Friday nights, in B&Q: Man sidles up to me whilst I’m eyeing up some smoothin’ sanding sponges. He whispers sweet nothings in my ear and I walk away with more steel wool than I’ll ever use, genuinely excited to clean up the wooden tops in the kitchen. I am in my mid twenties. Why did I peak so soon.
Wild week ahead.
KEN ROBINSON: Divergent thinking (07:40)
Not a surprise at all.
//animation courtesy of the RSA, full lecture available here
I came by this talk a few years ago (and indeed this man - Ken Robinson) when working on a journal focussed around early years and those in charge of leading such important places.
If you haven’t already, I’d strongly advise watching this. There’s something in what he says that I think resonates with everyone. Sadly, he’s worryingly spot-on.
For a nation where our innovation, our mental prowess is our greatest export, it’s naive to think our curriculum ‘works’ for now, let alone sustaining the future. Growing up, I was continually perplexed and frustrated with a few specific things: I was good at drawing and continually chose ‘art’ whenever I could and on reflection, I don’t remember a time when ‘art’ wasn’t actually a disguised ‘writing’ class. More and more it didn’t matter how much you honed, perfected and learnt from your own pencil-work, your mark was your ‘reflective writing’.
Having a number of dyslexic friends and classmates with learning difficulties growing up, it struck me as bizarre that such talented, thoughtful and observant people were consistently marked down - especially in a field that should allow anyone to thrive. Their strikingly honest and engaging ‘personal responses’ really showed the rest of us what we were missing in ours, other lines of thought and analysis that the majority of us overlooked or worse yet - couldn’t even see. Yet, because of spelling mistakes, the mark that should have been, never was. Had it been a say-what-you-see, flawlessly punctuated and grammatically perfect written piece however…
It’s not a system built for embracing differences and perspectives, which is really something we should excel and delight in! In honesty, since being at university I’ve enjoyed understanding how other people think just as much - if not more - than studying architecture some days, and appreciating that perhaps without realising you’re also learning HOW to think. When I reflect on what I’ve learnt, more often than not, it’s been through listening, discussing and even arguing with others. I heard someone once say something along the lines of, ‘if you don’t argue in a relationship, sure, it’s an easy ride, but you don’t grow as a person’ and I believe that wholeheartedly, you miss out on learning about each other - about yourself. I don’t mean screaming matches exactly, but disagreements, assertion, dissuasion, persuasion, reasoning, justification (or attempts thereof!) All of which are invaluable, being wrong and being right are equally important processes to experience and nurture.
Difference is something to be celebrated rather than made to feel outcast and demoralised as a majority of classmates were, it promotes a ‘give-up’ attitude rather than the resourceful ‘work with what you have’ approach that gave people like Ken (who contracted polio early in life) the mentality to work around, to just give it a bit more welly!
Learning to play the system I realise is an equally important skill these days, but I wonder if it’s necessary to learn it so early on. I understand for marking, some form of system has to be in place, but even now I remember that I needed to PEE all over our work from the very beginning of secondary school (Point, Example, Explain) a process it would seem is still engrained in me now. The thing is, when we find something new, there might not be an ‘example’ available. We need to be free to come up with our own methodologies, not feeling restricted to old systems in place out of habit, but having the confidence to try.
If I have France to thank for any one thing - it’s learning to make mistakes again.
Lastly, I’d like to point out this was filmed over 7 years ago. I wonder what’s changed?