In the Greek myth, Icarus was well warned by his father that his wings would melt if he flew too high (close to the sun). But, Seth Godin points out in “The Icarus Deception”, he was also warned to not fly too low as the sea water would cause problems with the lift his wings needed. Seth observes that the path for us is to figure out ways “to fly far higher than we’ve been taught is possible” without being “reckless”, and mindlessly ‘compliant” to what we have been told is possible.
Ken Robinson believed that our ways of Education need to re-form, and truly help young people figure out ways to fly higher without getting burnt, while ensuring that the result is not mass-creating minds that fly too low.
He thought Teachers had a great role to play in this.
In a 2008 Talk at the Full Sail University, Ken Robinson makes the point that teachers are like gardeners and farmers.
….every farmer and gardener knows you cannot make a plant grow. You cannot do that – you don’t stick the roots on, paint the petals, attach the leaves….The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. Great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are, and bad ones don’t. With bad teaching all this potential of students shrivels….With great teaching all this stuff starts to flourish and flower. And that, to me, is the great gift of teaching: to recognise that growth is possible, at any time.
And why is re-forming Education important? Is it because it yields more productivity or better GDP? Is it because the WEF at Davos lists creativity as a 21st century skill? No — it is a bit deeper than that….
Ken explains as he ends a 2010 TED Talk quoting a poem by Yeats:
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Ken then goes on, movingly, to say: every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.”
It has been a month since Ken passed on.