Sir Ken Robinson is a leading authority on education and creativity. A former professor of education, he now advises governments and businesses around the world and is one of the most sought-after speakers on education. The quotes used in the comic are taken from Robinson’s now-famous 2006 TED talk How schools kill creativity. It is the most viewed TED talk ever, and also one of the funniest in my opinion (gotta love that dry British humour). If you haven’t seen it, then stop what you’re doing and go watch it.
Robinson explains that the school system was invented in the 19th century to meet the needs of rapid industrialisation and is extremely outdated, focusing way too much on left-brain academic learning. “If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatised.” He gives the example of Gillian Lynne, a world-renowned dancer and choreographer, who as a student was terrible at school and most likely would have been diagnosed with ADHD today. Luckily, a specialist noticed that Lynne wouldn’t sit still and was naturally dancing to the music playing in the office and suggested to Lynne’s mother that she send the child to dance school. (Robinson explains it a lot better than I just typed it).
In his best-selling book The Element, Robinson gives many more examples of how famous artists found their life’s calling (or ‘element’ as Robinson calls it). For instance, he interviews Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, who tells Robinson that he was always drawing crude cartoons as a student and knew he wanted to do it for the rest of his life, even if it meant working a crappy job forever. “My vision was that I’d be working in a tire warehouse. I have no idea why I thought it was a tire warehouse. I thought I’d be rolling tires around and then on my break, I’d be drawing cartoons.” Everyone tried to convince Groening to give up the cartooning dream (even his father, who was a cartoonist), but he persisted and only remembers one teacher fondly that encouraged him (he later named the character of Ms. Hoover after her). It’s a fascinating book and Robinson interviews big names like Paul McCartney, Ridley Scott, Aaron Sorkin, Meg Ryan and Richard Branson about how they embraced their creativity. This year, Robinson released the follow-up book Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life.