Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ken Robinson Raises Overlooked Questions

Ken Robinson's new book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything says, in a nutshell: People do their best when they are in their element—when they have a capacity for something and love doing it.


In a talk at the Los Angeles Public Library titled A New View of Human Capacity (shown on, he says: "When you start to connect with your own talent . . . the environment you inhabit modulates around you. It becomes different. The world you're in becomes different. It's changed by your relationship with it and it unfolds differently as a consequence and we can't predict what that consequence will be."

He made a striking analogy: Death Valley had unusually high level of rainfall in 2005. Consequently, seeds that had lain dormant for years produced a breathtaking burst of wildflowers—a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. He says people are like those seeds, which adapted to the desert environment by developing a hard coating. T
hey become self-protective when they are in environments that don't allow them to be in their element. He cites many examples of people whose capacities and interests did not fit the traditional academic mold but who had the opportunity to do what they loved. They succeeded, earned respect, and contributed.

Should the architects of education ignore the vision of economists, the scientific community, and industry? Should they scrap academic standards and hope that enough kids decide to pursue STEM careers? Of course not. But maybe it would be useful to think about new ways of helping each student find his or her element—or at least pay greater attention to the as yet undiscovered potential of each student. It's messier, I know. But diversity is a fact in America. We can't afford to let any talent become dormant.

As Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss!"

Photo by Mila Zinkova.

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