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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you want a good summary of this book, go to YouTube and find Ken Robinson's TED talk on creativity. It lasts about 20 minutes and is entertaining as well as informative.

The main argument in the book is that often we don't fulfil our potential because society hasn't learned to value creativity, and not only is this a bad thing for our personal development, but it is also bad for society and the planet.

Ken Robinson argues that when our modern education system was first developed in the nineteenth century it did two things. First in terms of content it was designed as a replacement to the classical education system because it wanted to meet the needs to industrial society, hence it taught primarily science, mathematics, communication (i.e. English, or whatever the native language was), then social sciences and then humanities and the arts. Secondly it needed to educate the mass of society, hence the school system turned into another instrument of mass production, just like any factory, except this time it was turning out "education" instead of steel or cotton.

Within this system, creativity was irrelevant and not encouraged. Anyone who wanted to be creative was discouraged, typically suggesting that such activities were not for the average person - why paint? you'll never be a painter, why write music? you'll never be a composer, and so on. Education was about filling you with knowledge and skills, not bringing out talent and potential.

Robinson argues that we are now at a stage in society when the educational requirements of our population have changed. More than ever before we are facing challenges in how we do things - how we live, how we work, how we manage our planet's resources - and therefore we all need creative, thoughtful people in society, not just people who do what they are told.

Robinson says that increasingly companies are discovering that their own staff rather than expensive consultants are the ones best able to make creative, innovative suggestions in how to improve productivity and efficiency, but they need to be able to teach their staff how to be creative and realise that their ideas will be listened to.

Nevertheless, Robinson argues that our current education system is out of step with teaching us how to be creative. It is still following the industrial, mass-produced model started in the nineteenth century, rather than meeting our current needs. This is a big problem, not just for the many individuals being failed by the education system, but for society and industry who don't need the type of individuals being produced by the education system.

One story Robinson tells gives a good example of how creativity is unvalued in education. He was part of a university panel deciding whether to promote one of the members of the English department. The person in question had written many best-selling books as well as being involved in other creative activities such as TV, drama, plays etc, but the panel decided not to give them the promotion because they hadn't written enough research papers. Robinson was astonished that the creative work was dismissed as irrelevant, it was the academic work that was deemed to have value. He asks if writing fiction books is such a worthless activity, how come writing about those same books is deemed so worthwhile? It is like so much academic work - the understanding and history of art is prized, but actually producing art is not, writing about literature is prized, producing literature is not.

Robinson says education seems to be about learning what other people have done, not creating things for yourself. Why do most adults draw like a twelve year old? Because schools typically decide that after primary school it is not worth teaching people to draw, hence our ability to draw stops at that point. Instead of discovering what someone is good at and encouraging and building on that talent, too often schools simply aim to fit children into a fixed pattern. If a child drops out of school, it is the child who is deemed at fault, but Robinson argues when children disengage from education, it is a judgement on the education system, that it has failed to engage with the child.

Robinson gives figures that it typically costs around £9,000 a year to educate a child, but £26,000 a year to keep someone in prison. Those who go to prison are typically those who were failed by the education system, the cost of failing those children is not just a personal cost to the child and later adult, but a real material cost to society.

Robinson tells another story of a child at school who couldn't sit still, they were always moving and fidgeting, so they were taken to a doctor. Fortunately the doctor diagnosed that the child was a dancer and suggested the parents send the child to dance school, where the child blossomed and became a very successful dancer. Robinson reflects that sadly most children in that situation will be given some drugs to make them keep still. Metaphorically - Robinson suggests - that is what schools are doing to our children all the time.

Robinson incidentally sees dance as being very important - he tells of an extraordinary program for young offenders in the UK where they are sent on a twelve week intensive dancing program, and it has one of the best records of stopping young people re-offending.

I said at the beginning of this review that Robinson seems to me to leave questions unanswered. The subtitle to this book is 'Learning to be Creative' and I finished this book still unsure of how we learn to be creative. This isn't a self-help book to show individuals how to release their creative potential (maybe Robinson's 'The Element: How Finding your passion changes everything' does that) but instead a book about how creativity is valued in our society and in particular within our education system. Therefore I would have liked Robinson to explain in more detail how he sees that happening. He gives examples of individualised learning - schools where the pupils drive their own education, often with the support of advanced IT education systems, but I'm not clear if he would like to see all schools adopt this model.

In the later 1990s Ken Robinson was asked by the British Government to produce a report on creativity in schools, he says they were expecting him to come up with a curriculum for an hour a week creativity training, but argues that creativity is about changing the whole school, not adding in an extra lesson. Nevertheless I'd like to see more specifics of what a creative education would look like - is it really just about more dance and personalised learning?

Robinson's arguments sound appealing, but we need to see more specifics on how we really can start to learn how to be creative.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book was more of a dissertation than I expected. It is informative and a little inspirational, looking at the varied uses of creativity as it does.

Robinson outlines how creativity manifests itself through science, social science and maths as well as in the expected areas of the arts. He views its relative position in present day education as developed from the nineteenth century model. In the latter chapters he goes on to propound how creativity should be adopted across the range of subjects taught in schools.

Especially interesting is his examination of the current goals in education and how the preoccupation with testing, standards and league tables stifles the creative urge in teachers and students.

It is refreshing to see in black and white what many are now coming to realise: education cannot be simply about academic subjects and standards; there must not be a "one size fits all" approach when clearly one size does not. Vocational and practical students should be able to develop creative skills where their strengths lie and should be treated with equal esteem as their "academic" colleagues.

Robinson does not argue for a completely free curriculum, as some subjects clearly need to be learnt by all, but for greater flexibility in approach to timetabling and learning methods.

Only in the last three chapters does the author really get to grips with how creativity in education and business might be developed and delivered.
It is a hard read, it must be said, as it can take a while to get the concepts into your head before reading on. Ironically, I would say, it is an academic's book. Quite rewarding if you can stick with it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Professor Ken Robinson's underlying thesis is that our education system trains people for things which were important during the industrial revolution, but fails to train them in the most important skill for the 21st century -- creativity. The original book came out about ten years ago, which is when I first heard Robinson speak on the subject, and this revised edition is updated with experiences and ideas that came to him in the intervening years, many as a result of testing his ideas in the USA.

This is a hugely entertaining, warm and human book, and gains substantially from the additional perspective. Robinson's voice is infectious, and his self-deprecating and ironic style can catch you by surprise. This contributes greatly to the enjoyment you get from the book, and takes nothing away from the points he is making.

If you have never considered the issues of what education is for, and what it should be for, or of how creativity could be built into the system, this book will be a real eye-opener. If you've been wrestling with these issues for some time, then returning to Robinson in his revised form will be refreshing and bring new perspectives.

Warmly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 29 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A brilliant and inspirational look at creativity and how it is, isn't, and could be, applied in the educational systems we are using today. Not an easy read for many reasons- but powerful and engaging. It really makes you think. As a professional educator, I find myself agreeing with Sir much of the time. Are all his suggestions practical? Of course not- but that's not the point! he's asking the questions we all need to ask. This book is thoroughly entertaining and refreshingly jargon-free: but it is indeed complex and explores ideas in depth. Not simple or an easy read: but a profound piece of work. Very highly recommended- and if you are Michael Gove- compulsory!!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sir Ken Robinson argues that school only really trains people for more school work.

Teachers know this - real teaching is crushed by mounds of coursework and cramming for exams.
Children will recognise this, raced from subject to subject with no time to follow their interests.
And hundreds of thousands of adults will see, through the book, that any failure at school doesn't mark them for life - they can actually learn and can actually enjoy learning, just not the way education is currently.

But Robinson offers a solution (and luckily, governments tend to listen to him). Based on really solid research and 3000 years of history, he argues we should work at being more creative, which will be much better for real life (in jobs, in relationships, in leisure).

It isn't a "52 lessons in being more creative", but it gets the brain working and is pretty inspiring. An excellent read!

I chose it because I'd just read The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Robinson's second book. Out of our Minds came out in 2000, and this is the second edition. A lot has happened since 2000 and I'd strongly recommend getting the second edition (this one).
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The content of this book is fascinating, it reads almost like a conspiracy theory. I found it a thought provoking read which could be dipped in and out of quite easily.

Within this book the historical reasons for education developing as it did throughout the western world are discussed, the way in which different forms of intelligence are valued by society are investigated and the accepted methods of education are examined regards their appropriateness for the 21st century.

In an age where many people, including governments and large corporations say that creative, free thinking is essential for progress, the author questions why our education systems actively discourage development of creativity and suggests ways in which this can be changed.

It may not answer individual questions on how you can become more creative but it assures us that everyone has the potential and that in fact, we are all born with the ability, to be far more creative than most of us would ever believe.

The only slightly negative point for me was that there are quite a few typos (which interrupted the flow of my reading).

I would recommend this to anyone that has an interest in education or self-development.
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Out of Our Minds is clear andwell written. It offers a great structure to complexity and all that lies behind the development of the English approach to education, its philosophical underpinnings and shortcomings for our current world. Fascinating for those interested in the history of thought behind the education system. However, if, like me, you are looking for techniques to develop your creativity - this book will not fulfill this desire. It's recommendations are geared toward those behind the design and implementation of education programs.

The practical, insightful, approachable manner that Robinson shares his wisdom with the reader is refreshing but as it is all about creativity but rather lacking a lot of ..... creativity!! Sadly conservative more than creative!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Out of our Minds: Learning to be creative was not quite what I was expecting in one way, but far surpassed my expectations in another way. I thought it may help me spring clean my aging creative flair; the music, art and writing that oozes from my left hand. Not so. Instead, I discovered the historic doctrine of the education system in which I grew up was built on myths and misunderstandings. It was believed that all forms of creativity, from dance to composing and painting to poetry were seen as soft skills. The real skill and most important for a child to prepare themselves for adult life, was to excel at traditional academic subjects.

It was believed that the left hemisphere of the brain was the driving force behind logic, language and mathematical skills; whereas the right brain only seemed to lean towards intuition and spirituality. Perhaps as a consequence of this, the education system focussed entirely on left-brain activities. This was likened to training someone for a race by exercising only one leg. That may have worked in the past, but it certainly cannot work for today's way of thinking, living and working. Both hemispheres of the brain need to work in collaboration, not independently of each other. Such interaction enables the discovery of creative new ways to solve logical problems.

I like the way in which the author challenges the branding of Mensa, with IQ measurement being made almost completely from left-brained abilities. The conception of intelligence pays no regard to exceptional talents; examples being, the ability to compose a symphony, writing poetry that can move people to tears, choreographing dance that touches inner humanity.

I got a lot more from this book than I was expecting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is thought-provoking and really highlights the systematic failures of our education system to provide well rounded teaching that challenges both hemispheres of the brain. This simply doesn't prepare people adequately for the world we live in today. The book has made me completely re-think my understanding of creativity.
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A fabulous book which explores creativity and how we can apply it to any aspect of our lives. This book works for individuals wishing to tap into their creative juices, but mainly for schools, colleges, businesses and other institutions to explore this often overlooked area. It's a known fact that many adults do not believe that they are creative mainly because they don't know how to be, yet as children they are full of great ideas. This book helps the reader understand the role creativity has within this technologically advanced world in which we live. Ken Robinson looks at the way that creativity holds little place in educational establishments as it's not seen as academic and it is also stifled in the workplace. He wrote this book to highlight the need in our modern society to incorporate creativity more in schools and educational institutions. He believes that in every sphere of our lives we should have the chance to be creative and expressive. By tapping into our creative minds we can express, extend, create and produce so many worthwhile feelings, emotions, achievements and ultimately happiness. This book focusses on the world of creativity in the broader context but it's not an instructional manual giving explicit details on actual creative projects.

This is a well written, accessible book and one that really makes the reader think. I think business leaders and schools/colleges would benefit the most from understanding and implementing Robinson's message.
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on 3 July 2014
As is often the case I saw the film and then read the book.

With two young boys just embarking on a primary school education in the UK, Sir Ken Robinson's No1 TED talk on how schools can teach creativity out of children was wake up call and it changed my life. I've been told that what I then did has changed the lives of many children such is the inspiration that this book generates.

I'm embarrassed to say that having bought it a few years back I just found it under a pile of unread books, and read it.

It was well worth the wait and joins a lot of the dots. I'll warn you though, it can get a bit heavy and academic here and there and lost me once or twice.

While his other book 'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything' is really the (self help) book of the TED talk. This is the THINKING behind the TED talk and I doubt you'll find a more accessible, comprehensive guide to the theory and importance of creativity in all its forms.and why it matters so much.

If you have children in your life, as a parent, teacher, mentor or just care about our future, read it.

Here's what it made me do. - are you with us?
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