Creative Schools: A book review by Bob Morris

Creative SchoolsCreative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education
Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
Viking (2015)

Our educational system needs more gardens and fewer warehouses

Note: Ken Robinson again collaborated with Lou Aronica on this book but the voice is his.

In a perfect world, schools would be communities in which shared learning thrives. Teachers are students and students are teachers. School board members, the administrative staff, parents, and other family members support and nourish shared learning in ways and to an extent appropriate to the given circumstances. Knowledge is shared, skills are developed, and personal growth accelerates naturally. In a perfect world….

If you are among the millions who have seen Ken Robinson’s TED program, you already know what he thinks about creative learning in today’s schools. He’s all for it but the sad reality is that, not despite but because of a relentless emphasis on raising standards through more competition and accountability, there is little – if any – creative learning by anyone in most schools today.

According to Robinson, this dangerous myth “is one of the main reasons why so many reform efforts do not work. On the contrary, they often compound the very problems they claim to be solving. They include the alarming rates of nongraduation from schools and colleges, the levels of stress and depression – even suicide – among students and their teachers, the falling value of as university degree, the rocketing costs of getting one, and the rising levels of unemployment among graduates and non graduates alike.”

The “revolution” to which this book’s subtitle refers is based on specific principles that Robinson thoroughly examines. They share so much in common with values affirmed by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his classic essay Self-Reliance. Both have a steadfast faith in educational purposes that are personal, cultural, social, and economic. As Robinson sees it, “the aims of education are to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents they have within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.”

Ken Robinson offers concrete, real-world evidence of schools that are trying to offer the kind of rigorous, personalized, and engaged education that everyone needs but that so many have too long been denied. “They are part of a long revolution. This time it has to be for everyone, not for a select few. The stakes have never been higher, and the outcomes could hardly matter more.”

Presumably he agrees with me, however, that if the admirable objectives he envisions are to be achieved “for everyone,” progress toward that achievement must be measured in terms of “baby steps” and “small victories” that generate a momentum that – over time – simply cannot be denied or compromised.

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