Sir Ken on How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

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Education

Is there really a need to escape from Education…???

Sir Ken Robinson‘s third talk at TED on ‘How to Escape Education’s Death Valley’ came along in the year 2013. This happened right around the time Aarohi was 3 years old and we had already finalized on homeschooling her, as you’ll realize from our previous article. The decision to homeschool her was a relatively easier one than to actually go about doing it. Online research revealed so much information that it was practically impossible to decide on which one to follow. Our minds were boggled by the numerous ways homeschooling parents were upbringing their children and addressing their education. The abundance of information left us clueless, to say the least, and once again, like a ray of light in the dark, Sir Ken’s amazing third talk at TED showed us the path. Specifically, the very description under the video encouraged us to view it and man, did it deliver the goods:

“Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish…and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.”

Sir Ken starts the talk with his trademark humor involving a move from Britain to Los Angeles. Once here he came across one of the cultural myths that there is a general notion that Americans don’t get irony. But he would like to dispel this myth by noting one of the main legislations of the Education System – “No Child Left Behind”. He points out that this ambition has completely failed as nearly 60% to 80% of kids drop out of schools. Even though America spends a huge amount of its budget in Education, still kids are getting disengaged from it and are not getting any real benefit from it. This is a very curious case of misdirection. As parents who have decided to themselves become the education system for our child it is very important to understand what is it that the education system doing wrong to do such a disservice to the children who are going to build our nations tomorrow? If we’re planning to educate Aarohi ourselves then we have to know what is it that we need to do so that she doesn’t lose interest in learning new things. How can we make learning a fun filled experience rather than a boring chore that she has to do to learn about her surroundings as well as the rest of the world? To address this we first need to identify what can actually go wrong in our approach to homeschooling?

Education

As parents who have decided to themselves become the education system for our child it is very important to understand what is it that the education system doing wrong.

The first principle that Sir Ken brings forth is “Human beings are naturally different and diverse”. This will be obvious to people with 2 or more children. Now when no two kids are the same, then why is our education and approach to it, the same for all kids? It, of course, is a rhetorical question, as there is no answer to this. It simply must not be so. This approach is not based on Diversity, but Conformity. The abilities of the kids are judged across a very narrow spectrum of skill sets. Mostly it’s on the basis of how good they are in Science and Maths, which is not sufficient. Real education must give equal weight to Arts, Humanities, and Physical Activities along with those. Having kids do what is equivalent to low-grade clerical work, they are bound to fidget and then the system deems them unfit and labels them under various disorders including ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents and not just a small range.

“Children are not suffering from psychological conditions, they are suffering from childhood…!!!”

Education

The second principle is Curiosity. This, of course, needs a personal touch by every teacher towards every student. Teachers today are being used only as a delivery system for the school’s curriculum. It is very important to light the spark of curiosity in a child and it can be achieved by presenting a subject in a creative manner rather than the boring environment that classrooms provide. This is an advantage we have because of our decision to homeschool Aarohi. One of the ways that we do this with her is to engage with her. The first thing we did was litter our house with all sorts of skill building tools, like musical instruments, coloring books, educational toys etc. But this is not sufficient. Even though she gets very curious about these items, her interest really peaks when she actually sees us engaging in activities with these tools. It’s very easy to leave her stranded in front of the TV or give her a tablet and get on with our lives. But that’s a recipe for addiction. It is very important to get ourselves involved in the activities we want her to get into. The best policy that works for us is Children See Children Do. Also when she sees the kinds of activities that her homeschooling mates engage in, she wants to do that. This gives her huge variety of activities to choose from and she lets us know which one she wants to get involved in.

Teachers today are being used only as a delivery system for the school’s curriculum. It is very important to light the spark of curiosity in a child.

Education

Another way that schools are failing our children is standardized testing. Instead of being the diagnostic culture of education, this has become the dominant culture. They are not being used to find out where children can improve, but have become the standard by which we judge their intelligence and abilities. We stay so far away from it. Whatever Aarohi learns is demonstrated to us through her activities and we judge her progress through her performance. Also, we don’t stand as judges when it comes to her performance. Whatever she does is good enough for us and we encourage her to do better if and only if she herself feels that she can do better with another try. This is where standardized testing has failed. Instead of encouraging their curiosity it obstructs them with the expectation of compliance by following routine algorithms.

Instead of being the diagnostic culture of education, standardized testing has become the dominant culture.

Education

The third principle is Creativity. Giving an example of Finland’s Education System, Sir Ken shocks us by letting us know that they don’t have a dropout rate. In fact, they help and support the people who are in trouble. One of the ways they achieve it is by recognizing that the students are the ones who have to learn and the system is there to engage their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity. Also, they provide a very high status to their teachers. Here’s another video to get an idea about their education system called Finland’s Revolutionary Education System. The way we are adopting this line of thinking is by always encouraging Aarohi (article) in whatever she achieves without the greed (article) of reward or the fear of punishment (article).

The students are the ones who have to learn and the system is there to engage their curiosity, individuality and creativity.

Education

So, in conclusion, the answer to the question is that yes, we do need to escape Education’s Death Valley. But we don’t need to escape Education itself. The reason for choosing to homeschool Aarohi is not to keep her away from Education, but to educate her in a manner that develops her individuality, sparks her curiosity and nurtures her creativity. Check out the funny yet stirring talk below:

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