Raising standards is no good if they’re the wrong standards

In Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds, he considers the role of creativity – and how we might foster it. Robinson makes the following points and asks the following questions:

“New forms of work rely increasingly on high levels of specialist knowledge and on creativity and innovation particularly in the uses of new technologies. These require wholly different capacities from those required by the industrial economy. Governments and businesses throughout the world recognise that education and training are the key to the future, and they emphasise the vital need to develop powers of creativity and innovation. First, it’s essential to generate ideas for new products and services, and to maintain a competitive edge. Second, it’s essential that education and training enable people to be flexible and adaptable so that businesses can respond to changing markets. Third, everyone will need to adjust to a world where, for most people, secure lifelong employment in single job is a thing of the past.” (p.15? in my copy)

  • Why is it essential to promote creativity? National governments, commercial companies and many other organisations are emphasising as never before the essential need to promote creativity and innovation. Why is it essential to do this? What is the price of failure?
  • Why is it necessary to develop creativity? Why do so many adults think they’re not creative (and not very intelligent) and that other people are? Most children are buzzing with ideas. What happens to them as they grow up? What’s the real underlying problem?
  • What is involved in promoting creativity? What is creativity, anyway? Is everyone creative or just a select few? Can creativity be developed and, if so, what can organisations do immediately to make the most of their creative resources? What are the benefits of success?

Creativity is often seen as a purely individual performance. It comes from people who just happen to be creative, or from departments whose role is to be creative. Most companies keep their ‘creatives’ in separate departments: they’re the people who wear jeans and don’t wear ties and come in late because they’ve been struggling with an idea. This book argues for a completely different approach, that:

  • everyone has creative capacities, but they often do not know what they are;
  • these capacities are the greatest resource available to an organisation; and that
  • developing and exploiting creative capacities calls for a systemic strategy to generate a culture of innovation across the whole organisation including – but not only – the creative departments.” (p.11?)

“Education doesn’t just follow the natural grain of young people’s abilities: it sorts them through two different filters. The first is economic: education categorises people on implicit assumptions about the labour market. The second filter is intellectual: education sorts people according to a particular view of intelligence. The problem we face now is that the economic assumptions are no longer true and the intellectual filter screens out some of the most important intellectual abilities that children possess.” (p.12?)

“University degrees aren’t designed to make people creative. They are designed to do other things and often do them well. But complaining that graduates aren’t creative is like saying, ‘I bought a bus and it sank.'” (p.13? my copy)

We won’t survive the future simply by doing better what we have done in the past. Raising standards is no good if they’re the wrong standards.” (p.13?)

“Cultural communities are defined by their shared values and ways of living. In the last 50 years many of the old certainties have broken down; the nuclear family, patterns of religious involvement, gender roles and so on. These processes of cultural change are accelerating rather than slowing. Business expects the education system to give people the skills and qualities they need for this new world. The political response is to emphasise the need to raise standards. Of course we should. There’s no point in lowering them. But standards of what? In these circumstances, political incantations about academic standards may seem a little feeble. They are.” (p.16)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Ken Robinson (c2001) Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Capstone Publishing: Oxford (I have an e-copy and my e-reader is doing weird stuff with pagination, so  references are possibly not brilliant)

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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