Ken Robinson – Out of Our Minds

Our of our Minds Cover“Not everything important is measurable, and everything measurable is important.”

I first head of Robinson after watching this animation video and a lot of his ideas resonated with me. The book is easy to read, packed with interesting narratives and draws from both popular anecdotes and specific research that supports Robinson’s claims. Published in 2001, it is safe to say that his ideas are still valid today.

As a consultant who holds a doctorate in education, Robinson approached the concept of creativity as an issue that needs to be tackled among children in schools but he extends his commentaries to corporations and organisations. We do think that, at least in our primitive years of learning, as a period whereby we are allowed to “roam free” – but should that not be the case too once we enter our teenage years and adulthood? In Out of our Minds, Robinson insisted that creativity, as we all have been aware, is crucial to the performance of children in schools and similarly for adults in the workplace.

Out of Our Minds

Some of the claims that Robinson presents in the book will be familiar to the average student today. Most students know that, in most cases, academic grades are no longer the ultimatum when it comes to university or job applications. This is evident in university applications today whereby admission committees are starting to adopt a more “holistic” approach. Similarly, schools are becoming more flexible with their syllabus and methods for assessment. In many of the courses I have taken so far, several professors have allowed their students to formulate their own questions and produce their assignments in a medium that doesn’t follow the conventional format of an essay (although, interestingly, I don’t see many students taking this approach yet.)

Robinson advocates for a more creative atmosphere within both classrooms and corporations – what he labelled as a creative revolution. He stressed the need for finding a balance between being creative while still achieving the objectives set by curricula. Being “creative” does not equal to being in a state of anarchy – and I think this sense of change can be quite intimidating for a lot of people who wish to remain in the status quo.


The Roles of Each Disciplines

When I did the International Baccalaureate program in high school, I took all 6 subjects from every subject group (First Language, Second Language, Science, etc.) and also studied Theory of Knowledge as means of “connecting” the different subjects into one wholesome learning experience. Theory of Knowledge did drill some of the ideas into my head as to why it is important to study a broad range of subjects (although ironically, Fine/Performing Arts were not made compulsory for those undertaking the I.B. Diploma Program which I thought was detrimental to the candidates) but it was not until I read the section on the value of each subjects in this book that it made me realise each of them are meant to provide students with the different skill set rather than a “well-rounded” individual who knows a little about everything. One of the core arguments in this book calls for an equal treatment of the different types of subjects in schools and I cannot agree more. They each have their benefits:

  • Sciences: Engaging with existing scientific knowledge, understanding of evidence and the skills of ‘objective’ analysis, understanding of the processes of the natural world.
  • Humanities (!): Understanding human culture and the human dimension of experience.
  • Fine & Performing Arts: Understanding and expressing the qualities of human experiences.
  • Physical Education: Develop individual and team skills, and to share success and failure in controlled environments.

As much as I have enjoyed a variety of subjects in my schooling thus far, I’m glad to be studying the humanities because I feel that it has impacted my writing and communication skills – both attributes which I knew I needed to improve on entering university. And now that I have oppurtunity to study history in-depth, it’s safe to say that this it is the only subject so far I have taken which equips me with all soft skills all in one go – analytical thinking, writing, logical reasoning, inference, etc. Talk about bang for your buck. I have always thought that I chose to study history because I was interested in a lot of things that can be examined from different perspectives – communism, financial crises and China (that is just one of the many things but I liked that triplet of things when I was thinking what to write.) After all, what can you not study/do in history?

 The Most Important Thing

Robinson’s most remarkable anecdote told of how he was approached by the Ministry of Education in the U.K. to enhance the creativity of British schoolchildren. One of the officials from the British government suggested to allocate a “creativity period” for children in primary schools, similar to how a “reading period” has been implemented to boost students’ literacy skill. However, Robinson asserted that unlike literacy and numeracy skills, creativity needs to be applied and integrated, as opposed to being treated as an entity of its own. You can’t measure creativity neither can you put a number on how creative you are on a report card – if you do, you are probably going against its nature and purpose.

Follow up:

  • Speaking of being creative and “breaking the rules,” here is an insightful article arguing that the reason why women are not advancing in corporations, as they should be doing, is due to their mistake of equating the workplace to school.
  • And speaking of women and/in the economy, of course we can’t slip away without bringing up Kathy Matsui’s “Womenomics” report.

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