Reimagine Learning That Can Change the World

Reimagine Learning That Can Change the World

Here are my random notes and thoughts while listening to Sir Ken Robinson here.

I immediately identified with @pedroanoguera when he said, jokingly, that Ken Robinson “plagiarized” his famous TED Talk,  because there were no new ideas, he said what we all knew was true, but he said it in a way that allowed his message to be widely received.

Personal note: How do we get our great ideas accepted by those who drive change in systems?  Ken Robinson is a master at this, so I try to listen to how he distils his ideas into powerful bites of learning.


Here is the simple question:

What is it that helps people flourish?

On the importance of play: Our children today are outside less than inmates.  Children are “incarcerated” in their own homes.

School itself creates enormous pressure, through testing and homework, reporting and comparing to linear expectations, the ideas of being bored, behind, or exceptional. The structure of school contributes to epidemic anxiety.

There are conditions under which all living things do well.  The reasons kids don’t do well in school are not because they are kids, but because of how we do school.  If we did school differently, kids would do well, because kids want to do well.

What are the conditions under which people do well?

If you design a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it does it.

We have a school system designed to celebrate conformity, compliance and linearity (personal note: all of this as measured against an imagined average that does not exist).

“We pathologize difference in our school systems.”

We have a very narrow concept of ability in school.  We equate human intelligence with academic ability, which is not correct.

If this is our narrow idea of ability, then we have a very wide idea of inability – of people who need remedial help.

We have a very narrow idea of what success looks like and what people must learn to be “smart”.

Children who don’t conform are by-products that are unwanted by the system, and they end up elsewhere.  These are not drop outs, because they did not fail the system, the system failed them.

Can we take the conditions under which our disengaged youth flourish, and make that the core of what we do for everyone else? (personal note: the high school in Moosonee, Ontario has done this.  It is worth a visit).

The G.E.R.M. (Global Education Reform Movement) has these basic underlying components:

  1. Competition (Child vs. Child, School vs. School, District vs. District).  Everything is a race. Yet greatness thrives on collaboration.  There is room for competition, but collaboration is essential.  The system is about competition, yet learning is a very social concept.


From Sir Ken Robinson, on YouTube

2) Standardization – yet the human species is about diversity.  Every human life is different.

Learning is a conversation, not a monologue.  No one person can possibly know everything (Personal comment: So why do we continue to think that all children should learn exactly the same things?)

3) Division (over synergy) – we separate learning by subjects, teachers from each other, schools from each other. Yet synergy is how we thrive.

We have problems of poor attendance, disengagement, low graduation rates, dropping out of school.  How do we solve them?  In part, we need to stop causing them. Empower communities to make a difference.

Learning, education, and school are not interchangeable terms.

Learning is: the natural process of acquiring new skills and understanding.  We, as human beings are intensely curious.  We are gifted with profound powers of imagination. (personal note:  I would add the word “permanent” (via Stephen  Katz))

We can recreate the school system, but it requires a clear, collaborative VISION.


Children love to learn. 

They don’t all like being educated. 

And many don’t like school.

We don’t need to fix the kids. 

We need to fix the school.

Kids love learning – until they get to school.  And then many gradually stop loving it.  In school, we make them sit still, we chop up the learning into specific, linear blocks.  We do all the things we would not choose for ourselves to maximize our own learning.


How, then, do we change the education system?  We don’t wait for politicians to decide to lead it.

We are the education system, all of us.

Constraints on the education system:

  1. Political culture
  2. Habits of mind – nostalgic adherence to the status quo.


All the resources needed are right here. The people who didn’t see it, didn’t include all the resources in the framing of the problem.

We have all the resources we need to solve the problem.  Get everyone involved in restoring the culture of our schools.  Discover, refine, and find the value and purpose of all talents.

Industrial agriculture is the analogy of our current system of schooling.

From Sir Ken Robinson on YouTube (click on the image for the link:


Based on:

  1. Mechanization (till large areas of monocultures)
  2. Chemical fertilizer (focus on yield and output)
  3. Chemical pesticides (natural ecosystems protect themselves, but separating them out makes them vulnerable)

Focusing on high yield only puts all of us (the planet) in jeopardy.


If you focus on the soil instead of the plant, sustainability is guaranteed.  Create good conditions and things will grow.

In school systems, graduation rates, competition, test scores, all focus on the yield and ignore the learning conditions.

We have neglected the conditions under which people want to learn.  We have eroded the culture of learning.

Create the conditions for growth and well-being and safety of our children.

Let our children flower, flourish, and become themselves.


Featured image by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash

References: Sir Ken Robinson on YouTube, January 28, 2018;

Sir Ken Robinson: “Reimagine Learning that Can Change the World” – Reimagine Education


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