If schools kill creativity then why haven’t we transformed?

I spent time revisiting some old podcasts. One of those was Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks in 2006 and 2010. It was particularly striking that he spoke about traditional schooling ‘dislocating people’ from their natural talents. The solution? Create the circumstances for natural talents to flourish by transforming schools into something else.


The message is so simple, it’s laughable. Only I wasn’t laughing. It’s been twelve years and we have made little progress despite Robinson’s clarion call to action.

The two questions that I ask are what have we learned and when are we going to get serious? Because in those twelve years, we’ve funnelled millions of curious and talented learners into the sausage machine we call schools. We’ve focussed all of our attention and effort on improvement, driven by a linear approach to learning and a conformity to teaching.

Transforming schooling is, as I have said many times over, the greatest challenge for school and system leaders. I understand that many in the profession fear change and fear what parents may think. I often hear that parents don’t want schools to experiment on children but how can this be an experiment when we’ve seen the result of a one size fits all approach!

As Andy Hargreave said, teaching isn’t for the faint hearted or for shrinking violets. Transforming education demands that we are all revolutionaries and if we haven’t become one in 2018, then we may never be.




4 thoughts on “If schools kill creativity then why haven’t we transformed?

  1. Your post caught my eye, because I too revisited his TED talk just a few days ago. I am a school librarian who has been working in the public school setting for my first 14 years as a speech-language pathologist and for my last 9 years as a school librarian. Both of these positions have allowed me both a 3rd person and a 1st person vantage point on how we educate our public school students in several of the parishes in Louisiana (Jefferson, Assumption, East Baton Rouge and Ascension), some being very small and poor, some large and poor and some large and wealthy. Throughout my career, I have seen that the wealthier a school district is, the easier it is to provide a great education. Wealthier districts are at an advantage not because they can provide things like more books in the library or a computer for every student, but because they can afford higher salaries, which attract more teacher candidates for a job, which then allow them a choice in hiring and results in better quality teachers in their classrooms. Usually these districts put many more demands on their teachers because they know that if a teacher is not “up to snuff” and does not want to comply with these demands, there is always another qualified candidate that will. Many of these teachers are self-motivated and are able to intermingle the demands of a curriculum with some of the concepts that are mentioned in the TED talk. These teachers also embrace new ideas and complete all types of continuing education and self-study. I like to believe that I am one of them, along with numerous classroom teachers and the principal of our school. We have students who are working on self-directed projects and activities all the time and I am fortunate that they often use the library as a space for their learning. So, I hope I have provided some information that you will find useful when pondering our current state of education.

    1. Thank you so much Alicia for your comments and time. I think in Australia and most educational jurisdictions, while there is concern about providing a 21st century learning experience, the greatest challenge is equity. Wealthy people within wealthy countries are getting wealthier and it is becoming difficult to bridge the gap. It is a challenge for all of us. I’m optimistic because teachers understand this as the goal. If this isn’t part of the outcome of schools today, then we’ve all failed our kids.

  2. Greg, I retired at the end of last year after 39 years in Catholic education in Qld and Victoria. Part of my reason in pulling the plug was disillusionment with what was said vs what we did (and I was in. Leadership position for many of those years so I too was to blame). I saw an increased emphasis on improving NAPLAN scores at the expense of taking children on a learning journey. From an autonomous classroom in the ‘70s to an almost prescriptive curriculum in the ‘10s. From integrated units that encouraged learning and idea exploration to lessons taught in discrete blocks so that minimum hours could be met. And this in a primary then P-12school. The sadness at failing the vision of Robinson is real. The previous comment was far more positive than mine, and my hope is that more schools are able to offer real, not economic and manufactured education for our children.

    1. Damo I understand this – the dilemma is do we look back or forward. The answers are in how we do it today. We can’t expect second best. We are driving an agenda that is always going to be challenging. People will find ways of saying it’s too hard but to get to the top of the mountain we need to do the hard climbing.

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