Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
I believe you. You're listening to Ted Talks daily. It's back to school time, which makes today's archive talk particularly timely. The paradox, we don't know what the future looks like at all, and yet educators have to prepare students for it.
So in his Ted 2006 talk, the author and educator, Sir Ken Robinson, proposes a different approach to prepare our kids by making sure we aren't educating away their creativity.
We're posting this talk today because Sir Ken passed away last week. All of us at TED remain grateful for the humor, generosity of spirit and deeply inspiring thinking he's brought to the world over the years. This is our most viewed talk of all time and one of the first six TED talks that we ever released.
Please enjoy. I have an interest in education, actually, what I find is everybody has an interest in education, don't you? I find it 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. So I think if you work in education, you're not asked, you know, and. And you're never asked back, curiously. That's a great question to me, but if you are and you say to somebody, what do you do?
And you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face, I think, oh, my God, you know, why me? It's.
My one night out of. 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, 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 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. 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 of.
That was it. Thank you, Mr.. So 15 minutes left when I was born, now the. I had a great story recently. I love telling it. A little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was six inches at the back drawing and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention. And in this drawing lesson, she did. And 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 the minute.
When when my son was four in England, actually he was four everywhere, to be honest, I mean, for being strict about it wherever he went, it was for that.
Yeah, but he was in the Nativity play, remember the story? And it was big. It's a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel. You may have seen it was Nativity too, but James got the part of Joseph, which we're thrilled about. We consider this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents and t shirts. You know, James Robinson is Joseph. We had he didn't have to speak.
But you know, the bit where the three kings come in now they come in bearing gifts and they bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. This really happened. We're sitting there and they, I think, just went out of sequence because we talked to little boy afterwards and said, you know, you OK with that? They said, yeah. Why was that wrong? They just switched it. Was it? Anyway, the three boys came in, little four year olds with details on their hands and they put these boxes down.
The first boy said, I bring you gold. And the second boy said, I bring you Mer. 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. I'm all right. They're not frightened of being wrong. Now, 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 will 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. This, by the way, 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, you know, this was from. Actually, we lived in a place called Smithfield, just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare's father was born.
Are you struck by and you thought I was you don't think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you do you ever think of Shakespeare being a child? Do Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was just someone he was in somebody's English class, wasn't he? How annoying would that be? Must try harder than. Being sent to bed by an actor to Shakespeare. Go to bed now. You know William Shakespeare and put the pencil down and stop speaking like that.
You know, it's. It's confusing everybody. Anyway, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to say, what about the transition? Actually, my son didn't want to come. I've got two kids. He's 21 now and 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 it for a month.
You that had their fourth anniversary because it's a long time when you're 16. Anyway, 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, because.
She was she was the main reason we were leaving the country that. But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world, every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Everyone does, no matter where you go, you think otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages. Then the humanity is in the bottom. They are everywhere on Earth and in pretty much every system, too. There's a hierarchy within the arts.
Art and music are normally given the highest status in scores than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think maths 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?
I mean, I think 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, you know, 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 that the people who come at the top and I used to be one of them, you know, but and I like university professors, but, you know, we shouldn't hold them up as the the high watermark of all human achievement, that just a form of life, you know, 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. You know, they they look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. You know, it's. It's a way of getting their head to meetings.
If you want real evidence of out of body experience is, by the way, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics and pop into the discotheque on the final night. And there you will see it, grown men and women writhing uncontrollably. Off the beat. Waiting to end so they can go and write a paper about it. Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability and there's a reason the whole system was invented 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 their hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. No. 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're a kid, things you liked on the ground, you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music.
You're not going to be 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 designed 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 they think 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 technology and its transformation 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.
So but now kids with with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games because you need an area where the previous job required a B.A. and now you need a Ph.D. 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.
The brain is intensely, 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. I think this is probably why women are better at multitasking. Because you are, aren't you? That's a raft of research. But I know if my personal life, if my wife is cooking a meal at home, which is not often, thankfully, but if she's saying she's no, she's good at some things, but if she's cooking, you know, she is dealing with people on the phone, she's talking to kids, she's painting the ceiling.
You know, she's doing open heart surgery of 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, you know? Give me give me a break. There was a lot of 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 really recently which said if a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears him, is he still wrong? And the third thing about intelligence is it's distinct. I'm doing a new book at home called Epiphany, which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered that 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 most people never heard of, called 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 in England and I had learnt to understand how you got to be a dancer. And she said it was interesting when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school in the 30s wrote her parents said, We think Gillian has a learning disorder.
You couldn't concentrate. She was fidgeting. I think now that say she had ADHD, wouldn't you? But this is the 1930s and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point, so it wasn't an available condition. You know, people. People, people to where they could have that anyway. She went to see the specialist, so this oak paneled room and she was there with 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 her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school.
And at the end of it, because she was disturbing people, our homework was always late. And so a little kid in the end, the the doctor went and sat next to it and said, Gillian, I've listened to all these things that mothers told me I need to speak to her privately. So she said she said, wait here, we'll be back. We won't be very long. And and they went and left. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk.
And when they got out of the room, he said to mother, Just stand and watch. And the minute they left the room, she said she was on their feet moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes. And he turned to her mother and he said, you know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school. I said, what happened? 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 that it ballet that they that jazz they did modern 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 graduates from the Royal Ballet School, found her own company, the Gillian Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber.
She's been responsible, some successful musical theatre ructions in history. She's given pleasure to millions and she's a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.
Now, I think. What I think it comes to this, 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 mined 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 you were to 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 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. PR ex.