Sunday, April 11, 2010

If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and nobody hears him, Is he still wrong?

This is apparently a few years old now, but the good old people at TED have done it again: Ken Robinson, who I don't know anything about, has a brilliant presentation on creativity and education.

Some key points:

* More people in the next 30 years will be graduated through education systems than in the whole history of the world

* Academic ability has come to dominate our view of intelligence at the cost of understanding and appreciating creativity

Nothing could be more true than this other nugget: our education systems, globally, are geared to produce university professors. But we ignore demographics at our risk: Robinson notes how a generation ago a college degree guaranteed you a job, lest you disdained one -- but today's MAs are yesterday's BAs. I'm lucky to not be home playing video games.

Degree-inflation has struck the development business something mean. Every person I've known working in development in their 20s has a pair of hopes: first is getting a PhD; second is teaching university at some point after acquiring their years of experience out in the real-world.

This is a problem, and I don't just mean because I want these things too. Demand for university educations is exploding the world over.

The number of applicants seeking entry into Kabul University, the premier institution of higher learning in Afghanistan, went from 4,000 in 2002 to 40,000 in 2005. There simply isn't enough space to accommodate such demand. Every day I drive by dozens of billboards and posters advertising English language and computer science degrees in a cacophony of degree abbreviations I've never heard of.

The infrastructure question of how to fill bodies into more seats is something we need to pay some mind.

That, and Robinson's take-home message on creativity: producing a new idea requires the preparation of being wrong. Something that education systems educate us out of.

He concludes we need to adopt a new conception of human ecology and intelligence, taking into account the full range of what intelligence means, not just academic ability.

Couldn't agree with him more.

And the man is hilarious while still driving home his message. Well worth the 20 minutes.

Oh, and my answer is: more than half humanity will say: Duh.

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