This post is a detailed response to “Simon”, who posted a YouTube video to the ALT/NAACE discussion forum at http://schoolstech.org.uk/stimulus-questions/theme1-young-people/, commenting that “One of the most important things that you can watch is this video”.
I thought it would be worth responding in detail on this blog as Sir Ken is regarded by many as a forward-looking and inspirational thinker, who speaks at a number of important education technology conferences, both in the UK and the US.
I want to look in detail at Sir Ken’s views and explain why I think they are misguided and simplistic. I have typed out the text of his video below, so that I can respond to it in detail.
Every country on earth at the moment is reforming public education. There are two reasons for it:
The first of them is economic. People are trying to work out, how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century, given that we can’t anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of next week? As the recent turmoil is demonstrating.
Sir Ken says that “we can’t anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of next week”. You might say that that this is just a little excusable over-statement for rhetorical effect—but I suggest that it is more than that. It represents an important intellectual foundation for the whole of Sir Ken’s position to suggest that no-one really knows anything that is objectively true. And this is not only wrong but it is also corrosive of the whole academic enterprise, which has been so important to the intellectual and economic success of our common culture.
Good management—of a country or an enterprise—depends very largely on the ability to anticipate future events. The ability to predict the future lies at the heart of any claim to expertise (a doctor will predict how long you have to live, a civil engineer will predict whether a particular design of bridge will stand up, a rocket engineer will predict where a space ship will end up given a certain acceleration, Einstein predicted, against all common sense, the behaviour of objects travelling at very high speeds). Few predictions will be completely accurate, but the value of the expert lies in his or her ability to achieve an accuracy significantly higher than the non-expert. Some very complex systems, like the weather or the economy, may be difficult to predict. Some people are better at it than others (such is the nature of expertise), and those in power do not always listen or are not always able to discriminate between the expert and the non-expert (“as the recent turmoil is demonstrating”). But basic economic trends, like the rise of China and the Brick economies, the unsustainability of the euro, the likely trends for GDP, inflation or unemployment, are routinely predicted by many people with useful degrees of accuracy. It would seem strange that financial services and governments should spend so much time, money, and intellectual capital on prediction if the whole exercise is fruitless.
Much left-wing thinking has been influenced in recent decades by post-modernism, which, if you can get any clear statement of the theory at all, normally boils down to a type of relativism. This is the view that there is no such thing as absolute truth, but that everyone has their own “truth”, that everyone’s opinion is just as good as everyone else’s, and that complex systems such as Mathematics are tautological (i.e. circular or true by definition). The fact that experts can predict future events with a higher degree of accuracy than non-experts is a conclusive argument against this point of view, which is why no serious epistemologist regards relativism as intellectually sustainable.
The second is cultural. How do we educate our children so that they have a sense of cultural identity and we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities while being part of the process of globalization?
I suspect that Sir Ken has been hanging out too much with anti-globalisation protestors. I am not aware that questions of identity have played any significant part in the current debate in the UK. The dilemma is not that the NEETs of Birmingham and Glasgow will grow up confused as to whether they are British, German or Chinese—all of which increasingly share a common, globalised scientific and artistic culture—but that they will grow up with no access to high culture of any kind.
The problem is, they are trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past…
This is a version of a rather facile argument, heard all too often, that we have got to do everything differently just because we are now modern or because we are live in the twenty-first century.
From its own perspective, every age is modern, yet human nature and the core academic virtues (literacy, numeracy, problem solving, teamwork) remain the same. Change for change’s sake is the motivating principle of the headless chicken. If change is needed, then we need to look carefully at why the old system is broken and what changes need to be made in order to make it better. In the film of Apollo 13, what appears to be a historically accurate script has the flight controller respond to “Houston, we have a problem” by saying “Now then people, let’s work the problem…let’s not make it worse by guessing”.
For any situation, there are many—often an infinite number—of possible changes which can be made. Normally, the great majority will make the situation worse and only a small minority will make the situation better. Change is almost always risky. It is therefore a sensible pattern of behaviour to carry on “doing what they did in the past” until the proposed change has been properly considered, and then to pilot those changes so that the effects of any unexpected, harmful consequences can be minimised.
The force of Sir Ken’s criticisms that people are continuing “doing what they did in the past” is whether he can propose changes which are clearly defined and justified. We will see by the end of the video whether he manages to do this.
…and on the way, they’re alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school.
Millions of kids may well be alienated—but let’s not jump to conclusions as to what is to blame for this. Millions of kids are also going through expensive private education, organized along broadly traditional lines, and are ending up by getting the top jobs. So what is the evidence that the problem lies with the traditional pedagogies and curricula? The evidence gleaned from a comparison of private and state education seems to indicate the opposite.
When we went to school, we were kept there with a story, which was if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree you would have a job. Our kids don’t believe that—and they’re right not to, by the way. You are better having a degree than not, but it’s not a guarantee any more.
This is a sleight-of-hand argument, based on a mis-representation of Sir Ken’s opponents and a mis-allocation of blame, wrapped together in a non sequitur. No-one ever said that getting a college degree would guarantee you a job: they said it would give you a better opportunity to get a good job. Laying aside the possibility of a life as a successful criminal, a Premiere League footballer, a protégé of Alan Sugar, or lottery winner, it still does. This is why the kids who do not accept the argument for working hard are wrong—and why Sir Ken is irresponsible to suggest otherwise.
It is true that college degrees no longer provide such a reliable qualification for good jobs as they used to; and while this is partly due to social and technological change, it is also very substantially due to the devaluation of higher education courses, initiated by the last government in their search for the kind of egalitarian education system which is apparently being advocated by Sir Ken. Get a good degree in Physics, Engineering or Mathematics today, and you’ll be sitting as comfortably as ever as far as the jobs market is concerned.
…and particularly not if the route to it marginalizes most of the things that you think are important about yourself.
It is true that good teaching means connecting with your pupils and their perspectives; but it also means showing them the route to becoming something more than they are at the moment. If you are a child with low aspirations, whose self-image is about acting tough outside the local newsagent, then “marginalizing [i.e. changing] most of the things that you think are important about yourself” is precisely what a good education ought to be doing.
Some people say we have to raise standards as if this is a breakthrough. Like really, yes, we should. Why would you lower them? I haven’t come an argument which persuades me of lowering them. But raising them—of course we should be raising them.
Sir Ken makes a fair point that talk of “standards” only makes sense if you are clear what “standards” you are talking about. In this respect, Sir Ken sets a challenge for himself: to declare his definition of high standards, explaining how it differs from the traditional view. We shall see, by the end of the video, whether he succeeds in meeting his own challenge.
The problem is that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution. Before the middle of the nineteenth century, there were no systems of public education. Not really. You could get educated by Jesuits if you had the money. But public education, paid for out of taxation, compulsory to everyone and free at the point of delivery, that was a revolutionary idea. And many people objected to it: they said “It’s not possible for many street kids, working class kids to benefit from public education; they’re incapable of learning to read and write and why are we spending time on this?”
So Sir Ken lists two things that are wrong with the traditional model of “standards”, though he goes on to talk about three:
- that it is based on enlightenment culture;
- that it is based on industrial economics;
- that it is based on hierarchy and social inequality.
It should be noted that, contrary to the implication made in the video, neither social hierarchy nor inequality were aggravated by either the enlightenment or industrialization. Rather the opposite: many of the modern movements for liberation, better welfare, compulsory education and more social mobility were all introduced by an enlightened, liberal, industrial society. Pointing to minority who opposed these reforms is facile: there is always someone around who can be found to oppose anything. The fact that the changes were introduced at all is evidence enough that the weight of nineteenth-century opinion was in favour of them.
So there are also built into it a whole series of assumptions about social structure and capacity. It was driven by an economic imperative of the time.
And as Sir Ken started by saying, so is our own drive for educational reform driven by an economic imperative. I missed the bit where he made the argument that our society’s (and our individual students’) economic welfare should not be taken into account when we set our educational objectives.
But running right through it was an intellectual model of the mind. Which was essentially the enlightenment view of intelligence – that real intelligence consists in this capacity for a certain type of deductive reasoning and a knowledge of the classics, originally. What we come to think of as academic ability.
Sir Ken maintains that academic ability is no longer relevant. Before he presents his reasons for this, let me briefly outline my arguments in favour of academic ability.
- Deductive reasoning is the means by which we make the kind of complex, evidence-based choices that is the chief qualification for the most influential positions in society, whether you are looking at those who make policy in government, those who manage companies and public sector organisations; or those scientists and technologists who are so critical to our collective welfare.
- The skills of abstract, deductive reasoning are transferable, while more vocational training is typically more context-dependent. That is why top city firms tend to recruit physicists and classicists in preference to people who have done Business Studies.
- And finally, deductive reasoning is a key component of creative thinking, as defined (by Sir Ken himself) as the creation of “original ideas that have value” (my italics, see below). How are people meant to determine whether an original idea is likely to have value if not through deductive reasoning?
And this is deep in the gene pool of public education – that there are really two types of people: academic and non-academic; smart people and non-smart people. And the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not, because they have been judged against this particular view of the mind.
Here are Sir Ken’s arguments against an academic curriculum as an objective. Joining the dots a little, he seems to suggest that there there are two:
- an academic curriculum is socially divisive;
- an academic curriculum narrows learning, ignoring many other skills that are important both to individuals and society.
The first is a poor reason; the second has some merit.
Education can provide equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome. As soon as you start to teach, some people will learn more than others. The demand for equality of outcome is incompatible with high aspiration. Egalitarian societies have tended to be oppressive and economically and culturally stagnant. Nor are attempts to impose equality generally successful—elites of some kind always emerge. In education, restricting the opportunities for the brightest children merely drives them to the private sector, decreasing social cohesion and equity, the opposite consequence to that intended.
The second reason against an academic curriculum is in one way the opposite of the first. Instead of trying to force everyone into the same mold, you should let a thousand flowers bloom. Most of us would sympathise with this aspiration and—to be fair to the current and previous governments, all have been talking about personalization for some time. Michael Gove’s championing of free schools and academies should do much to liberate schools from the dead hand of bureaucracy, allowing for experimentation with new pedagogies and curricula.
There are, however, a few caveats:
- personalization is difficult in an institutional environment and I don’t think the main problem has been mind-set, but rather the practicalities of delivering diverse curricula to a large population of children;
- governments and education suppliers cannot dictate the status of different qualifications—employers and university admissions tutors will continue to see noddy courses for what they are;
- we have already seen an excessive proliferation of low-quality, pseudo-vocational courses at A level and HE, which have provided an object lesson in this process—they have generally not been helpful to their students, who find, when they get onto the employment market, that these qualifications are poorly regarded.
Generally, what employers and top universities value are good academic qualifications. There are, however, other skills which industry is also demanding and schools are not doing so well at delivering: physical fitness, self-discipline and teamwork. It should be noted that these skills were highly prized in the traditional public school tradition (which always preferred the Captain of the First XV to the school swat). The problem has not lain in our traditional approaches to education but in recent educational innovations.
If Sir Ken believes that the “particular view of the mind” lying behind the current academic curriculum is flawed, then it is incumbent on him to describe an alternative view of the mind which would be more helpful. We shall see, by the end of the video, whether he succeeds in doing this.
so we have twin pillars: economic and intellectual. And my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people’s lives. It’s been great for some – there have been people who have benefitted wonderfully from it. But most people have not.
Here, Sir Ken returns here to an egalitarian stance.
Instead, they suffer this. This is a modern epidemic and it is as misplaced and it is as fictitious. This is the plague of ADHD. Now this is a map of the instance of ADHD in America – or prescriptions for ADHD. Don’t mistake me. I don’t mean to say there is no such thing as Attention Deficit Disorder. I am not qualified to say if there is such a thing – I know that the great majority of psychologists and pediatricians think there is such a thing. But it is still a matter of debate. What I do know for a fact is it is not an epidemic. These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out. And on the same, whimsical basis and for the same reason: medical fashion. Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged by information and calls for their attention from every platform: computers, from i-phones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff, at school, for the most part.
ADHD might possibly be an indicator of difficulties with the curriculum, as suicide might possibly be taken as an indicator of the level of general unhappiness. But it is of course a grotesque overstatement to say that the people who are being failed by the current academic curriculum are, as a group, suffering from ADHD.
The conclusion that Sir Ken draws from this dubious logic repeats the argument at 01:06. If children are distracted and listless, then he suggests that should change the curriculum in order to catch their attention. It would be better, surely, to try a different pedagogical approach in order to engage them with a curriculum which should be selected on the basis of what will be most useful to the student, and not on the basis of what will be most appealing to them in their uneducated state.
It seems to me to be not a co-incidence, totally, that the incidence of ADHD has risen in parallel with the rise of standardized testing.
This is to reduce a complex social phenomenon to an simplistic, mono-causal explanation. I hope to write another post on the debate around testing. It is true that there are dangers to a regime which demotivates those who fail. On the other hand, it is surely impossible to maintain high standards (however these are defined) or to manage complex and expensive institutions without some kind of reliable way of monitoring performance.
Now these kids are being given Ritalin and Adderall and all manner of things – often quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down. But according to this [map], attention deficit disorder increases as you travel east across the country. People start losing interest in Oklahoma, they can hardly think straight in Arkansas, and by the time they get to Washington, they’ve lost it completely. And there are separate reasons for that, I believe! It’s a fictitious epidemic.
I agree with the basic premise: that ADHD is a largely fictitious epidemic and the perception of ADHD is driven by social factors including perhaps:
- parental ambition;
- the large number of distractions available to children;
- the lack of exercise and poor diet.
But it is a massive and completely unwarranted step to conclude that the growth of the ADHD epidemic is the result of sticking to a conservative curriculum or the imposition of standardized tests. If he wanted to argue that either of these things were true, Sir Ken would need to show that the adherence to a conservative, academic curriculum and the imposition of standarized testing increased as you travelled east across the USA, while if there is any significant variation in these respects, I suspect that (with the exception of California) it would be likely to run in the opposite direction.
If you think of it, the arts – and I don’t say exclusively the arts, I think it is also true of science and of maths – I say the arts particularly because they are the victims of this mentality. The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak; when you are present in the current moment; when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing; when you are fully alive. And anesthetic is when you shut your senses off and deaden yourself to what’s happening. And a lot of these drugs are that. We are getting our children through education by anaesthetizing them. And I think we should be doing the exact opposite. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep – we should be waking them up…
If this is just about teaching children more effectively and not pumping them full of drugs, then who would disagree with that? But in the context of the video, Sir Ken seems to be saying that if children are distracted and listless, then we should change the curriculum in order to catch their attention; rather than trying to get their attention by improved pedagogy or addressing some of the other social problems in the environment. Again, it is the same argument as presented at 01:06.
…to what they have inside of themselves.
This falls back on a simplistic view of child development, driven by Piaget and child-centred education. It is simply not credible to suggest that the development of individual personality is driven by an internal road map, and is not overwhelmingly governed by interactions with the society around the growing child. We should be waking children up, not to what they have inside themselves which (apart from potential) is often not very much; but rather to the intellectually stimulating and economically useful wonders which form the intellectual and cultural traditions of our society.
But the model we have is this. We have a system of education which is modeled on the interests of industrialization and in the image of it.
A cheap shot and, moreover, inaccurate. The CBI is one of the strongest critics of the current UK education system, and what they are asking for is not obedient factory fodder but creative team-workers with self discipline and the basic academic base to allow them to pick up new skills rapidly. Increasingly, they have to look for immigrant workers to fill these jobs because young British people do not have the skills required.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Schools are still pretty much organized along factory lines. Ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects.
More of the same. If Sir Ken really thinks that it is an example of capitalist oppression that girls and boys should have separate changing and toilet facilities, then I suggest he sets up his own free school and sees how long he lasts. The same goes for dividing the curriculum into separate subjects, at secondary level at least. It is not as if people haven’t been experimenting with cross-curricula subjects for many decades and finding that this is not a good way of developing high level academic skills.
We still educate children by batches: we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are. Its like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture. Well I know kids that are much better than other kids at different disciplines; or at different times of the day; or better in smaller groups than in large groups; or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you are interested in the model of learning, you don’t start from this production line mentality.
I agree with the basic point here—but Sir Ken is wrong to blame the system of age-related cohorts on a “production line mentality”. I would suggest four reasons to stick with age-based cohorts, only the last of which I consider to be legitimate:
- the convenience of the administration (which has everything to do with excessive bureaucracy and nothing whatsoever to do with the influence of industry);
- the desire to avoid stigmatization and the appearance of excessive inequalities opening up between the most and least successful students;
- the failure to develop effective education technologies (the subject of this blog), which would support more flexible, personalized approaches;
- the difficulty of advancing children who may be academically able but socially and physically immature.
The exam system is obviously important here, but I would class this as a symptom rather than a cause of the underlying problem.
Its essentially about conformity and increasingly it’s increasingly about that as you look at the growth of standardized testing and standardized curricula – and it’s about standardization. I believe we have to go in the exact opposite direction. That’s what I mean about changing the paradigm.
I shall be getting onto standards as I develop the argument on this blog. A key point is that by standardizing some things, you stimulate diversity in others. It is the standard design of the three-pin-plug which allows the market to produce a diversity of electrical appliances. Similarly, a consistent standard for formal testing and examination allows for greater freedom in the provision of education (because if you don’t have confidence in the reliability of the test, then you have to maintain accountability by regulating educational provision directly). So it is simplistic to say you are for or against standardization. What Michael Gove is in the process of doing is creating more freedom in the provision of education, which he can afford to do partly because he will tighten up standards of formal examination. In respect of ICT, he has also allowed at least a temporary free-for-all in the development of new curricula.
There’s a great study done recently about divergent thinking, published a couple of years ago. Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but its an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways of interpreting a question, to think what Edward de Bono would probably call “laterally”, to think not just in linear or convergent ways. To seek multiple answers, not one.
It is not necessarily a virtue to seek multiple answers because, in the frequent cases where there is only one correct answer, seeking further answers will turn out to be a waste of time.
Many intellectual processes, like playing a game of chess, require the mind to work through multiple logical stages. If there are 10 possible options at each move in a game of chess, then after 10 moves (5 by white 5 by black) there will be a total of 10 billion permutations to consider. In most real-world situations, excessively divergent thinking is completely debilitating.
So there are tests for this. One COD example might be, people might be asked to say, how many uses can you think of for a paper clip. One of those routine questions. Most people might come up with 10 or 15. People who are good at this might come up with 200. And they’ll do that by saying, “well, could the paper clip be 200 foot tall and made out of foam rubber?” Like, does it have to be a paper clip as we know it, Jim?
Presumably, a paper clip has to be intended for the clipping of pieces of paper together, for which purpose a 200 foot piece of foam rubber is not ideally suited. This example shows why kindergarten children are so good at this kind of undisciplined thinking and why it is so poorly suited to the requirements of adult life.
Now there are tests for this and they gave them to 1,500 people – it was in a book called Break Point and Beyond and on the protocol of the test, if you scored above a certain level, you’d be considered to be a genius at divergent thinking. OK, so my question to you is, what percentage of people tested scored at “genius” level for divergent thinking? Now you need to know one more thing about them. These were kindergarten children. What do you think? 98%. Now the thing about this was it was a longitudinal study. So they re-tested the same children five years later, at age 8-10. What do you think? 50%. They re-tested them again five years later, ages 13-15. You can see a trend here, can’t you? Now, this tells an interesting story. Because you could have imagined it going the other way. You start off not being very good but you get better as you get older. But this shows two things. One is we all have this capacity; and 2. it mostly deteriorates.
By using the loaded word “genius” and talking about “getting better as you get older”, Sir Ken makes the presumption that this kind of thinking is beneficial for academic and practical life, when it quite plainly is not. The shedding of excessively divergent thought is a beneficial part of growing up.
Clearly some degree of divergent thinking is needed if we are going to have people who are able to challenge current orthodoxies. But such divergent thinking comes at a cost because it reduces the speed and efficiency with which less imaginative people are able to get on with their own lives, following tried-and-tested patterns of thought. Which is why many intellectuals are commonly satirized as bumbling fools, dithering, indecisive and impractical.
As in most of these things, (as Sir Ken would have realized if he had spent a little more time studying the classics) there is a virtuous middle way, both in the extent of divergent thinking required by a single individual, and within society more generally, amongst a particular class of divergent thinking intellectuals.
Now a lot of things have happened to these kids as they have grown up. But one of the most important things is that by now, they have become educated. They have spent ten years at school being told that there is one answer – it’s at the back…and don’t look, and don’t copy, because that’s cheating. I mean, outside schools, that’s called collaboration.
This is a parody of school. I found one of the most interesting parts of being a History teacher was teaching students to come up with original and yet carefully supported arguments in their essays, challenging the answer that they might have felt that they were expected to produce. This kind of original thought is highly prized by top universities—which is itself an indication that it is a very difficult thing to produce.
One prerequisite for coming up with “original ideas that have value” is accuracy. That is why you need to prepare the creative thinker by ensuring that, where there is a single correct answer, they can give it. You cannot say anything of value about sub-atomic physics unless you understand something about the current state of research. “Getting the right answer” is not antagonistic to creativity: it is a necessary prerequisite.
Collaboration is useful when individual members of the team are individually capable—and as producing capable individuals is the primary purpose of education, so assessment needs to be targeted at individuals, not groups. Working in a collaborative environment where the individual members of the team are not capable is never productive: in these circumstances, collaboration is normally used as a way of avoiding personal responsibility for failure.
In short, Sir Ken fails to recognise that being creative is difficult.
This isn’t because teachers want it this way. It’s just because it happens this way. It’s because it is in the gene pool of education. We have to think differently about human capacity. We have to get over this old conception of academic, non-academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational, and see it for what it is: a myth.
Categories and generalisations always represent simplifications to some degree, as reality is infinitely variable and continuous. But it is the only way that we can represent and understand the world. The popular prejudice against generalization rests on a misunderstanding of the nature of knowledge. Generalisations are constantly made about people by business and governments, with useful results. As Bertrand Russel points out in Problems of Philosophy, every word in our language represents a generalization. Perhaps Sir Ken would say that every word in our language is a myth—but if you don’t start categorizing the world, then you cannot say anything about it or construct any rational argument. Which is presumably where Sir Ken, with his hostility to enlightenment thought, believes we should all end up.
Second, we have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups; that collaboration is the stuff of growth. If we atomize people and separate them and judge them separately, we form a kind of disjunction between them and their natural learning environment.
I would agree that social context forms an important impact on the motivation to learn. But it is wrong to say that learning necessarily happens through groups. It is true that we learn by interaction with an other—peers, teachers, media or environments; of these alternatives, it is not always obvious that your fellow school children are the best sources of learning. Our knowledge and skills are personal to ourselves. We can share them, but we cannot give them away. Ultimately we are born, we die, and we learn by ourselves.
And thirdly, it is crucially about the culture of our institutions: the habits of institutions and the habitats that they occupy.
Which begs the question: how should and could our institutions improve?
I have suggested that Sir Ken has set himself three challenges:
- at 01:00, to explain how he wants to change education;
- at 01:30, to define what he means by “raising standards”;
- at 03:02, to explain what model of the mind he regards as superior to the enlightenment view.
Apart from ending subject-specialisation, grouping by age, and getting boys and girls to share the same changing rooms, my best shot at summarizing Sir Ken’s recipe for schools is that he does not want them to impose on children their own views of what is good or bad, but let children grow according to their own lights, not trying to assess or judge the capacity of individuals, and treating everyone’s achievement as being of equal worth.
But it is not within the hands of educationalists to determine the esteem with which different achievements are viewed. As education ministers have repeatedly discovered, parity of esteem cannot be imposed. If the three musketeers had successfully made everyone a Marquis, all they would have achieved would be to destroy the esteem with which the title had previously been regarded.
Nor is it at all clear to me what sir Ken means by “raising standards” when he does not intend to judge anyone’s educational achievement at an individual level, or accept any objectively defined criterion against which such achievement might be measured. Sir Ken’s perception of education standards appears to be of a kind of non-standard.
As for a model of the mind which is superior to the enlightenment view, Sir Ken’s only suggestion seems to be that we promote an undisciplined, puerile form of divergent thinking, by which, when you ask someone for a paper clip, they bring you a 200 foot piece of foam rubber.
Sir Ken is a successful motivational speaker—but he does not appear to me to be much of a thinker. Although he does not discuss education technology directly in his video, he is frequently cited by people active in the education technology community. It is time we looked much more critically at these superficial arguments, which, unless they can be given much more substance, I hope and trust will not carry any weight in the current debate.
|Ken Robinson Rebuttal is a guest post written by Scott Goodman, rebutting another of Sir Ken’s videos.|
|Scrapping “ICT”, argued that the term “ICT” was no longer useful and should be scrapped. I did not know at the time that the Royal Society had published a report 5 days earlier which came to the same conclusion.|
|Aristotle’s Saddlemaker makes the argument for education-specific software, based on a discussion of the relationship between ends and means found originally in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.|
|Home page, with a full listing of posts on this blog.|