Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ken Robinson on how to effectively run an education system - Command and Control isn't the right choice.

Ken Robinson surely must earn a lot of air miles giving talks at TED conferences. Here's another one, from fairly recently. May 2013 is when it was published to Youtube.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

I did laugh out loud, so he still manages to give an entertaining talk, but he compares the scale and challenges of Finland's education system to that of a US state. I can accept that for at least some states the scale is comparable. Texas, New York, and California and perhaps Illinois are likely outliers in the size distribution, but that can presumably be solved by carving things into administrative regions. Except on matters of revenue collection, upstate NY surely doesn't want to be lumped in with New York City anyhow. But I do think there are vast differences in the educational challenges faced by the US vs. those faced by Finland. Wikipedia tells me that 91% of the people in Finland speak Finnish and 41% of the population can speak Swedish. There are various other languages spoken by a fraction of the population, but the totals are in the thousand's of people. Compare that to the languages of New York where the total of non-English speakers runs into the millions, thanks to NYC's long term position as a port of entry into the "melting pot" of US culture. I believe there is also more cultural diversity in the US than in Finland and that this makes it easier to run a successful high school in Finland than in Brooklyn.

So, I don't think that Robinson has been entirely convincing in his talk. Nonetheless, he makes lots of valid points about how and how not to effectively run an education system. The prevailing testing culture imposed on US schools seems well captured in this "What real-world skills do you have?" cartoon.

If you didn't see Robinson's previous TED talks on education, see the links from my January, 2013 Blog article "TED Talks on Education". They were enjoyable and informative talks too.