“Some have said that a college degree used to be ‘a passport to employment,’ and now it’s a visa,” stated creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., to an audience comprised of the Millersville community.
On Thursday, September 20, the 25th Annual Anna Funk Lockey Education Lecture featured Robinson, the globally distinguished leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. This sold out event took place in the Clair Performance Hall located in the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. Additionally, a simulcast of the lecture was shown in the Biemesderfer Concert Hall. This event was part of a week long series of opportunities for the community to talk about educational issues that were affecting the members of Lancaster County.
Robinson explained that the fundamental purposes of education are economically, culturally and personally driven. “Some say that education should not have anything to do with poverty. Everybody expects that education will lead to economic growth and development at a national or global level, and we expect that if our children are educated they’ll be in a better position to find work, and to make them economically independent,” stated Robinson, as the audience laughed.
Robinson continued, “The trouble is, our current system of education is designed for the old economy, not the new economy. When I went to college, back in 1972, it was taken for granted that if you had a degree, you were absolutely guaranteed a job. The only reason you wouldn’t have a job with a college degree is if you didn’t want a job. There’s no guarantee, now, that the fact of a college degree will get you a job. It may, it may not.”
Robinson was born and raised in Liverpool, England. For 12 years he was a professor of education at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. He also has two best-selling books. He counsels and guides governments, Fortune 500 companies, schools and many cultural groups. Some of his most notable accomplishments include receiving knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts in 2003 and being named one of Time, Fortune and CNN’s “Principle Voices” in 2005. In Lancaster County he is known for being on the cover of The Costco Connection magazine.
Dr. Jane Bray, dean for the school of education and associate provost at Millersville University, had introduced Robinson by sharing a quote from one of his blogs in regards to the nation’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The audience erupted in laughter just as Bray was about to read Robinson’s quote, which stated, “The fact is, this legislation is actually leaving millions of children behind. I can see, however, that it’s not a very attractive name for an education bill to be named ‘Millions of children left behind,’ but it’s closer to the truth and less ironic.”
Robinson walked into the spotlight and greeted the audience stating, “It is true. I’m a Costco star.” Laughter filled the auditorium. “Costco has a circulation of 80 million. It’s the third most widely read magazine in America. I think it’s a good platform to talk about education. It turns out that that particular article has been one of their most read and most commented on. That’s important because it speaks to the power of, literally, education as an issue for so many people. Actually it affects all of us, doesn’t it? Directly and indirectly.”
Robinson described Mrs. Anna Funk Lockey as a distinguished educator who spent her life in education. She passed away five years ago.
“If you think back to the world into which she was born, in 1907, it’s completely unrecognizable compared to the life that we live now and the world that we live in,” stated Robinson. “One of the few things that has not changed is our education system. Which is more or less as it was. This rate of change is getting faster; it’s exponential. I published a book 10 years ago called ‘Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.’ This book is terrific. You’d be foolish not to buy it. ‘Out of Our Minds’ was completely rewritten, with two additional chapters in the book because so much has changed within the past ten years. Ten years ago when I wrote the book, there were no iPods, there were no iPads, there were no social media, no Facebook and no Twitter. People didn’t tweet 10 years ago, and if they did they were discouraged,” explained Robinson.
In a piece written by Vivek Wadhwa, a professor of engineering at Duke University, he surveyed 650 CEOs in Silicon Valley and looked at what their first degrees were. Less than 14 percent of the CEOs had majored in engineering, math and software development. 60 percent of the leaders of these companies had backgrounds in the Arts and Humanities.
IBM conducted a survey of 3,000 CEOs across the globe and asked them what the major priorities are for their current defense. Their two main priorities are how to run organizations that are adaptable to change and incorporating creativity. These companies select people who can think differently, work on teams and who can communicate, but they typically get college students who can’t do any of those things. Robinson disagrees with the “culture of standardization” in education, which is being advocated by politicians and what they consider to be the interest of the economy.
Other major concerns for education are cultural, in the sense that confusion, disagreements and hostility, in regards to each individual’s values, may become misconstrued with ways in which people live over their traditions. We can see this happening right now in the Middle East. Cultural affairs currently do not appear to be as much of a priority as our economic issues, therefore education must be structured. This is the main function of the arts and humanities. These fields give people a better appreciation of where they came from and how they relate to each other.
In the end, being educated is a personal act. Every attempt to conceal one’s personal education is doomed to fail. Robinson declared, “If you love something that you’re good at, you’ll never work again, because time takes on a different character. Finding that thing which is the pulse of your own energy is a spiritual process, in the sense of having high spirits or low spirits. There are some activities that give you energy, and some that don’t give you energy. And it’s not the same for everyone by any means. It’s about what fires your heart and what doesn’t.”