Sir Ken Robinson’s Final Speech
“There are two projects that I just like to quickly mention, which i I think will have a big role to play as we go back to new normal”
The educationist Sir Ken Robinson, proponent of the encouragement of creativity among children, who has died aged 70 of cancer, was largely ignored by politicians of both main parties as he insisted that the policy of successive UK governments, that literacy and numeracy should predominate, was a false priority. As he told interviewers: “That’s like saying let’s make the cake and if it’s all right we’ll put the eggs in.”
Reputedly one lesson can change the course of a pupil’s career — Robinson became an exemplar of the much rarer idea that one speech can change a teacher’s whole trajectory. It was an off-the-cuff, 19-minute address without notes entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity? at a TED (technology, entertainment and design) educational conference in California in 2006 that propelled him to something approaching worldwide celebrity within and beyond education.
His wry and witty extempore style, honed in Liverpool, was characteristically engaging. Subsequently posted on YouTube, the talk has reputedly been viewed by 380 million people in 160 countries and has influenced schools around the world.
In that speech, and at other less noticed conferences and less well attended seminars over many years, Robinson argued that children do not grow into artistic creativity but are educated out of it by school systems that prioritise academic achievement and conformity instead of liberating imagination and initiative.
He told the audience in 2006: “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new concept of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way we strip-mined the earth for a particular commodity. We have to rethink the fundamental principles in which we are educating our children.”