CREATIVITY IS NOW AS IMPORTANT IN EDUCATION AS LITERACY, AND WE SHOULD TREAT IT WITH THE SAME STATUS.
SIR KEN ROBINSON TED TALK 2006
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."
When my son James was four he was in the Nativity play. Do you remember the story? And 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!" 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 we said, "You OK with that?" And he said, "Yeah, why? Was that wrong?" They just switched. The three boys came in, four-year-olds with tea towels on their heads, and 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."
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. 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. 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?
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 that 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 top. And I used to be one, so there.
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.