The following clip from Sir Ken Robertson’s TED Talk made me think.
He talks about a little girl who ordinarily wasn’t interested in school, but was totally tuned into a drawing lesson. (I wonder, maybe she’s got ADHD. Hmm…)
Anyhow, Robertson makes the point that the education system doesn’t foster creativity.
I’ve heard other people talking about how education systems are skewed only one way. Most recently, it was my coworker who commented something like this. The other day, he said that through his whole life since night high school, he hasn’t had to use trigonometry at all.
- He’s a very smart person and great at working with computers. (I think he could make a living building custom computer systems. He’s got an interest and a knack for doing so.)
- My coworker is also neurodiverse. He has said that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He also has obvious motor tics and verbal tics (but since these showed up in adulthood, he has been told it’s not due to Tourette syndrome).
Anyhow, the comments by my coworker and others, and coming across that clip today of Robertson, it got me thinking about the education system (at least how it is in the USA), and how it tries to fit all students into the same mold.
In 3rd-5th grades, I attended a Magnet school… Encanto Elementary school in San Diego, California. It was a magical place for me (pun intended).
- A “magnet” school is specialized towards some particular area of study. For Encanto, it was math and science. My older brother and I were both selected for the Gifted and Talented program our second year there. He wound up a full year advanced in math (by the time we changed school districts, he was two years advanced). I was one of the few kids in my class who got to go into an accelerated science class about three times a week. Our school also introduced us to computers (the Apple IIe, circa 1984).
- This school was also magical in that it was the first place I witnessed real racial integration. The places I’d been before that were predominantly white (at least 90%), but that school was a marvelous mix of racial and ethnic groups, and all the kids seemed to intermingle without any hint of racism. It looked like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech brought to full realization. (I moved from there to Banning, CA, for 6th-12th grades, which was almost as well racially mixed, but a little bit self-segregating among racial groups. I think it was due to the influence of Los Angeles gang culture on the city of Banning…a full 70 miles from L.A.)
- I remember learning about another magnet school which was focused on the Fine Arts: art, music, dance, and creative writing. (In my mind, it’s like the school of the arts in the 80s TV series “Fame”.)
I loved the science, and my parents seemed to take joy in that. But I also loved making art (and according to my mom, I took a strong interest in drawing in my early years). Throughout my youth, my parents (especially my mom) steered me towards engineering, because both my grandfather’s did well with engineering.
- In 5th grade, I wrote a report on “what I want to be when I grow up”. Influenced by Hot Wheels, Transformers, and Knight Rider, I thought I wanted to design cars. But I couldn’t find the words to express my desire, so my mom asked me questions to help me get it out. I said I wanted to make cars. (She asked if I wanted to fix cars; she has a brother who is a mechanic, and she described what he did.) I said that I wanted to make new cars. (To put together cars, i.e. manufacturing?) No, I wanted to make new cars nobody else has made. (Oh, she said, I want to be a Mechanical Engineer.) — so that’s what I did my report on.
But I wanted to design the body of the car, not the engine and drive system. I wanted to make art, functional art, a thing of beauty you could own and appreciate. I wanted to make things that people could have and use that would make make them happy.
(I lost most of my interest in designing cars many years ago, back in my 20s. Now, I would rather design websites and mobile apps. The seed of that idea was planted by the tech designs in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, but grew once I started learning about functional design, which I now understand as UX … User Experience Design.)
(Sir Ken Robertson’s full TED Talk is posted at Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson - YouTube and is with watching at least for the humor, but he makes some interesting points. I’ve read his book “The Element: How finding your passion changes everything”, available in full online at The element : Ken Robinson : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive)