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Sir Ken Robinson - Changing Paradigms

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    (Vision - Tomorrow's ideas, Today)
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    (Sir Ken Robinson "Changing Paradigms" - recipient of the 2008 RSA Benjamin Franklin Medal)
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    Ken Robinson: Thank you very much. Were you surprised when it was actually me who got the medal?
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    Were you? You could feel the tension building, couldn't you? "Who will it be?"
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    Thank you. I am genuinely humbled to have this award.
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    I was thinking earlier that being humbled isn't a normal feeling, is it?
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    I don't often feel humbled - disparaged, humiliated, you know, put down
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    But humbled is a rather old feeling, isn't it? It's not a modern emotion.
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    But I do feel it, and particularly to have this award in the name of Benjamin Franklin
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    who was a most remarkable man. He lived nearby, in Craven street. The house is a few minutes away
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    and I really recommend you go and take a look at it. It has just been renovated.
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    It's a very powerful evocation of the life of this extraordinary figure,
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    a man who was deeply involved in the growth of industrialism,
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    a part of the Enlightenment, at the heart of the creation of the New World,
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    and with a passion for education.
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    A man who was also deeply invested in science, in the arts, in the humanities and in politics.
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    A polymath, I think, a Renaissance figure in the heart of the Enlightenment -
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    and one of the first significant members of the Royal Society of Arts.
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    If you don't know this institution, I really encourage you to find more about it.
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    It was founded, I think I'm correct in saying, in 1753, by William Shipley,
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    and its full name is the Royal Society of Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
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    And it's had a long history in the promotion and advocacy of appropriate forms of public education.
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    I have had a long association myself with the RSA. I gave a lecture here
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    - even Matthew may not know this - in July of 1990, in this very room.
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    And I propose to repeat it word for word, if that's alright? (audience laughs)
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    Don't you I should waste time thinking anything fresh for you, frankly?
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    No, in 1990, I had been running a national Arts in Schools project
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    and I had published a book on the arts in schools.
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    I have a great passion for the arts, and we were meeting here,
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    shortly after the introduction of the national curriculum in England,
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    which profoundly misunderstood the place of the arts in education.
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    So I was talking about how the arts could be made part of the main stream of education.
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    And here we are, 17 years later - well it's all so different, I feel.
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    So I want to say a few words about that, and I want to show you a couple of short movie clips,
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    and then to have a conversation with you.
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    One of the things that have happened to me since 1990 is that I have moved to live in America
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    and I moved there 7 years ago, at the invitation of the Getty Center.
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    I didn't flee Great Britain, but put yourself in my place:
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    I had a phone call on the 3rd of January 1990, when I was living near Coventry.
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    And this guy said: "Would you like to come and live in California?" (audience laughs)
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    We left immediately. (audience laughs) I didn't ask what the job was, we just went.
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    And - the phone is still swinging on the hook, actually, in the house,
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    and we hope some day the children will track us down, but we don't care.
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    But I now live in America, and I love it. Who has been to Los Angeles? Here, anyone?
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    It's an extraordinary place.
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    We were in Las Vegas recently, my wife and I. We've been together for 30 years
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    and we decided last year to get married again.
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    So we went to the Elvis Chapel (audience laughs). Now, I recommend it. You should do it.
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    We had the Blue Hawaii package, but there are others. The Blue Hawaii package, you get the
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    Elvis impersonator, 4 songs, the chapel, of course, a puff of smoke as you go in -
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    you have to request that - and a hula girl, that was optional, but I opted for it,
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    for reasons I was rather pleased about, frankly.
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    For another 100 dollars, we could have had a pink Cadillac, but we thought that was a bit tacky.
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    We thought that was lowering the tone of the whole occasion, frankly
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    but I mention it, because Las Vegas is an iconic example of the things I would like us to talk about.
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    Not Las Vegas in itself, but the idea that gave rise to it.
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    If you think of it, every other city on earth has a reason to be where it is.
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    Like London, you know, it's in a natural basin, so it's good for trade, or it's in a harbour,
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    or it's in a valley, so it's good for agriculture, you know, or it's on a hillside, so it's good for defence.
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    But none of this is true of Las Vegas. There is no physical reason for it to be there.
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    The only reason it's there is the thing that gave rise to this organization,
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    that affects every aspect of your life, which makes humanity what it is.
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    The only thing, in my opinion, which is the extraordinary power,
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    which is bestowed on human beings, that no other species has, so far as we can judge.
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    I mean the power of imagination. We take it totally for granted.
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    This capacity to bring into mind the things that aren't present,
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    and on that base to hypothesize about things that have never been, but could be.
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    Every feature of human culture, in my view, is the consequence of this unique capacity.
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    Now, other creatures may have something like it, other creatures sing,
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    but they don't write operas. Other creatures are agile, but they don't form Olympic Committees.
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    They communicate, but they don't have festivals of theatre.
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    They have structures, but they don't build buildings and furnish them.
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    We are unique in this capacity, a capacity that has produced the most extraordinary diversity
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    of human culture, of enterprise, of innovation, 6000 languages currently spoken on earth.
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    And the great adventure which produced, among other things, the Royal Society of Arts
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    and all of its works.
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    But I believe that we systematically destroy this capacity in our children and in ourselves.
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    Now, I pick my words carefully. I don't say "deliberately".
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    I don't think it's deliberate, but it happens to be systematic.
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    We do it routinely, unthinkingly, and that's the worst of it.
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    Because we take for granted certain ideas about education, about children,
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    about what it is to be educated, about social need and social utility, about economic purpose.
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    We take these ideas for granted, and they turn out not to be true.
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    Many ideas that seem obvious turn out not to be true. That was really the great adventure of the Enlightenment:
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    ideas that seemed obvious that turned out not to be true.
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    Ironically though, I believe, the legacy of the Enlightenment is now hampering
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    the reforms that are needed in education.
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    We have grown up in a system of public education which is dominated by two ideas.
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    One of them is a conception of economic utility. And you can illustrate that directly.
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    It's implicit in the structure of the school curriculum. It's simply present.
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    There is in every school system on earth a hierarchy of subjects. You know it: you went through it.
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    If you're in education, you have probably subscribed to it, or you have contributed to it, somehow.
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    When we moved to America, we put our kids into high school, and it was recognizable.
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    The curriculum is totally recognizable: Math, science and the English language at the top;
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    then the humanities, down, and the arts way down at the bottom.
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    And in the arts, there is always another hierarchy, art and music are always thought to be more important
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    than drama and dance.
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    There isn't a school in the country that I know of - a school system, let me be clear -
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    there isn't a school system actually anywhere that teaches dance every day, systematically,
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    to every child, in the way that we require them to learn mathematics.
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    Now I'm not against mathematics, on the contrary. But why is dance such a looser in the system?
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    Well, I think, one of the reasons is, people never say any economic point in it.
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    So there's an economic judgment that's made in the structure of school curriculum.
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    And I'm sure it was true of you: you probably found yourself benignly steered away
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    from things you were good at in school, towards things that other people advised would be
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    more useful to you.
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    So effectively, our school curricula are based on the premiss that there are two sorts of subjects:
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    useful ones and useless ones. And the useless ones fall away, eventually.
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    And they fall away especially when money starts to become tight, as it always is.
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    George Bush was in town, today, wasn't he? I just thought I'd share the pain, that was all.
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    I just - I'm feeling it. No: President Bush, as I call him, was responsible, with others,
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    for a cross-party piece of legislation in America, to reform public education.
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    And I have had lots of conversations about it, now I live in America, which I shall keep saying, by the way,
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    to make you feel bad, OK? I live in California and you don't. So there.
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    No, when I got to America, I was told that the Americans don't get irony.
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    This is not true. This is a British conceit. I feel OK about it, because there are other ones.
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    When we went to America, we were given a guidebook
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    of how to behave in America - honestly, by our removals agent. How to behave in America.
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    I'm handing it out now to all the Americans I meet now, like: "You do it, you do it", you know
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    "Let's all behave properly, shall we?" But one of the things that was said in it was:
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    "Don't hug people in America. They don't like it." Honestly, it's explicit:
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    "Don't hug them, they don't like it." This turns out to be nonsens. They love it.
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    People in my experience love getting hugged in America, but we thought they didn't, so
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    for the first year, we had kept our arms at our sides at social gatherings, for fear of committing offence
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    and this all added to the idea that we tipified British reserve, you know,
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    or that we were some refugees from River Dance.
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    But I was told the Americans don't get irony. And then I came across this piece of legislation in America,
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    called No Child Left Behind.
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    And I thought, whoever came up with that title gets irony, because
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    this legislation is leaving millions of children behind.
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    Of, course, that's not a very attractive name for a legislation,
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    "Millions of Children Left Behind"; I can see that, but give or take a twittle,
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    it's the 1998 Education Act in this country.
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    It was the manifesto, pretty much, that inspired the work of Chris Woodhead, I believe,
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    during his time at OFSTED.
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    Now I think this is important, because what it represents to me, is the ideology of education,
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    written large, and that's the problem.
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    So let me talk about changing paradigms. My firm conviction is that we have to do much, much more
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    than is currently happening. Every country on earth, at the moment, is reforming public education.
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    I don't know of an exception. Mind you, what's new? We've always been reforming public education.
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    But we are doing it now consistently and systematically, all over the place.
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    There are two reasons for it. The first one is economic. People try to work out
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    how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?
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    How do we do that, even if we can't anticipate what the economy will look like
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    at the end of next week, as the recent turmoil is demonstrating.
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    How do we do that? The second, though, is cultural. Every country on earth is trying to figure out,
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    how do we educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity
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    and so that we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities,
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    while being part of the process of globalization? How do we square that circle?
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    Most countries, I believe, are doing what we were doing in 1988, operating on the premiss
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    that the challenge is to reform education, to make it a better version of what it was.
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    In other words, the challenge is just to do better what we did before, but improve.
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    And we have to raise standards. And people say we have to raise standards, as if this is a breakthrough.
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    Like really, yes, we should. Why would you lower them, you know?
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    I haven't come across an argument that persuaded me of lowering them.
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    But raising them - of course we should raise them. The problem is that the current system of education,
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    in my view and experience, was designed and conceived and structured for a different age.
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    It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment, and in the economic circumstances
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    of the Industrial Revolution. Before the middle of the 19th century, there were no systems
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    of public education - not really, I mean, you could get educated by Jesuits, you know,
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    if you had the money. But public education, paid for from taxation, compulsory to everybody
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    and free at the point of delivery, that was a revolutionary idea.
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    And many people objected to it. They said: "It's not possible for many street kids,
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    working-class children, to benefit from public education: they're incapable of learning
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    to read and write, and why are we spending time on this?"
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    So there is also built into it, the whole series of assumptions about
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    social structuring capacity. But it was designed for its purpose, which why, as the public system evolved
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    into the 19th and early 20th century, we ended up with a very broad base of elementary education,
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    junior schools. Everybody went to that. My father's father, my grandfather, he went to that.
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    He left school by the time he was 12. Most people did, then, at the turn of the century.
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    And then, gradually, we introduced a layer above it, a secondary education,
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    and some people went into that, but my father left school at 14, having gone into that.
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    And then, a small university sector, set across the top of it.
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    And the assumption was that people would work up and a few would get to the top,
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    and would go to university. It was modelled on the economic premisses of industrialism,
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    that is, that we needed a broad base of people to do manual, blue-collar work
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    and, you know, roughly, they could do language and arithmetic;
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    a smaller group who would go to administrative work: that was what the grammar schools were for;
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    and an even smaller group who would go off and run the Empire for us, and become
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    the lawyers, and the judges, and the doctors - and they were the universities.
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    Now, I simplify, but that's essentially how the thing came about.
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    And it was driven by an economic imperative of the time, but running right through it,
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    was an intellectual model of the mind, which was essentially the Enlightenment's view of intelligence,
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    that real intelligence consists in this capacity for a certain type of deductive reasoning,
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    and a knowledge of the classics, originally, what we come to think of as academic ability.
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    And this is deep in the gene pool of public education, that there are really two types of people:
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    academic and non academic; smart people and non smart people.
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    And the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they're not,
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    because they're being judged against this particular view of the mind.
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    So we have twin pillars: economic and intellectual. And my view is that this model
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    has caused chaos in many people's lives.
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    It has been great for some: there are people who benefitted wonderfully from it.
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    But most people have not, and it has created a massive problem.
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    I spoke at a conference a couple of - well, the TED conference that Matthew refered to.
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    One of the other speakers was Al Gore, or Al, as I refer to him.
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    Al Gore gave the talk at the TED conference - by the way, if you don't know the TED conference,
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    I do recommend you visit the website, TED.com: it is fantastic.
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    But Al Gore gave the talk that became the movie "Inconvenient Truth".
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    Al Gore's view, which isn't his, he'd be the first to say it, it dates back to Rachel Carson
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    and earlier. It actually dates back, if you look, even to the work of Linnaeus in the 18th centry,
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    it dates back to Franklin, it dates back to the work of this society.
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    A concern with the ecology of the natural world, and the sustainability of industrialism
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    in the 17th and 18th century, they were concerned about them.
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    But his work is an attempt to put the case back into a modern context.
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    I believe he's right, and it's not just his view. A group of geologists have recently published a paper,
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    in which they argue that the earth has entered a new geological period.
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    Classically, the view is that since the end of the last Ice Age, about 12'000 years ago,
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    we are in a period called the Holocene period.
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    They believe we've entered a new period. And they say, if people were to - a future generation
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    of geologists were to come to earth, they would see the evidence of it,
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    of a change in the earth's geological personality. They would see it in the evidence of
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    carbon deposits in the earth's crust, the acidification of oceans,
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    the evidence of the mass extinction of species, the change in the earth's atmosphere,
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    and hundreds of other indicators.
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    They say it's unmistakably, in their view, a new geological period.
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    A series of Nobel scientists have agreed to this view. They are provisionally calling this, not the holocene
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    but the anthropocene. What they mean by that is a geological age created by the activities of people,
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    as in anthropos. And they say there is no historical questioning of this.
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    And this is really what I want to get to. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, William Shipley,
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    the great figures of the Enlightenment, both in politics and science, and the arts,
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    were conceiving public education, and civic structures, and politics of duty
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    at a time of revolutionary turmoil. It was the age of revolutions in France, in America,
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    not long after our civil disturbance here,
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    at a time of extraordinary intellectual adventures and new horizons, extraordinary innovation.
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    Before them, there was nothing, really, that ever lead to an age of such innovation
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    and such extraordinary change - the rate of it.
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    And it was a fair caracterization of the times.
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    But there is every evidence to show now that what was happening then is as nothing
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    to what is happening now.
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    I believe the changes taking place on earth now are without precedent,
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    in terms of their character and their implications.
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    And our best salvation is to develop this capacity for imagination, and do it systematically
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    through public education, and to connect people with their true talents.
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    We simply can't afford this devastation anymore.
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    So when Al Gore talks about this, I believe him. And I think that if you don't think that
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    there is a crisis in the world's natural environment, then you're not paying attention.
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    And I would take the option to leave the planet soon, right?
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    You see, I believe that there is a parallel climate crisis.
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    Now one of them is probably enough for you, honestly.
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    You know: I think now I'm fine, one is good. I don't need a second one.
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    But there is a second one, and it's what my work is about, and I guess what many of you
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    will be concerned about, and I know, what Edge is concerned about,
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    and what Matthew and the RSA's committee are concerned about.
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    But let me put it in a particular way to you. I believe there is a global crisis,
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    not only in natural resources, though I believe it - a global crisis in human resources.
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    I believe that the parallel with the crisis in the natural world is exact.
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    And the costs of clearing this up are catastrophic.
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    I'll give you a couple of quick examples. In California, the State Government last year spent
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    about 3 billion dollars on the State University system.
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    These are public figures. They spent over 9 billion dollars on the State prison system.
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    Now, I cannot believe that more potential criminals are born every year in California
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    than potential college graduates. What you have are people in bad conditions going bad.
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    I remember Bernard Levin, once, he wrote in one of his articles in the Times
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    and he said he'd been at a dinner party, and he was asked - the question round the dinner table was:
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    "Are people mainly good or mainly bad?".
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    And he said, without hesitation, they're mainly good.
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    He said I was astonished to find I was in a minority round the table, a minority of one.
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    But he believed with Viktor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust
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    and saw his parents die, that for all of that, people are fundamentally good.
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    I believe they are fundamentally good, but there are people living in very bad circumstances and conditions.
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    And if you put people in poor conditions, they behave in particular ways.
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    So we spend a lot of our time remediating the damage.
  • 23:05 - 23:10
    And meanwhile, I think that the other exact parallel is that pharmaceutical companies
  • 23:11 - 23:15
    are reaping a gold rush from this distress.
  • 23:16 - 23:24
    If you look at the growth of antidepressants, of prescription drugs to treat depression,
  • 23:24 - 23:27
    to suppress people's feelings, this is a gold rush, I mean pharmaceutical companies
  • 23:27 - 23:30
    don't want to cure depression, on the contrary.
  • 23:31 - 23:38
    I mean also, one of the things I saw recently is that suicide rates among 15-30 year olds
  • 23:38 - 23:42
    have increased over 60% globally since the 1960's.
  • 23:43 - 23:45
    It's one of the largest causes of death among the young people.
  • 23:45 - 23:50
    What is that? You know, people born with hope and optimism, who decide to check out,
  • 23:50 - 23:52
    because they can't cope.
  • 23:52 - 23:56
    Now, I don't say education is part of that, or responsible for it,
  • 23:56 - 24:00
    but it contributes to it. That's really all I want to say.
  • 24:00 - 24:05
    So this crisis of human resources is, I think, absolutely urgent and palpable.
  • 24:05 - 24:12
    So the challenge, to me, is not to reform education, but to transform it into something else.
  • 24:12 - 24:16
    I think we have to come to a definite set of assumptions.
  • 24:16 - 24:19
    Now, I say this advisedly, because I have been involved in all kinds of initiatives
  • 24:20 - 24:26
    over my professional life. I started out in drama work, I moved and began some school's project,
  • 24:26 - 24:29
    some of the people in the room I've known for years and worked with for the years,
  • 24:29 - 24:31
    and I've had a long association here.
  • 24:31 - 24:36
    One of the great initiatives of the RSA, in the 1980's, was "Education for Capability".
  • 24:36 - 24:40
    You should look at "Education for Capability", it said extraordinary useful and practical things,
  • 24:40 - 24:45
    and there were wonderful people around it: Charles Handy, whom I got to know recently,
  • 24:45 - 24:50
    well, not recently, but I've got to know well in recent years: he was chairman here, of the RSA;
  • 24:50 - 24:54
    Tyrell Burgess, Corelli Barnet, Patrick Lutchens,
  • 24:54 - 24:57
    I shared an appartment, when I was a student, with Patrick's son -
  • 24:59 - 25:06
    and - a kind of galaxy of really powerful thinkers - John Tomlinson who was chairman here for a while,
  • 25:06 - 25:08
    who was with me at Warwick University.
  • 25:08 - 25:13
    There's been a long tradition of arguing for the change, arguing for the alternative.
  • 25:13 - 25:16
    And yet successive governments come in and do what they did before
  • 25:17 - 25:22
    And this really worries me - and I speak personally - you know, that after all the optimism I felt
  • 25:22 - 25:29
    10 years ago, I feel that we've had, of the past 10 years - a kind of myriads of policies,
  • 25:30 - 25:34
    but too few principles. I can't see what they've added up to.
  • 25:35 - 25:39
    And I say that because I didn't see it before, and I don't see it anywhere else.
  • 25:39 - 25:41
    I mean there are some countries, which I feel are getting this right, but we're not.
  • 25:41 - 25:46
    And the reason is, because we're not fundamentally changing the underlying assumptions of the system,
  • 25:46 - 25:50
    which should deal with intelligence, ability, economic purpose and what people need.
  • 25:51 - 25:55
    We still educate people from the outside in. We figure out what the country needs
  • 25:55 - 26:00
    and we try and get it to conform with it, rather than seeing what makes people drive forward
  • 26:00 - 26:05
    and building education systems around a model of personhood, which is what I think we should come to.
  • 26:06 - 26:11
    So let me - I just want to show you a couple of quick slides to - I don't have to,
  • 26:11 - 26:14
    but as I've gone through the trouble of preparing them, frankly -
  • 26:18 - 26:20
    I just want to give you an example of a couple of things, here.
  • 26:20 - 26:23
    Oh, by the way, so many things that Matthew kindly said, are in this book.
  • 26:23 - 26:33
    This book, by the way, is terrific. OK? You cound't do better than buying this book.
  • 26:33 - 26:35
    That is, unless you buy this book,
  • 26:37 - 26:41
    which is a new book, which is coming out in January from Penguin. I'm very excited about this book.
  • 26:41 - 26:44
    This book is about the nature of human talent and how people discover it.
  • 26:45 - 26:50
    It's based on the premiss that people do their best when they do the thing they love,
  • 26:50 - 26:57
    when they are in their element. So I was trying to get to what that is. What is it to be in your element?
  • 26:57 - 27:02
    And I spoke to scientists and artists and business leaders and poets and parents and kids.
  • 27:02 - 27:06
    And it seems to me, the evidence is absolutely persuasive, when people connect to this
  • 27:06 - 27:12
    powerful sense of talent in themselves, discover what it is they can do, they become somebody else.
  • 27:12 - 27:16
    And that, to me, is the premiss of building a new education system.
  • 27:16 - 27:20
    It's not about bringing force in the old model, but reconstituting our sense of self.
  • 27:20 - 27:28
    And it happens to synergize - errh, is that a verb? I'm not sure - with the new economic purposes.
  • 27:31 - 27:35
    There are 2 big drives of change, currently: one is technology, you know that?
  • 27:36 - 27:41
    This is a brain cell. What I want to draw on it, what I want to underline,
  • 27:41 - 27:45
    is that technology is moving faster than most people really, truthfully, understand.
  • 27:45 - 27:50
    Can I ask you, how many of you here consider yourselves to be baby-boomers or older?
  • 27:51 - 27:59
    I thought so. All of you - who is not? who consider yourselves to be a generation X or millenial? OK
  • 27:59 - 28:04
    You boomer types or older - Actually, no. If you are over 30, would you put your hand up
  • 28:04 - 28:06
    if you are wearing a wristwatch?
  • 28:07 - 28:14
    There we go, thank you. Just curious. No, this is interesting.
  • 28:14 - 28:19
    Ask a roomful of teenagers the same question. Ask them if they wear wristwatches. They mainly don't.
  • 28:20 - 28:24
    And the reason is - I wanted to make 2 points - the reason they don't wear wristwateches
  • 28:24 - 28:28
    is because they don't see the point. Because for them, time is everywhere.
  • 28:28 - 28:32
    You know, it's on their iPhones, their iPods their mobiles - it's everywhere.
  • 28:32 - 28:37
    No, why would you wear this? And my daughter comes on: "Why should I put a special device
  • 28:37 - 28:46
    on my wrist to tell the time?" And she said, "Plus, it only does one thing." you know, like,
  • 28:46 - 28:51
    "How lame is that? A single-function device, so you - have you cranked up?"
  • 28:53 - 28:58
    But we take it for granted, don't we? You have other options, but this thing I mean about
  • 28:58 - 29:02
    taking for granted is important. It's the things we take for granted that we need to kind of
  • 29:02 - 29:05
    identify and question. I mean, did you think about putting your warch on this morning?
  • 29:05 - 29:12
    Truthfully, was it like an agony? "Shall I" - you know - "Is it a 'watchy' day? I just don't know, really.
  • 29:12 - 29:15
    I'll put it on to be safe, you know." You don't: you just do it.
  • 29:15 - 29:19
    Our kids don't, and the point is of some importance. A guy called Mark Prensky made this point,
  • 29:19 - 29:23
    that our children live in a different world. He made - talks about the difference between
  • 29:23 - 29:26
    digital natives and digital immigrants.
  • 29:26 - 29:30
    If you were born - If you're under 20, you're an immigrant - you're a native.
  • 29:30 - 29:34
    You speak digital, you were born with this stuff and it's in your head, like a first language.
  • 29:34 - 29:38
    We're less so. But the point is, this is getting faster and faster and faster.
  • 29:38 - 29:44
    One of the new horizons is likely to be the merging of human intelligence with information systems.
  • 29:44 - 29:47
    That's a brain cell, and that's a brain cell growing on a silicon chip.
  • 29:48 - 29:53
    Well, we see. But there are things that lie ahead, for which there are no precedent.
  • 29:54 - 29:57
    And the impact on culture promises to be extraordinary.
  • 29:58 - 30:02
    This is the other thing I want to point to, which is the curve of the wold's population.
  • 30:03 - 30:07
    You see, 1750, when the RSA was being established, and William Shipley was wondering
  • 30:07 - 30:14
    what to do in the evenings, there were about a billion people on the whole of the earth:
  • 30:14 - 30:20
    pretty evenly distributed, mostly in the far-flung parts of what became the Empire,
  • 30:20 - 30:24
    but a lot of them in the industrialized - what would become the industrialized economies.
  • 30:24 - 30:27
    About a billion people. London was a tiny place, by comparison.
  • 30:29 - 30:34
    Now, if you look at this curve, we are at around 6 billion, and the big jump happened in 1970.
  • 30:35 - 30:41
    Well, from 1970 to the year 2000, where the population on earth increased by over 3 million.
  • 30:42 - 30:46
    1968, remember, was the Summer of love. It's probably a coincidence.
  • 30:46 - 30:51
    Yes but - but we all did our bit, you know. That's all right.
  • 30:52 - 30:57
    But this is interesting: the dot line is the growth of population in the developed economies.
  • 30:57 - 30:58
    The real growth is happening in the emergent economies:
  • 30:59 - 31:03
    Asia, Africa, parts of South America and so on. And it's heading to 9 billion.
  • 31:03 - 31:06
    The other thing that's happening is that the world is becoming increasingly urbanized.
  • 31:06 - 31:16
    At the beginning of the 18th century, until 19th century, most people lived in the countryside.
  • 31:16 - 31:21
    About 3% of people lived in the cities. Of course, the great social movement of industrialism
  • 31:21 - 31:23
    was the migration to the cities.
  • 31:23 - 31:29
    But even so, at the turn of the 20th century, still, something less than 20% of the people lived in cities.
  • 31:29 - 31:35
    Currently, 50% of the world's population lives in cities. 50% of the 6 billion,
  • 31:35 - 31:40
    and we are heading to 60% of nine billion people living in cities -
  • 31:40 - 31:47
    not here, not in UK, not in America, not in the rest of Europe, but in the emergent economies.
  • 31:47 - 31:50
    Now, this massive migration is without precedent.
  • 31:51 - 31:56
    So these aren't going to be groovy cities, you know, with information booths and property taxes and Starbucks.
  • 31:56 - 32:01
    These are massive, sprawling, vernacular cities, probably more like this.
  • 32:02 - 32:08
    This is Caracas, in Venezuela. A massive and rapidly growing metropolis.
  • 32:08 - 32:14
    The greater Tokyo, at the moment, has a population of 35 million people, which is more
  • 32:14 - 32:18
    than the entire population of Canada, in one place.
  • 32:18 - 32:23
    Now about the middle of the century, there may be 20 megacities, over 500 cities over a million.
  • 32:23 - 32:28
    You can see my point, here, that these are unprecedented circumstances,
  • 32:28 - 32:33
    an unprecedented drain on the earth's resources, an unprecedented demand for innovation,
  • 32:33 - 32:39
    for fresh thinking, fresh social systems, fresh ways forgetting people to connect with themselves
  • 32:39 - 32:41
    and have lives with purpose and meaning.
  • 32:44 - 32:49
    Education is a major part of the solution. The problem is, I believe, we are backing the wrong horses.
  • 32:50 - 32:54
    Now, there was a report by McKinsey recently, which showed this
  • 32:54 - 33:01
    These are American figures. In America, since 1980 more or less, spending on education
  • 33:01 - 33:06
    has increased 73% in real money.
  • 33:07 - 33:11
    Class sizes have gone down to historically low levels.
  • 33:12 - 33:18
    But on this indicator, literacy, there has been no change in achievement.
  • 33:18 - 33:20
    More money, smaller classes, no change.
  • 33:20 - 33:27
    Drop-put rates are increasing, graduation rates are declining: it's a major problem.
  • 33:27 - 33:32
    The problem is, they're trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past.
  • 33:32 - 33:38
    And on the way, they're alienating millions of kids who don't see any purpose in going to school.
  • 33:38 - 33:42
    When we went to school, we were kept there with a story, which was that if you worked hard
  • 33:42 - 33:45
    and did well, and got a college degree, you would have a job.
  • 33:45 - 33:49
    Our kids don't believe that. And they're right not to, by the way.
  • 33:49 - 33:54
    You're better having a degree than not, but it's not a guarantee anymore, and particularly not if
  • 33:54 - 33:58
    the route to it marginalizes most of the things that you think are important about yourself.
  • 33:58 - 34:02
    And one thing that sits right in the middle of this is this idea
  • 34:02 - 34:05
    that there are academic and non academic kids, that something called vocational training,
  • 34:05 - 34:12
    which is not as good as academic education, that people with theoretical degrees
  • 34:12 - 34:20
    are inherently better people than those who can do real craft and the kind of work which
  • 34:20 - 34:22
    previously would have been venerated in Guild systems.
  • 34:23 - 34:27
    We have this intellectual apartheid running through education.
  • 34:27 - 34:30
    And so, lots of people try to defend it or to repair it.
  • 34:30 - 34:35
    I think we just got to reconize its mythical. And we have to strip it out of our thinking.
  • 34:37 - 34:40
    This is one of the consequences of it. Let me ask you another question.
  • 34:40 - 34:50
    How many of you who are not - how many of you over 30 have had your tonsils removed? Be frank with me.
  • 34:50 - 34:58
    Come. OK. I ask you this for a reason, connected with things we take for granted.
  • 34:58 - 35:05
    People of my generation, and I was born in 1950. Now, I know you don't believe that.
  • 35:06 - 35:08
    I can see the sense of incredulity sweeping through the room, eh?
  • 35:10 - 35:13
    "How could it be?", you're saying to yourselves. Well, I live in Los Angeles, you know.
  • 35:16 - 35:26
    I have worked on it, what can I tell you? But er, no but people of my generation, in the 50's and 60's,
  • 35:26 - 35:32
    and in the 40's, I guess. The minute they had a sore throat, somebody pounced on them
  • 35:32 - 35:38
    and took their tonsils out. That's true, isn't it? It was routine to have your tonsils removed.
  • 35:38 - 35:42
    You could not afford to have a ticklish cough in the 1950's,
  • 35:43 - 35:47
    or somebody would reach for your throat, and hey pronto, would remove your tonsils.
  • 35:48 - 35:52
    It was routine. Millions of tonsils were removed in that period.
  • 35:52 - 35:57
    What happened to them? We don't know. I mean - I believe it's a scandal, I don't know, but -
  • 35:57 - 36:00
    It's one of those things like Rockwell, you know, like area 56.
  • 36:00 - 36:04
    Somewhere in America, in a desert, there is this stockpile. Anyway.
  • 36:05 - 36:11
    Now the thing about this is this, that nowadays, people do have tonsilectomies,
  • 36:12 - 36:19
    but it's not common. It's unusual to have it done. You have to have a chronic case,
  • 36:21 - 36:24
    with no hope of it being repaired in some other way, to have your tonsils taken out.
  • 36:25 - 36:27
    When I was growing up, they were thought to be totally disposable.
  • 36:27 - 36:30
    We just wipped them out and let's not have anymore nonsense out them.
  • 36:30 - 36:33
    And some people voluntarily had it done, so that they could get the ice cream.
  • 36:35 - 36:42
    Our children, this generation, do not suffer the plague of tonsilectomies.
  • 36:42 - 36:48
    Instead, they suffer this: this is the modern epidemic, and it is as misplaced, and it's as fictitious.
  • 36:48 - 36:57
    This is the plague of ADHD. Now, this is a map of the incidence of ADHD in America,
  • 36:57 - 37:03
    or prescriptions for ADHD. Don't mistake me: I don't mean to say there is no such thing
  • 37:03 - 37:08
    as Attention Deficit Disorder. I'm not qualified to say if there is such a thing.
  • 37:09 - 37:13
    I know that a great majority of psychologists and pediatricians think there is such a thing.
  • 37:14 - 37:15
    But it's still a matter of debate.
  • 37:17 - 37:25
    What I do know for a fact, is it's not an epidemic. I believe that these kids are being medicated
  • 37:25 - 37:31
    as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out, and on the same whimsical basis,
  • 37:31 - 37:33
    and for the same reason: medical fashion.
  • 37:34 - 37:41
    Our children are living in the most intense, intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.
  • 37:42 - 37:46
    They are being besieged with information and calls to their attention
  • 37:46 - 37:51
    from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings,
  • 37:51 - 37:53
    from hundreds of television channels.
  • 37:53 - 37:56
    And we are penalizing them now for getting distracted.
  • 37:57 - 38:02
    from what? you know, boring stuff at school, for the most part.
  • 38:02 - 38:07
    It seems to me it's not a coincidence, totally, that the incidence of ADHD has risen in parallel
  • 38:07 - 38:08
    with the growth of standardized testing.
  • 38:10 - 38:13
    Now, these kids are being given Ritalin, and Adrol and all manner of things -
  • 38:14 - 38:17
    often quite dangerous drugs - to get them focused and calm them down.
  • 38:19 - 38:22
    Now, I know this is nonsense, immediately you see this thing,
  • 38:22 - 38:25
    because the light areas are where there isn't much of it.
  • 38:25 - 38:32
    Now I live in California and people there won't pay attention for more than a minute and a half,
  • 38:32 - 38:37
    you know, so - but according to this, Attention Deficit Disorder increases
  • 38:37 - 38:39
    as you travel East across the country.
  • 38:39 - 38:41
    People start losing interest in Oklahoma,
  • 38:48 - 38:50
    they can hardly think straight in Arkansas,
  • 38:51 - 38:53
    and by the time you get to Washington, they've lost it completely.
  • 38:55 - 38:56
    And there are separate reasons for that, I believe.
  • 38:58 - 39:03
    It's a fictitious disease. I'm sorry, I don't want to say it's a fictitious condition,
  • 39:03 - 39:05
    it's a fictitious epidemic.
  • 39:05 - 39:08
    As I was saying earlier, I have a big interest in the arts
  • 39:08 - 39:15
    And if you think of it, the arts - and I don't say it's exclusively the arts, I think
  • 39:15 - 39:20
    it's also true of science and of math - but let me - I say about the arts, particularly, because
  • 39:20 - 39:23
    they are the victims of this mentality, currently, particularly.
  • 39:24 - 39:30
    The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience.
  • 39:31 - 39:35
    An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak.
  • 39:35 - 39:40
    When you're present in the current moment, when you're resonating with the excitement of this thing
  • 39:40 - 39:43
    that you're experiencing, when you are fully alive.
  • 39:44 - 39:50
    And anaesthetic is when you shut your senses off and deaden yourself to what's happening.
  • 39:50 - 39:56
    And a lot of these drugs are that. We are getting our children through education by anaesthetizing them.
  • 39:57 - 40:00
    And I think we should be doing the exact opposite. We shouldn't be putting them asleep,
  • 40:00 - 40:03
    we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.
  • 40:04 - 40:10
    But the model we have is this: its - I believe we have a system of education that is modeled on
  • 40:10 - 40:14
    the interest of industrialism, and in the image of it.
  • 40:15 - 40:19
    I'll give you a couple of examples. Schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines:
  • 40:19 - 40:24
    ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects.
  • 40:25 - 40:31
    We still educate children by batches, you know, we put them through the system by age group.
  • 40:31 - 40:36
    Why do we do that? you know, Why is there this assumption that the most important thing
  • 40:36 - 40:40
    kids have in common is how old they are? You know, it's like the most important thing about them
  • 40:40 - 40:45
    is their date of manufacture. I mean, well I know kids who are much better than an other kids
  • 40:45 - 40:49
    of the same age in different disciplines, you know, or at different times of the day.
  • 40:49 - 40:53
    Or better in small groups than in large groups. Or sometimes, they want to be on their own.
  • 40:53 - 40:57
    If you're interested in the model of learning, you don't start from this production line mentality.
  • 40:57 - 41:00
    These are some of the keywords in the industrial model:
  • 41:00 - 41:05
    Utility, which shapes the curriculum; linearity, which informs choices and the assumptions
  • 41:05 - 41:07
    of what matters and what doesn't.
  • 41:07 - 41:10
    It's essentially about conformity, increasingly, it's about that, if you look at the growth
  • 41:10 - 41:14
    of standardized testing and standardized curricula. And it's about standardization.
  • 41:15 - 41:17
    Now, for reasons we'll come to before we're done,
  • 41:17 - 41:19
    I believe we have to go in the exact opposite direction.
  • 41:19 - 41:24
    That's what I mean by changing the paradigm. We have to question what we take for granted.
  • 41:24 - 41:27
    The problem in questioning what we take for granted is that we don't know what it is.
  • 41:27 - 41:29
    Let's have a quick read of this.
  • 41:29 - 41:32
    (B Russell: man as 4 astronomer or 4 Hamlet or both?)
  • 41:32 - 41:36
    I love this quote. As you can see, it's from Bertrand Russell.
  • 41:38 - 41:43
    And it seems to me to be the quintessential question of Western philosophy, you know.
  • 41:43 - 41:50
    When it comes to it, what is this? Are we all that Hamlet thought we were,
  • 41:50 - 41:53
    or are we just a kind of cosmic accident of no importance?
  • 41:53 - 41:59
    I got very interested in this first part of the question, this "small, unimportant planet".
  • 42:02 - 42:05
    Well, how small, you know, how unimportant is this planet?
  • 42:06 - 42:10
    It's hard to get an image of this, isn't it, because, if you think of it,
  • 42:10 - 42:14
    the distances of space are so vast, you know, like for example, this is an image from the Hubble telescope.
  • 42:14 - 42:16
    This is the Magellanic cloud.
  • 42:18 - 42:24
    Well, you know, distance in space is measured in light-years, distance that light travels in a year,
  • 42:24 - 42:31
    which is far, truthfully. I mean that's farther than Brighton, you know, really.
  • 42:32 - 42:38
    Now that's 170'000 light years. I mean, can you get your head round them?
  • 42:38 - 42:39
    It's just: oh, it's big.
  • 42:40 - 42:42
    On Wednesday .... all of that
  • 42:42 - 42:45
    The problem with getting any sense of how big the earth is, or small is, the distances are so immense
  • 42:45 - 42:49
    that they blear our perception of relative size. So I came across this image.
  • 42:50 - 42:52
    ... it is on the internet, I just quickly want to show them to you.
  • 42:52 - 42:55
    I think they are fantastic. I had them rerendered for your benefit.
  • 42:56 - 43:02
    These are pictures of - somebody had the brilliant idea of taking the Earth out of the sky
  • 43:03 - 43:06
    and lining it up with the other - with some other planets in the solar system
  • 43:06 - 43:13
    for purpose of comparison of size. So it's like a team photo, you know, of some of the planets
  • 43:13 - 43:15
    in the solar system and beyond. It starts with this:
  • 43:19 - 43:25
    ..... I love that image. ..... I think we're looking good, that's what the first example is.
  • 43:27 - 43:30
    There are a couple of things I want to say about - a couple of things I want to say about this.
  • 43:30 - 43:35
    The first is that I think we are less concerned than we were about being invaded by Martian hoards.
  • 43:37 - 43:43
    Aren't we? I mean, bring it on, I feel, like, you and whose army - I think we are feeling.
  • 43:46 - 43:50
    The second thing is that Pluto is no longer a planet. And frankly, we can see why, now, can't we?
  • 43:50 - 43:54
    I mean, what were we thinking, you know, it's a boulder, frankly.
  • 43:55 - 44:01
    So pull back a bit. though. And it's a bit less encouraging, isn't it?
  • 44:05 - 44:09
    don't you think? A bit less encouraging. And Pluto is a kind of cosmic embarassment now,
  • 44:09 - 44:18
    so we don't seem to (contr). But we know the sun is a big deal. But how big exactly is the sun,
  • 44:18 - 44:22
    compared to the earth? So this is - I checked this with some astrophysicists, they said,
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    yes, this would be about right. Here we are with the sun in the picture.
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    Did you know that? But keep your eye on the sun, because that's not the biggest thing on the block.
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    This the sun against some other objects not in our solar system,
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    but that you can see in the night sky.
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    So Jupiter is one pixel, now, and the earth is gone. So we ought to be friends with Arcturus.
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    But keep your eye on Arcturus for a minute.
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    So I think our bet is on Antares.
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    I mean, that's extraordinary, isn't it?
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    So, go back to that, and we are infinitesimally, pitifully tiny in the great cosmic scheme.
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    Now, I just want to say a couple of things, quickly.
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    The first is, whatever you woke up worrying about, this morning, really, get over it.
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    Honestly, make the call and move on.
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    But the second thing is this: that this may be, but we do have this extraodinary power.
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    And I can put it this way: we have a power, which enables us to conceive
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    of our own insignificance.
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    No other species on earth is sitting around, getting anxiety attacks over these images, you know.
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    You don't see other species, in little forest clearings, saying, "I have no idea that you have -
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    I mean, trust me. I wasn't expecting this." They won't. And they didn't produce these images either.
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    We have this extraordinary human power to conceive of objects outside of our current experience
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    and to express them in conceptual, symbolic forms, in ways that other people can engage with and grasp.
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    And we are therefore the species that did produce Hamlet and the work of Mozart
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    and the Industrial Revolution, and this extraordinary building, with its amazing images
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    and hip hop, and jazz, and quantum mechanics, and the theory of relativity, and air travel,
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    and the jet engine, and all the things that characterize the extraordinary ascent of human culture.
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    But we destroy it in the way we educate, but I just want to end it and open up for some conversation
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    by giving an example of something. There was a great study done recently of divergent thinking.
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    It was published a couple of years ago. Divergent thinking isn't the same thing as creativity.
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    I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.
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    Divergent thinking isn't a synonym, but it is an essential capacity for creativity.
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    It's the ability to - to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways
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    of interpreting a question, to think whatever de Bono would call laterally,
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    to think not just in linear or convergent ways.
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    To see multiple answers, not one. So I made a little test for this,
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    I mean one kind of counterexample would be, people might be asked to say
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    how many uses can you think of for a paper clip. That's routine questions.
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    Most people might come with 10 or 15. People who are good at this might come with 200.
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    And they do that by saying, well, could the paper clip be turned - could be made out of foam rubber,
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    you know, like, does this have to be a paper clip as we know it, jim, you know.
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    Now, there are tests of this, and I gave them to 1500 people, it is in a bok called
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    "Break Point and Beyond". And on the protocol of the text, if you score above a certain level,
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    you'd be considered to be a genius at divergent thinking.
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    So my question to you is what percentage of the people tested, of the 1500,
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    scored at genius level for divergent thinking?
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    Now you need to know one more thing about them: these were kndergarden children, OK?
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    So what do you think? What percentage at genius level?
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    (from the audience: 80) KR: 80 - 80 OK?
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    It's not correct. 98%. Now, the thing about this was it was a longitudinal study.
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    So they re-tested the same children 5 years later, age of 8 to 10.
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    What do you think?
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    50? They retested them again 5 years later, ages 13 to 15. You can see a trend here, can't you?
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    They tested 200'000 adults, 25 years and older, just once, as a control. What do you think?
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    Yes, you know.
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    Now, I always say, if you are in business, these are the people you're hiring, OK?
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    So now, this tells an interesting story, because you could have imagined it going the other way.
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    Couldn't you? You start of not being very good, but you get better as you get older.
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    But this shows two things. One is, we all have this capacity, and two, it mostly deteriorates.
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    Now, lots of things have happened to these kids as they've grown up, a lot.
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    But one of the most important things out of them, I'm convinced, is that by now, they've become educated.
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    You know, they've spent 10 years at school, being told that there's one answer, it's at the back.
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    And don't look. And don't copy, because that's cheating.
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    I mean, outside school, that's called collaboration, you know, but inside schools.
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    Now this isn't because teachers want to do it this way. It's just because it happens that way.
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    It's because it's in the gene pool of education.
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    And to transform it, we have to think differently
  • 50:13 - 50:15
    Well let me just quickly save this - about that -
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    we have to think differently about human capacity
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    This is what in my book "The Element" is about. We have to get over this old conception
  • 50:22 - 50:26
    of academic, non academic, abstract, theoretical
  • 50:27 - 50:30
    vocational, and see it for what it is: a myth
  • 50:32 - 50:35
    Second, we have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups
  • 50:36 - 50:42
    that collaboration is the stuff of growth, you know, if we atomize people and separate them
  • 50:42 - 50:48
    and judge them separately, we form a kind of disjunction between them and their natural learning environment.
  • 50:49 - 50:53
    And thirdly, it's crucially about the culture of our institutions, the habits of the institutions,
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    and the habitats that they occupy. Let me just put my hand on it.
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    A great quote recently, which seemed to me to capture some of this,
  • 51:04 - 51:08
    about this distinction between ourselves and the species.
  • 51:11 - 51:20
    and it says - just find it - probably in my other suit, isn't it? It's about - here we go:
  • 51:22 - 51:28
    I rather like this, as a view. It says that when we come to assess people, we should be fairer with ourselves
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    It says: "After all, human beings were born of risen apes, not fallen angels.
  • 51:35 - 51:41
    And so what shall we wonder at? Our massacres? Our missiles? Or our symphones?
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    The miracle of human kind is not how far we have sunk, but how magnificently we have risen.
  • 51:48 - 51:53
    We will be known among the stars, not by our corpses, but by our poems."
  • 51:54 - 51:56
    And I believe there's a fair amount of profound truth in that.
  • 51:57 - 52:02
    We have it in our grasp to form systems of education based on these different principles
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    But it means a shift from the industrial metaphor of education to what I think of as the - an agricultural metaphor.
  • 52:11 - 52:15
    If you think of it, if you look at the organizational chart of most companies and organizations,
  • 52:15 - 52:22
    it looks a bit like a wiring diagram, doesn't it, if you look at the structure, like boxes and things that are connected
  • 52:23 - 52:27
    But human organizations are not like mechanisms,
  • 52:27 - 52:30
    even though these charts suggest the metaphor that they are.
  • 52:30 - 52:33
    Human organizations are much more like organisms.
  • 52:34 - 52:39
    That's to say, they depend upon feelings and relationships, and motivation,
  • 52:40 - 52:45
    and value, self-value, and a sense of identity, and of community.
  • 52:45 - 52:49
    You know the way you work in an organization is you're deeply affected by your feeling for it.
  • 52:51 - 52:57
    Therefore, I think, a much better metaphor is not industrialism but agriculture or an organic metaphor.
  • 52:57 - 53:03
    I'm doing a whole project in the State of Oklahoma, where I'm trying to develop these ideas across the whole State.
  • 53:03 - 53:06
    But I mentioned Las Vegas at the beginning. I want to show a last image of this now.
  • 53:06 - 53:11
    Not far from Las Vegas there is a place called Death Valley.
  • 53:11 - 53:15
    Death Valley is the hottest place in America. Not much rse in Death Valley.
  • 53:16 - 53:22
    Because it doesn't rain. In the Winter of 2004, something remarkable happened.
  • 53:22 - 53:31
    It rained. 7 inches. And in the Spring of 2005, there was a phenomenon. The whole flora of Death Valley
  • 53:31 - 53:37
    was coated with Spring flowers. Photographers and botanist scientists came from all across of America
  • 53:37 - 53:42
    to witness this thing they might not see again. What it demonstrated was that Death Valley
  • 53:42 - 53:48
    wasn't dead. It was asleep. Right beneath the surface were these seeds of growth
  • 53:48 - 53:52
    waiting for conditions. And I believe it's exactly the same way with human beings.
  • 53:52 - 53:57
    If we create the right conditions in our schools - if we create the right incentives,
  • 53:57 - 54:02
    if we value each learner for themselves and properly, growth will happen.
  • 54:02 - 54:07
    And the growth always happens before - I don't know, I wanted to show you a couple of very short videos,
  • 54:07 - 54:09
    that will demonstrate, but we are going to our discussion, ... just now
  • 54:10 - 54:15
    But I think we need to shift from this industrial paradigm to an organic paradigm.
  • 54:15 - 54:20
    And I think it's perfectly doable. We need to conceive institutions individually,
  • 54:20 - 54:27
    not systemized, as ones that don't just value utility, but respect and promote living vitality,
  • 54:27 - 54:31
    the energy of the organization and its potential to be transformative,
  • 54:31 - 54:36
    that doesn't think in terms of linearity but thinks of creativity and multiple options and lots of possibilities for everybody in it,
  • 54:36 - 54:42
    that's not about conformity but about diversity and is critically about customization.
  • 54:42 - 54:47
    This is Death Valley in the Spring of 2005. I think all our schools could be like that.
  • 54:47 - 54:50
    Somebody once said: "The problem of human beings is not that we aim too high and fail,
  • 54:51 - 54:54
    it's we aim too low and succeed."
  • 54:54 - 54:58
    And I think we owe it to William Shipley and Benjamin Franklin to aim high.
  • 54:59 - 55:03
    Benjamin Franklin once notably said: "There are three sorts of people in the world:
  • 55:04 - 55:10
    Those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move."
  • 55:11 - 55:20
    And I encourage you, with the RSA, to move, and get a move on. Thank you. (Applause)
Title:
Sir Ken Robinson - Changing Paradigms
Description:

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson will ask how do we make change happen in education and how do we make it last?

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
55:20

English subtitles

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