Sir Ken Robinson* has been a clear voice in asking questions and sharing ideas about what schools do and don’t do regarding imagination and creativity. I learned of his work and masterful thinking from his TED Talks** that left me reflecting upon his explorations of the mismatch between our schools’ narrow goals and every child’s broad potential to grow into happy, productive adults.
Exploring successful schools, Sir Ken studied the freedom that truly terrific schools give their teachers to meet children’s individual needs for inquiring into their own interests and undeveloped personal talents. (Note: The schools in Finland lead the world in offering such well-rounded educations to their kids. They have virtually NO SCHOOL DROPOUTS!)
Sir Ken’s book, The Element, is about each person’s discovery of their most central and fulfilling focus in life. If we are lucky, we’ve each discovered being delightfully lost in our elements. Elements can be anything, really. They are unique activities for each of us that express our personal passions, warm our hearts and enliven our minds more fully than anything else.
Now, we all know people who are quite good at things that they don’t really like. They may have talent, but being good at something doesn’t mean that it necessarily makes them feel richly alive. Children’s lived experiences need to feed their spirits as well as their brains, their hearts along with their manual dexterity.
Sir Ken took on our American schools which typically focus solely on intellectual development. He has encouraged us to challenge a school’s tendency not just to march children lockstep through a curriculum of information, skills and existing ideas, while rarely promoting the teaching of creative expression that also should go hand-in-hand with the opportunity to actually develop those skills and ideas.
To flourish creatively, the child who becomes animated and fulfilled by an issue, topic or medium must be supported to study its art and artistry, to explore and learn to self-express in that realm. Few individuals that I know have turned out living a fulfilling life that they had freely chosen. What if they had been invited and guided to explore the broadest range of learnings and self-expression in school?
So, today, how might families and teachers help children discover, explore and develop in their elements? Well, the relaxed reading of books over time that quietly help a growing child investigate a range of personally fulfilling ideas and endeavors is a natural means to this awakening. And libraries can be a natural nexus for such magnificent becoming, not just places to do reports and struggle through reading assignments.
So, read, talk about what you read, relax and have fun discovering your passion!
*Sir Ken Robinson, originally from Great Britain, recently passed away, much too early for his vital 70 years of age.
**TED originally stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design, but the now 3500+ completely delightful short (< 18 minutes) talks one can enjoy are on every subject imaginable. TED Talks are a resource for finding inspiring expert perspectives on life, but also meeting authors to read as we grow and develop in our own elements.