Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Institutional Education

I just finished watching this animation of a speech by Sir Ken Robinson to the British organization, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

It captures so well my thoughts about education. There are two main points from his lecture that are important:

1. Educational systems sort children into academic and non-academic streams based on our assumptions and labelling of students. That sorting is value laden so that those who are academic are deemed smart and those who are not are labelled stupid. It demeans all the other ways of knowing and all the other types of intelligences. It is a waste of talent and knowledge.

2. As Robinson points out, institutional education squashes divergent thinking in children, it struggles to be current and prepare children for their place in society, and it encourages us to drug our children so that they fit into the system. When I taught Sociology of Education, I asked students "Why do we educate? What is school for?" I would then ask, "How are schools organized? What is the structure of schooling?" Finally, looking at the answers for those questions, I would ask, "do these match?" No. There is a fundamental mismatch. And from that fundamental mismatch, a huge waste of talent and potential.

This clip should remind those of us involved or interested in education and training to reflect on what labels and assumptions we have about our students. Especially when educating adults, we must consider their previous experience of education and account for it in our design and delivery of learning.