussion on education, as you can see, and that’s what really matters.

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