Adults think they’re not creative, but children do. That’s true, isn’t it? Broadly speaking?
In fact, I want to give you a quick test, if I could. Well, I’m going to, so….
How creative do you think you are personally? I mean, if you would, think of that on a ten-point
scale, with ten at the top. Okay? It’s important to know that ten is the top. And where would
you put yourself on a scale of one to ten? While you’re thinking about that, have a think
about this. How intelligent are you on a scale of one to ten, with ten at the top?
Now I’m going to ask you to put your hands up. You don’t have to. You can say, “I’m sorry.
I did not come to Zeitgeist for this type of thing. I’m a grownup. You may put your
hand up.” But assuming you’re willing to, let me just
give you an assurance that if you do put your hands up, there are no social consequences.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: For me.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: Can be social death for you,
for all I know. What I’m going to do, I’m not going to drag anybody you up here and
ask you to demonstrate anything. It’s purely a straw poll for the purpose of conversation.
So with that caveat in mind, would you put your hands up if you gave yourselves ten for
creativity? Was that a vote or a scratch? All right. One.
Okay. Where was the average, do you think, of that?
Yeah, I’d say. How about intelligence? Now, I know a certain
social modesty comes into play here, but this is Zeitgeist, so get over it, you know.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: How about ten? Any tens for
Nine? Thank you. Thank you. Actually, you can — we’re just wasting your time, honestly.
You can go now. [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: Eight? Seven?
— it’s getting tense, isn’t it? [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: Two? Any twos?
Okay. I never do one, by the way. If you got one, you’re not following this anyway, are
you? [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: Where was the top of that curve, would you think? In intelligence? About
seven again? Okay. Eight. Okay. All right. One last question. Last time you
have to put your hands up. Put your hands up if you gave yourself different
marks for intelligence or creativity. Okay. The reason I ask you this is, I think
you’re all wrong, by the way. Obviously, apart from the two nines, obviously. Never argue
with a nine is my view. But the reason I say it is that I think most
people operate on a very limited conception of creativity and of intelligence.
So my question is, what were you thinking of when you gave yourself the mark? When you
decided you could give a number for creativity, what was in your mind? When you give yourself
a number for intelligence, what was it you were thinking of?
You see, my experience of it is that people operate on all kinds of misconceptions about
creativity. And I think it’s why that last conversation was so important. They think
it’s all about the arts. And while the arts are terribly important, it’s not just about
the arts. They think it’s about special people. It’s really not. I mean, if you’re a human
being, it comes with a kit. You are born with tremendous creative capacities.
The trouble is that creativity’s a bit like literacy. You may have an aptitude for it
but never developed the abilities that are required to exercise it. That, to me, is a
big fault of our education system. And the third misconception is, there’s nothing
you can do about it. You’re creative or not, and that’s the end of it. And I believe there’s
a great deal you can do to make yourselves more creative.
The whole theme of this conference is about linking these two worlds, or this session,
the inner world and the outer world. And I believe that our education systems currently
are failing to keep pace with the developments in the external world, which are moving with
a tremendous speed and depth of change. And they have never been good at connecting with
our inner world. Very many people go through their education
having no real sense of what lies deep within them.
I’m convinced of this, that we’re all born with tremendous natural talents. But very
few of us actually get to tap into them, to tap into the — the depth of them.
Just on this external world, by the way. I mean, I published a book ten years ago called
“Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.” And I was asked if I would like to make any
changes to it last year. We were bringing out a new edition. The publisher was going
to do a tenth-anniversary edition. “Would you like to make any changes?”
Well, it seemed to me, improbable, frankly, that it could be improved in any way.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: It was, after all, a masterwork
that I had written myself. But I decided under some pressure I’d make
a few changes. I had in mind a weekend with a spell check and a bottle of burgundy. That
was the plan. I actually rewrote the entire book from start
to finish. I don’t think there’s a single word unchanged in the entire book.
And the reason is that so much has happened in ten years, just in ten years. I mean, Google
is responsible for quite a bit of this, I think.
But ten years ago, there were no smartphones, were there? There were no iPads? No iPods?
I know that’s not a Google idea. There were no social media. I mean, Alison talked about
interviewing Zuckerberg here when it was just a faint idea in his head.
There was no Twitter ten years ago, was there? I mean, ten years ago, people didn’t tweet,
did they? I mean, if they did, they were discouraged, weren’t they?
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: People — people would say,
“What was that? And do you mind not doing that again? We’re trying to eat in here. If
you have to tweet, go outside and do it.” [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: But now, you know, if you’re not tweeting on a regular basis, if you haven’t
tweeted this morning, you feel socially inadequate. This is just in the space of ten years.
So we know the external world is changing with a fantastic rate and profundity. So that’s
one of the reasons I wanted to rewrite the book.
By the way, I rewrote the book on Microsoft Word. Do you use Microsoft Word?
Yes. Well, I like it. But you may have noticed Microsoft Word has opinions. Doesn’t it? It
tends to give you little squiggles if it — there are two sorts of squiggles, those that point
out you have made a mistake. I’m fine with that. The squiggles I don’t like are where
they disapprove of what you’ve just said. [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: Like the passive voice. They don’t like it. And why? What has this got
to do with Bill Gates? We don’t know. If you use the passive voice, they give you
squiggles and suggest helpful alternatives. I wrote this sentence, “The foundations of
the modern intelligence test were laid in the late 19th century by Sir Francis Galton,
a cousin of Charles Darwin.” That’s true, by the way. It’s a beautiful
sentence, isn’t it? I’ll read it again for you. It’s that good,
I’m feeling. [ Laughter. ]
>>Ken Robinson: “The foundations of the modern intelligence test were laid in the late 19th
century by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin.”
Microsoft Word didn’t like that. It has the passive voice in it, “were laid.” So it helpfully
suggested this alternative in the active voice. “In the late 19th century, Sir Francis Galton
laid a cousin of Charles Darwin” — [ Laughter ]
>>Ken Robinson: — “the foundation of the modern intelligence test.”
I had no idea. But I rewrote the book using Microsoft Word
for lack of an alternative, because so much has changed in the world around us. The rate
of technological change has transformed everything. And it will continue to. People here are much
more expert at this than I am, but you will know, I’m sure, that ten years from now, the
book will have to be rewritten again. Many of the things that we think are so smart and
groovy just now will be discarded within ten years. I mean, I think if you show your grandchildren
your iPad, they will smile at you with a kind of patronizing look of how quaint it was that
you thought this was so exciting. You know, that you actually have to hold something in
your hand, like an actual object. Because, I mean, the work we’ve been seeing on robotics,
you can multiply that with what’s happening in cloud computing and everything else, ten
years from now, these things we think are so advanced will be primitive, in all likelihood.
The other fact is population growth, that’s, I think, about to present us with challenges
people haven’t faced up to. There was a very good program on the BBC — there are many
good programs on the BBC. This happens to be one of them — last year. It was about
how many people can live on Earth. And it was called. “How Many People Can Live on Earth.”
The BBC have a great gift for titles, I find. And they came to this view. You know, there
are now seven and a half billion people on the planet, seven and a half — heading for
seven and a half billion, which is more people than the whole history of humanity, by a long
way. And we don’t know if the Earth can handle
it. So they said if everybody on Earth were to consume at the same rate as the average
person in Rwanda — you know, consume food, fuel, water, air, space. They said if everybody
on Earth were to consume at the same rate as the average person in Rwanda, that the
Earth could sustain a maximum population of 15 billion people. So we’re halfway to that.
The trouble, of course, is, we don’t all consume at the same rate as they do in Rwanda. They
said if everybody on Earth were to consume at the same rate as the average person in
North America — that’s us — the Earth could sustain a maximum population of 1.2 billion.
So we’re five times past that currently. So if everybody on Earth wants to live as
we do in North America — and, by the way, they do — we would need four more planets
to make this feasible, which we don’t have. And there’s a paradox here. All of these challenges
are created by human ingenuity and human innovation and creativity. It’s not the lemurs that are
causing the problem. It’s us. And at the very point where we need to get even more innovative,
more inventive, more ingenious to deal with the challenges that we have created, our education
systems are stifling the very capacities on which we’re about to depend. And this is — I
just want to get to this. There are — We really live in two worlds, don’t we? There’s
a world, as a guy called (saying name) once, I thought, very nicely put it. There’s a world
that exists only — exists whether or not you exist, a world that came into being before
you did. It was here before you got here. It will be here well long after you are gone.
It’s the world of other people, events, other circumstances. Our education systems are pretty
obsessed with that world. But there’s another world that exists only
because you exist. It’s the world of your own private consciousness, the world that
came into being when you did, the world, as somebody once said, where there’s only one
set of footprints, a world of your private passions, your motivations, your aspirations,
your hopes, and your talents. And I believe the future of the world around
us, so far as we’re concerned, depends on understanding much more about the world within
us. And the more standardized our education systems
become, the less amenable they are to allowing us to make those explorations.
You have no idea what your talents are, I’m sure.
How many of you have got children? Can I ask you? How about two children? Okay. And the
rest of you have seen such children? [ Laughter. ]
>>Ken Robinson: Small people wandering about. I will make you a bet. If you’ve got two or
more children or you have two or more siblings or friends — I hope that’s now included everybody.
But if you’ve got two or more children, I’ll make you a bet. My bet is that they are completely
different from each other. Aren’t they? Completely different from each other. No matter how alike
they may be in some respects, you would never confuse them, would you? Like, “Which one
are you? Remind me.” [ Laughter. ]
>>Ken Robinson: I am constantly being mixed up here.
And the reason I point out is this, that our education systems are based on three principles
which are the opposite of how human life flourishes. Apart from that, they’re great.
The first one is conformity. Our systems are becoming more and more standardized; whereas
the great pulse of human life is diversity. We are here in all of our varied differences,
we are centers of unique talents and possibilities, each of us in every child. The second is our
education systems are based on compliance, more and more. Whereas the energy of human
life is creativity and innovation. It’s why in the United States — kids come from college
and they cannot innovate anymore. It’s kind of been educated out of them. But the third
is this: Human life is organic. We create our alliance, our education systems are based
on a principal of linearity. I would bet very few of are you of living the life now that
you anticipated you would be living when you left school; is that correct? I mean, we submit
to a fiction here that there comes a point in your life where you have to write your
resume. And we set it all out in some linear narrative, you put headings in, certain things
in bold you pick them out to try to make your life look as if it’s all run along some very
well-planned strategy here to take you from your childhood to your present position of
eminence. But of course it’s not at all like that. You do that because the last thing that
you want to do is to convey in your resume the actual chaos that you’ve been living through.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: And the actual decisions
you’ve made all along the way. Now we are paying a very heavy price for this.
This failure to hold people to plumb the world within them. Currently, in the United States,
almost 10% of 14 to 19-year-olds are on drugs to treat attention deficit disorder, ADHD.
The people prescribing them will tell you, in some cases these are genuine instances;
in many cases it’s based on the quickest and most subjective of assessments. Our kids are
being drugged, often to get them through this education system in a way that’s unprecedented.
Nearly five and a half million children in America are on these drugs to get them to
focus on things which are presumably otherwise rather tedious for them.
And a minimum of a third of our kids who head to high school in America do not graduate.
It’s as high as 60% in some parts of the country. I was in Houston, Texas recently. I was told
by the superintendent, 60% of kids don’t graduate high school. That’s a catastrophic. In America,
where we are now, where I live, one in 31 Americans is in the correctional system. I
don’t mean to say if you drop out of school you end up in jail, of course not. But what
is true is very many people in the correctional system did not complete their education. Many
states are spending more money on the correctional system now while reducing it on the educational
system. And the other fact you might just dwell on is that a couple of years ago, sales
in America of anti-psychotic drugs that were previously only given to people who were in
mental care, sales of that category exceeded sales of anti-cholesterol drugs and drugs
for acid reflux. It’s now a $14 billion industry. If you wanted evidence that the world within
us is in bad shape, on a grand scale, I think they are just some of the examples that I
could give. So what I’m saying is if we’re serious about
exploring the world around us, we have to explore the world within us. We do that, as
Van Jones I thought said beautifully earlier, by looking again at the broad structure of
education, we need to restore arts programs, sports programs, we need to re-professionalize
the teaching profession. Above all, we have to personalize education to every child in
the system. We have the technology now for the first time in human history to do it.
The last thing that I just want to say is there was — there was a great thing on the
Onion, do you know that website? Yeah, about — we have to save the planet. I’m optimistic
that we have the powers within us to do it. But — but we have to attend to them. The
Onion’s were saying don’t worry about saving the planet. The planet will be fine. As we
saw at the very beginning of that fantastic image of the cosmos of the Milky Way, we are
a very small part of all of this. The earth has been around for four and a half billion
years. Human beings like us, showed up — I don’t mean like neanderthal creatures. I mean
like brutal people like us, with attractive profiles and a sense of irony.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: We showed up probably less
than 100,000 years ago. If you think of the whole arc of the life span of the earth as
one year, human beings showed up less than a minute to midnight on the 31st of December.
So the Onion said, look, don’t worry about the planet, the planet is going to be fine.
It’s gone on for four and a half billion years left yet. We may not make it, you know. The
planet make conclude, you know, we tried humanity, not so good.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: Not the idea we thought it
would be. We’re going back to bacteria. They had a fantastic run.
[ Laughter ]>>Ken Robinson: Don’t worry about the planet.
Worry about us. And what we can do to live harmoniously with it, as we saw from those
wonderful photographs of the arctic. I mean that picture of the slaughter of the dolphins
I think will live with all of us. We are despoiling the very planet on which we depend. We won’t,
I think, make a better job of it until we understand the depth of our own talent and
spiritual resources within us. When I ask you how intelligent you are, that’s the wrong
question. The real question is how are you intelligent. The question is not how creative
are you; it’s how are you creative. If we can flip our education to get to a better
sense of human capacity, then I think we’ll have a better chance of understanding and
making sense of the world within us and the world around us. By the way, there is a wonderful
quote from H.G. Wells, the science fiction writer in the early ’20s, he said, “Civilization
is a race between education and catastrophe.” Now, it may or may not be the case, but what
we do know is that — that the great bridge between the two worlds that we live in is
education. And I think that we have to rebuild it so we can build a bridge to the future,
thank you very much. [ Applause ]