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Transforming Education to Develop Talent

This article was based on Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, “Bring on the learning revolution!”:


Bring on the learning revolution! | Sir Ken Robinson

A Crisis of Human Resources

Sir Ken Robinson is a British author, speaker, and international advisor on education.  He began his TED Talk calling for a revolution in education with a mention about the world’s climate crisis.  While he doesn’t argue that we have an issue with our natural resources, he suggests that we have a second, equally severe crisis that requires the same sense of urgency.  It is a crisis of human resources.

This crisis stems from a poor use of our talents.  Robinson believes that many people go through life with very little sense of the talents they possess.  He has met many people who do not derive pleasure from their work, they simply endure it, rather than enjoy it.  At the same time, he has also met people who love their work and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  The people who enjoy what they do have found careers that speak to their most authentic selves.  Unfortunately, these people are in the minority.

The Problem with Education

There are many possible explanations for this crisis of human resources and high among them is education, which tends to dislocate people from their natural talents. Human resources are much like natural resources, hidden beneath the surface. While we expect education to find and develop our hidden talents, often it does the opposite.

Every education system in the world is is currently undergoing some type of reform, but this is not enough. “Reform is of no use because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education,” explains Robinson. One of the real challenges is fundamental innovation in education.  We take education for granted and innovation is hard because it challenges us to examine a system that we may not view as flawed even though it can be improved upon.

Linearity and Conformity

Currently, education systems are built on a linear model that provides a track for life.  This linear narrative sets a course that begins with kindergarten and goes through college, ending with a career.  The problem is that life is not linear, it’s organic.  Our lives develop symbiotically as we explore our talents in relationship to the circumstances they create for us.

The other issue with education that needs to be addressed is conformity. Our education systems are built on a fast food model. The quality of education is similar to the fast food industry where everything is standardized, rather than customized as in fine dining.  We have sold ourselves on this fast food model of education that ignores individuality, and it is impoverishing our spirits and energies as much as fast food depletes our physical bodies.  

Human communities depend on a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. We need to recognize that people have different aptitudes and diverse talents. The reason so many people opt out of education is because it does not feed the spirit nor does it develop passion. At the heart of this challenge is the need to reconstitute our sense of ability and intelligence.

An Agricultural Model

Education needs to change from what is essentially an industrial model based on linearity and conformity. We need to adopt a model based more on the principals of agriculture where we recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it is an organic process.  Education cannot dictate the outcome of human development. Rather, like a farmer, it should nurture the conditions that enable students to find and develop their true talents.

Tread Softly

Reforming education is about creating a model that can be customized and personalized. Education should allow students to develop their own solutions while providing external support based on a personalized curriculum. We have extraordinary resources in business and technology that can be combined with the talents of teachers to bring on a revolution in education. This is vital for the future of our children.

Referencing W.B. Yeats, Robinson ended his talk by reminding us that, “Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet and we should tread softly.”


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