Sir Ken Robinson, A giant on whose shoulders I stand

Sir Ken Robinson, A giant on whose shoulders I stand
ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson was an advocate for person-centered learning which revolves around the idea that school education should be tailored around the creative individual and their specific abilities, talents and interests. This ideology has resulted in his TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” to be the most viewed TED talk ever. His theories on education were brought to life with simple yet effective examples of children navigating the schooling system. For example, he talks about a teacher chatting to a girl who is drawing a picture of God. The teacher corrects her and says, “Nobody knows what God looks like” to which she replies, “They will in a minute.” Or the story that discusses a girl who could not sit still in class. She was believed to have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and with her mother, she met a specialist. The specialist and the mother left the room for a moment, but the specialist made sure to turn on some music on the radio. The specialist and mother watched the child as she absorbed the classroom in free dance. The conclusion according to the specialist was that the child does not have ADHD, the child is a dancer and advised the mother to enroll her child into a dance school. The child in the story was Gillian Lynne who became a renowned ballet dancer, choreographer and theatre director. And as Sir Ken puts it, if it wasn’t for that specialist identifying Gillian’s individual talent, she might have been put on medication to calm her down and make her more ‘attentive’ in school. Examples like these are in abundance in Sir Ken’s talks and they highlight just how concerning the ‘schoolification’ of children has become, sometimes with rigid school curricula void of creative insights, resulting in the misdiagnosis and over-medication of children forced into a schooling system that does not relate to them as individuals.

A view of Sir Ken’s is that education is a personal process where we have different abilities and talents, but the mass schooling system can seem like it is designed to wash out difference by prioritising the academic form of intelligence, for example literacy and numeracy, which benchmark other intelligences as inferior, such as music, drama and art. I was inspired by this particular concept of Sir Ken’s ideology and personally agree that schooling can sometimes seem to educate children out of who they are as creative beings and into what an economic society requires them to be: “You cannot be an artist, there is no money to be made in that”. Sir Ken reminds us that creativity is a source of inspiration and is a vital trait to maintain throughout our lives, not just in childhood. What inspires me most about Sir Ken’s positioning is how applicable this is to the early years sector. I was always an artistic child, I never played sports, but I loved to play piano, draw, paint and make dragons out of clay. To discover a job where I could be as creative as I wanted to be with children who were as eager to do just the same was my initial motivator for choosing the early years over other stages of education. A career in the early years excited me because it reflected the 4-year-old artistic me in the faces of children I saw every day.

In our early years world, it is common to hear stories about boys wearing dresses because they want to be a witch, girls mining in a mud corner because they want to dig their way to Australia and children as a group engaged in superhero play as they battle through the playground in search of bugs. Isn’t it wonderful to be part of a sector that cherishes creativity as a way of life? The early years is a magical place because it embraces childhood for what it is, a time to become yourself, where the journey you take is completely yours to carve out. Sir Ken advises us as adults not to lose our creative spark and for adults working in the sector, it is a chance to reignite the childhood creativity that may have been educated out of us during our schooling years. In a career in the early years, we can choose to eat snacks as a picnic on the floor because it is fun or wear wellies that do not match because we could not choose just one style. Let’s not lose sight of this. Let’s not compare ourselves to other areas of education. Let’s not stifle our children with excessive academic learning in the hope that society will see us as professionals. We do not need to compete. We need to see the value in our sector as a standalone place in children’s lives, one that is not focused on preparing children for primary school, to teach the full alphabet, or to add and subtract but is the place that embraces the short period in one’s life dedicated to an unlimited supply of creativity and play. We need to understand that our unique ideologies on the importance of recognising a child’s individual talents and abilities to create learning is what makes us professional. As early years educators, it is our moral duty to refute standardised testing in our practice and to stand up for active learning rather than sit down for passive teaching. We need to advocate for the magic that society has lost and be the reason people of all ages look to our sector for inspiration. Sir Ken reminds us that we were all children once, free to roam, explore and play. How lucky are we as early years educators that, just like children, our work is our play and we, as a sector, take it very seriously?

It is thanks to the great mind of Sir Ken Robinson that we can recapture the importance of creativity in our lives, both as adults and children. There is no sector like the early years in the way it promotes childhood as a time of life that should be treasured, not accelerated. But most importantly, we should ensure our sector maintains the ideology of creativity. Because in all honesty, the creativity that our sector embodies is just too magical. For our childhood selves, our adult selves, and the children we share childhood experiences with, we simply cannot lose that creative spark that our sector ignites into education. We are in the early years sector, and we can lead the world into a life of wonder and awe supported by Sir Ken’s work that inspires children to be themselves. So, let’s start with today: How will you ignite some creative magic into your day?

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More to explore

Statement in the Seanad by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Statement in the Seanad by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman’s statement to the Seanad concerning early learning and school-age childcare.
Garda vetting update 24 May 2022

Garda vetting update 24 May 2022

Apply for re-vetting now to avoid the September rush. Under re-registration, Tusla will be looking for evidence of your vetting.…
Early Childhood Ireland launches Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026

Early Childhood Ireland launches Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026

Early Childhood Ireland has published its new Strategic Plan 2021-2026.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More to explore

Statement in the Seanad by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Statement in the Seanad by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman’s statement to the Seanad concerning early learning and school-age childcare.
Garda vetting update 24 May 2022

Garda vetting update 24 May 2022

Apply for re-vetting now to avoid the September rush. Under re-registration, Tusla will be looking for evidence of your vetting.…
Early Childhood Ireland launches Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026

Early Childhood Ireland launches Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026

Early Childhood Ireland has published its new Strategic Plan 2021-2026.