Friday, August 17, 2012

The Element by Ken Robinson

This academic year, Grand Valley has selected The Element by Ken Robinson as our Community Reading Project book.  Being the good faculty member I am, I got a copy from the library and finished it in just under a week.

It's a shorter book, unlike long books selected the last two years (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Warmth of Other Suns) and is more educationally focused.  I really enjoyed the book, especially because it was full of stories.  Non-fiction of any kind is not likely to keep my focus for the entire book, so this one got a few points for me finishing it quickly, let alone being able to read it at all.

I really appreciated this book because of it's focus on all types of people. As someone with an arts background who is thinking about attending art school part time in the near future, it's encouraging to know that there are people out there supporting arts and other creative endeavors in education.

Not yet 20 pages in, Robinson hits you with this statement:
We place tremendous significance on standardized tests, we cut funding for what we consider "nonessential" programs, and then we wonder why our children seem unimaginative and uninspired. In these ways , our current education system systematically drains the creativity out of our children. Most students never get to explore the full range of their abilities and interests. [...]Education is the system that's supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way into the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn. 

This isn't to say that what is taught in schools isn't important. We do need to know history and science and math. But those things are the only important things. Almost any job that is out there requires some sort of creative problem solving, a thought process easily developed through play and art.

I'm not sure that I can be any more eloquent on this topic than Robinson, but I will say that his book gets an A+. Also, GVSU gets an A+ for bringing this into the though processes of the university.

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