Sunday, January 31, 2016

“Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education”

Ken Robinson’s TED Talk in 2006, on “How Schools Kill Creativity,” has been viewed more than thirty-three million times. The most persistent question he’s received since then has been: What can be done? Though he’s explored creativity in subsequent writing, his new book presents his most comprehensive answer.

“Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education,” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica ($27.95 in hardcover from Viking; also for Amazon Kindle; Robinson himself narrates the audio version) is really about farming. “In organic farming,” he writes, “the focus is not only on output, it is on the vitality of the soil and the quality of the environment on which natural, sustainable growth depends. In education, natural, sustainable learning depends on the culture of the school and the quality of the learning environment.”

Through dozens of illustrations, mostly focusing on grade schools, it’s clear that “revolution” is really about incremental change from within--along with changing certain policies from without.

Those policies that he deems most harmful have instituted a culture of standardized testing which, he says, is a holdover from the industrial revolution. “The upshot is that our school systems are now a matrix of organizational rituals and intellectual habits that do not adequately reflect the great variety of talents of the students who attend them.”

But this doesn’t mean doing away with standards. “Creative work in any domain,” he writes, “involves increasing control of the knowledge, concepts, and practices that have shaped that domain and a deepening understanding of the traditions and achievements in which it is based.” What’s missing is personalization.

Schools can maintain high standards but also enable students to bring their diverse talents to what they are passionate about. By the end of the book, it really does seem possible.

Sir Ken Robinson (he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003) will be speaking at Chico State University’s Laxson Auditorium on Tuesday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the university’s Presidential Lecture Series. Tickets are available through Chico Performances, online at or by phone at (530) 898-6333. They’re $25 for adults, $23 for Seniors, and $10 for youth and Chico State students.

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