Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson

Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson

Good morning. How are you? (Audience) Good. It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving. (Laughter) There have been three themes
running through the conference, which are relevant
to what I want to talk about. One is the extraordinary
evidence of human creativity in all of the presentations that we’ve had and in all of the people here; just the variety of it
and the range of it. The second is that it’s put us in a place where we have no idea
what’s going to happen in terms of the future. No idea how this may play out. I have an interest in education. Actually, what I find is,
everybody has an interest in education. Don’t you? I find this very interesting. If you’re at a dinner party,
and you say you work in education — actually, you’re not often
at dinner parties, frankly. (Laughter) If you work in education,
you’re not asked. (Laughter) And you’re never asked back, curiously.
That’s strange to me. But if you are, and you say to somebody, you know, they say, “What do you do?” and you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face. They’re like, “Oh my God. Why me?” (Laughter) “My one night out all week.” (Laughter) But if you ask about their education,
they pin you to the wall, because it’s one of those things
that goes deep with people, am I right? Like religion and money and other things. So I have a big interest in education,
and I think we all do. We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education
that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year
will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that’s been
on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like
in five years’ time. And yet, we’re meant
to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability,
I think, is extraordinary. And the third part of this
is that we’ve all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinary
capacities that children have — their capacities for innovation. I mean, Sirena last night
was a marvel, wasn’t she? Just seeing what she could do. And she’s exceptional, but I think
she’s not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person
of extraordinary dedication who found a talent. And my contention is,
all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education, and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now
is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it
with the same status. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) That was it, by the way.
Thank you very much. (Laughter) So, 15 minutes left. (Laughter) “Well, I was born … ” (Laughter) I heard a great story recently —
I love telling it — of a little girl
who was in a drawing lesson. She was six, and she was
at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girl
hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. The teacher was fascinated. She went over to her,
and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said,
“I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody
knows what God looks like.” And the girl said,
“They will in a minute.” (Laughter) When my son was four in England — actually, he was four
everywhere, to be honest. (Laughter) If we’re being strict about it,
wherever he went, he was four that year. He was in the Nativity play.
Do you remember the story? (Laughter) No, it was big, it was a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel,
you may have seen it. (Laughter) “Nativity II.” But James got the part of Joseph,
which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be
one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed
full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!” (Laughter) He didn’t have to speak, but you know
the bit where the three kings come in? They come in bearing gifts,
gold, frankincense and myrrh. This really happened. We were sitting there, and I think
they just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boy
afterward and said, “You OK with that?” They said,
“Yeah, why? Was that wrong?” They just switched. The three boys came in, four-year-olds
with tea towels on their heads. They put these boxes down, and the first
boy said, “I bring you gold.” And the second boy said,
“I bring you myrrh.” And the third boy said, “Frank sent this.” (Laughter) What these things have in common
is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not
frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong
is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is,
if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up
with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults,
most kids have lost that capacity. They have become
frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running
national education systems where mistakes are the worst
thing you can make. And the result is that
we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this, he said
that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain
an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately,
that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it. So why is this? I lived in Stratford-on-Avon
until about five years ago. In fact, we moved from Stratford
to Los Angeles. So you can imagine
what a seamless transition this was. (Laughter) Actually, we lived in a place
called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford, which is where
Shakespeare’s father was born. Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare
having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think
of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s
English class, wasn’t he? (Laughter) How annoying would that be? (Laughter) “Must try harder.” (Laughter) Being sent to bed by his dad,
to Shakespeare, “Go to bed, now!” To William Shakespeare. “And put the pencil down!” (Laughter) “And stop speaking like that.” (Laughter) “It’s confusing everybody.” (Laughter) Anyway, we moved
from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to say a word
about the transition. Actually, my son didn’t want to come. I’ve got two kids;
he’s 21 now, my daughter’s 16. He didn’t want to come to Los Angeles. He loved it, but he had
a girlfriend in England. This was the love of his life, Sarah. He’d known her for a month. (Laughter) Mind you, they’d had
their fourth anniversary, because it’s a long time when you’re 16. He was really upset on the plane. He said, “I’ll never find
another girl like Sarah.” And we were rather pleased
about that, frankly — (Laughter) because she was the main reason
we were leaving the country. (Laughter) But something strikes you
when you move to America and travel around the world: every education system on earth
has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be
otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages,
then the humanities. At the bottom are the arts.
Everywhere on earth. And in pretty much every system, too,
there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given
a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education
system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important,
but so is dance. Children dance all the time
if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we?
Did I miss a meeting? (Laughter) Truthfully, what happens is,
as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively
from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side. If you were to visit education as an alien and say “What’s it for, public education?” I think you’d have to conclude,
if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything they should, who gets all the brownie points,
who are the winners — I think you’d have to conclude
the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn’t it? They’re the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there. (Laughter) And I like university professors, but, you know, we shouldn’t hold them up as the high-water mark
of all human achievement. They’re just a form of life. Another form of life. But they’re rather curious. And I say this out of affection for them: there’s something curious
about professors. In my experience — not all of them,
but typically — they live in their heads. They live up there
and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied, you know,
in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form
of transport for their heads. (Laughter) Don’t they? It’s a way of getting
their head to meetings. (Laughter) If you want real evidence
of out-of-body experiences, by the way, get yourself along to a residential
conference of senior academics and pop into the discotheque
on the final night. (Laughter) And there, you will see it. Grown men and women
writhing uncontrollably, off the beat. (Laughter) Waiting until it ends, so they can
go home and write a paper about it. (Laughter) Our education system is predicated
on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. Around the world, there were
no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being
to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. Number one, that the most useful
subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away
from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds you would never
get a job doing that. Is that right? “Don’t do music, you’re not
going to be a musician; don’t do art, you won’t be an artist.” Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world
is engulfed in a revolution. And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate
our view of intelligence, because the universities design
the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education
around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is
that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people
think they’re not, because the thing
they were good at at school wasn’t valued,
or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford
to go on that way. In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be
graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people. And it’s the combination
of all the things we’ve talked about: technology and its
transformational effect on work, and demography and the huge
explosion in population. Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student,
if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job,
it’s because you didn’t want one. And I didn’t want one, frankly. (Laughter) But now kids with degrees
are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA
where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure
of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink
our view of intelligence. We know three things about intelligence. One, it’s diverse. We think about the world in all the ways
that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound,
we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms,
we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions
of a human brain, as we heard yesterday
from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having
original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different
disciplinary ways of seeing things. By the way, there’s a shaft of nerves
that joins the two halves of the brain, called the corpus callosum. It’s thicker in women. Following off from Helen yesterday, this is probably why women
are better at multitasking. Because you are, aren’t you? There’s a raft of research,
but I know it from my personal life. If my wife is cooking a meal
at home, which is not often … thankfully. (Laughter) No, she’s good at some things. But if she’s cooking,
she’s dealing with people on the phone, she’s talking to the kids,
she’s painting the ceiling — (Laughter) she’s doing open-heart surgery over here. If I’m cooking, the door
is shut, the kids are out, the phone’s on the hook, if she comes in, I get annoyed. I say, “Terry, please,
I’m trying to fry an egg in here.” (Laughter) “Give me a break.” (Laughter) Actually, do you know
that old philosophical thing, “If a tree falls in a forest,
and nobody hears it, did it happen?” Remember that old chestnut? I saw a great T-shirt
recently, which said, “If a man speaks his mind in a forest,
and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?” (Laughter) And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct. I’m doing a new book at the moment
called “Epiphany,” which is based on a series
of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I’m fascinated by
how people got to be there. It’s really prompted by a conversation
I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people
have never heard of, Gillian Lynne. Have you heard of her? Some have. She’s a choreographer,
and everybody knows her work. She did “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s wonderful. I used to be on the board
of The Royal Ballet, as you can see. (Laughter) Gillian and I had lunch one day.
I said, “How did you get to be a dancer?” It was interesting. When she was at school,
she was really hopeless. And the school, in the ’30s,
wrote to her parents and said, “We think Gillian
has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t concentrate;
she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD
hadn’t been invented at this point. It wasn’t an available condition. (Laughter) People weren’t aware they could have that. (Laughter) Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room,
and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat
on this chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes, while this man talked to her mother about all the problems
Gillian was having at school, because she was disturbing people,
her homework was always late, and so on. Little kid of eight. In the end, the doctor went
and sat next to Gillian and said, “I’ve listened to all these
things your mother’s told me. I need to speak to her privately. Wait here. We’ll be back.
We won’t be very long,” and they went and left her. But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio
that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room, he said to her mother,
“Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes,
and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” I said, “What happened?” She said, “She did. I can’t tell you
how wonderful it was. We walked in this room,
and it was full of people like me — people who couldn’t sit still, people who had to move to think.” Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, jazz;
they did modern; they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned
for the Royal Ballet School. She became a soloist; she had
a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated
from the Royal Ballet School, founded the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She’s been responsible for some of the most successful
musical theater productions in history, she’s given pleasure to millions, and she’s a multimillionaire. Somebody else might have put her
on medication and told her to calm down. (Applause) What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolution
that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception
of human ecology, one in which we start
to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth
for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink
the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. There was a wonderful quote
by Jonas Salk, who said, “If all the insects
were to disappear from the Earth, within 50 years,
all life on Earth would end. If all human beings
disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years,
all forms of life would flourish.” And he’s right. What TED celebrates is the gift
of the human imagination. We have to be careful now
that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios
that we’ve talked about. And the only way we’ll do it
is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children
for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate
their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way — we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them
make something of it. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson

  1. My school teaches maths and English six times a fortnight each, science six times as week, the humanities three times a fortnight each, music once a week, Drama once a fortnight and dance once a year.

    I want to be a singer/actor/dancer. 😑

  2. Grew up being told I was so talented at art and saying I wanted to go to art school. Now just starting nursing school. I feel so dead inside about it. I haven’t created in months. I haven’t been able to without forcing myself in what feels like years. I’ve been depressed since like 9th grade too.

  3. Creative Schools in World
    1. Muni International School, Delhi, India
    2. Chirag School, Uttarakhand
    3. Veena Vadini, MP
    4. Digitally "Smart School", Pashtepada, MaHarashtra
    5. Aurinko Academy, KArnataka
    – The Better India / Learning India most unique schools

  4. I wished schools had mandatory life skills classes where you learn how to do your taxes, register to vote, maintain a bank account and other very very important things like these.

  5. Grade schools to a large extent, are designed to groom little ones to be obedient future soldiers with no critical thinking skills. To not question and be combat ready. Row and column approach to everything. Mandatory participation as a team player in sports and good at taking orders and winning. Thinking outside the box is discouraged and often ridiculed or even punished.

  6. The state school system's purpose is to produce mindless robots that will do as they're told.
    This is the family that designed the Pavlovian system:

  7. To be fair, perhaps it isn’t just our educational systems that are the problem. There are so many chefs stirring the pot, it’s no wonder children have been left out of the recipe.

  8. Here is some easy ways to improve the creativity (We all know these technique but underestimate it often) –

  9. This was done 12 years ago. Seems like things are slowly getting worse but not getting better overall. There are pockets here and there that are getting better, yet the whole picture needs to still get better.

  10. 60 some years ago teachers would not allow a left hand student to use there left hand but forced them to use there right hand. But what these stupid teachers cause was kill and destroying the student for life. When a person is left handed the predominant lob of the brain was the right side. But to do something like this to one very young in change them from left to right. The brain then preservers everything backwards and it also has to be retrained. Back in the 1950 teachers destroyed thousands of children creativy and damaged them for life. And there ability to learn. If you are a teacher and have done something like this. And if you are right handed let me cut it off and see how you adapt. But it would be better if you are very young and your brain is just starting to learn and develop.

  11. 2007 talking about people that year retiring in 2065
    Watching vid in 2019
    Can't rely on school to teach me how to calculate when I'll retire

  12. Oh Ken. I agree with you, but if you see how schools have become a clown microcosm, you’d understand why it’s still the same. Especially in creative fields.

  13. As one who appreciates the stillness of an environment when thinking/studying, as a parent it really resonated with me when he said "some people have to move to think". Powerful! As he inferred, pretty sure many kids have been misdiagnosed & labeled due to their fluid thought process.

  14. Over a decade later, and this had changed nothing.

    Do schools kill creativity? Yes. Being smart is to have the ability to think and put prior experiences into the task at hand. Schools teach that being smart is the ability to memorize information to pass tests, exams.

  15. "Ideas worth Spreading" indeed!! Most often we lost our creativity when we started conforming to "classroom standardized curriculum"….well, it's never too late to rekindle all the initial childhood amazingly imaginative "ideas"…

    Watch this unregrettable TED talk from one of the most prominent journalists from India. He is a voracious traveller too. Travels to the US and europe frequently.

  17. Albert Einstein wasn't a good student and by the way he began to read when he was 12-year-old boy. And many others IQ people.

  18. Ppl belive that having an education is enough for a nation its not about having an education system in place it's about how that education system functions if we can change the education system and the way schools are run in general, we can change many issues in the world.

    Remember that education is not only the knowledge of subjects but knowledge of truth, society and tolerance

  19. Do school kills creativity?yes,a school where it is so academically focused,where you are being taught to be the best rather than doing your best,where grades and certificates are everything,where you're being compete to get an A,where we focus more on competition instead of collaboration-let's take example from countries like finland

  20. The way of memorising facts and notes,then taking a test and then forgetting about it after a weeks,what good does it do?

  21. Sir Ken should have been a professional comedian. Brilliant stuff. But on the question of education, why is it that 'The Law' is not a subject at school? Innorance of the law is apparently no defence if you end up in court, and yet no one is taught what you can or cannot do. Very strange.

  22. So glad I discovered this! Here is everything I held dear as a teacher of Art from 1960 until 2009! I'll certainly be promoting this. Brilliant.

  23. I was assigned an essay in class, about this video. That needs to be done in a strict format and no room for creative expression.

  24. One of the best talks ever given? Honestly, ask yourself.
    Funny, smart, VERY insightful, and ahead of its time!

  25. Education is learning "HOW" to think. Schooling teaches students "WHAT" to think. Indoctrination has been the MO of public education for many years.

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