Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stunting Originality

What price does one pay for possessing original thought?

And what is the real cost incurred by the loss of such creativity, first in our school systems, followed by graduation to the "real world" of work?

Originality and creativity are essential ingredients for uncommonly remarkable people and brands to emerge in this information overloaded universe, however, it would appear those that display those traits are required to ante up in ways few are willing to bear.

Recently, an acquaintance was anguishing over bureaucratic handcuffs she is wearing that prevent her from doing what she was hired to do. Fearing the career consequences that come with speaking a little too loudly, she reluctantly allows the student she cares for, to remain "Prompt Dependent", thus perpetuating a state of learned helplessness. The child in question is approaching his teenage years. Her attempts to implement new methods to help the 12-year old become more independent are squelched with supervisory language that dictates, "Don't ask why, just get him to comply".

At what point, one wonders, does "Prompt Dependency" become "Opportunity Deprivation"?

Doesn't sound like the taxpayers who fund this public education system are getting much bang for their buck in the way of originality or creativity from either student or educator in this case.

Status quo, it would appear, has carried the day.

Here in New Brunswick, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock and all district superintendants are challenged like never before with helping equip children with skills for adulthood in an increasingly turbulent world. However, based on recent first-hand observations at school visits and in-person intel picked up over coffee talk leads me to believe that New Brunswick is no different than most jurisdictions.

Which means, as a 21st century education system, it is:


and ...

Organizationally ...

... to deal with cataclysmic forces of technological, societal, environmental and economic change playing havoc with the "real world" our kids are being prepared for.

Fortunately, here on TSB, there is an uncommonly remarkable voice willing to stand up.

And, as a Ph.D, his message has a better chance of being heard and hopefully, help those in lofty positions who make vital decisions, see their way out of the education wilderness.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe and Asia, international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit corporations and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations.

His riveting 22-minute presentation at TED Talks, has been edited to 8:22 so forgive the digital cut-and-paste job that was done in the interests of saving time.

1998, Robinson was invited by the UK Government to establish and lead a national commission on creativity, education and the economy. Leading business people, scientists, artists and educators all weighed in and The Robinson Report was published to huge acclaim. The London Times said: ‘This report raises some of the most important issues facing business in the 21st century. It should have every CEO and human resources director thumping the table and demanding action’.

How much longer can we afford the human, emotional and financial costs incurred by archaic, top-down, command-and-control thinking where bureaucratic protocols effectively eradicate precious resources yearning to be discovered and shared through original, creative thought?

How many government leaders and educators are grasping what "Whole New Mind" author Daniel Pink was offering in the way of insight this past weekend in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal? Can any economy compete on a global stage with a work force supplied by left-brain dominant education systems that stunt right-brain creativity?

How OK are you with paying that price?

"Employers are already saying a degree is not enough, and that graduates do not have the qualities they are looking for; the ability communicate, work in teams, adapt to change, to innovate and be creative. This is not surprising ... the traditional academic curriculum is not designed to promote creativity. Complaining that the system does not produce creative people is like complaining that a car doesn't fly ... it was never intended to. The stark message is that the answer to the future is not simply to increase the amount of education, but to educate people differently"


Ian said...

Well Gair,

This post has already spawned a discussion in my household. My 16 year old was drawn to Sir Ken Robinson's video clip. It would appear that we're on opposite sides of the debate (but at least we're talking!). You might be surprised to learn who sits where on this one.

Gair Maxwell said...

Isn't that part of the process?

To fuel healthy debate and discussion over ideas as opposed to blindly digest dogma that speaks to a "that's the way we've always done it" mindset.

It would appear to me that the ideas that people like Robinson and Daniel Pink are bringing to the table can only help move the education agenda forward.

Otherwise, what is the alternative?