On Friday, 21 August one of the great modern-day thinkers on creativity and innovation, Sir Ken Robinson, passed away; a heartfelt loss to millions of inspired educators around the world. Robinson was an author, international speaker, advisor to governments and non-profit organisations. He was Knighted in 2003 for his contribution to the arts in Britain, and stepped onto the world stage in 2006 when he presented his TED talk “Do schools kill creativity?” which has been viewed more than 66 million times, in 160 countries by more than 350 million people.
I had the privilege of hearing Sir Ken Robinson speak at the World Business Forum in 2018 where he lit up the room with his wit, his views on contemporary educational systems, and his visionary ideas around harnessing creative thinking. He was a great advocate for recognising the human potential in a rapidly changing world and called for a drastic change to the way we educate children today, in order to prepare them for the challenges they will face in the future. Living in the 21st century means living with ambiguity and unpredictability, and the best way for our children to succeed would be to celebrate their creativity, nurture their unique talents, allow them to naturally discover their true passions and encourage them to grow through failure rather than being afraid of it.
Sir Robinson was clear – “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something new”. He argued that taking risks, making mistakes, and finding the lessons in our blunders are the surest ways to come up with new ideas, the chance to be innovative, inventive, a trailblazer. He said our schools need to focus on creating the best environments for personalised learning, finding ways for children to become the best version of themselves, nurturing their natural talents and, wherever possible, enjoying their life work, not just enduring it.
“We have to recognise that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”
As we fumbled and faltered earlier this year, in the first few weeks of adapting to new ways of being during the global pandemic, social commentators and economists agreed that in 10 short weeks, we leapt ahead to what otherwise may have taken a decade. We were able to do this because we had the capacity to be creative, under pressure; to find new ways of being, and new ways of staying connected. A mini revolution of sorts, something perhaps Lenin was referring to when he said: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
In the last few months of his life, Sir Ken Robinson surely would have nodded his approval, witnessing the human potential rise to the challenge, not in tiny pockets, but globally, across schools and communities as his prophetic words played out:
When a great man dies, his legacy will hopefully prevail; his thinking and world view will be honored and enlivened. His wisdom will shine a light on what we may need to focus on, and his message will be considered as we determine to educate our children in the best way we know how.
I am so proud to be a part of a school where personalised learning is applauded, where the individual child’s voice is heard and respected, where educators foster a partnership with parents and extended families. I believe that we are on the very pathway Sir Ken proposed, especially because at the heart of what we do, and do well, is to be human.
Our school will not let you down Sir Ken Robinson!
About the author
Cathy Milwidsky is the Director of Early Learning and Development at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW