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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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on 3 May 2008
Sir Ken's insights are slowly leaking into schools. We are finally understanding the extent of the damage brought about by competitive, risk adverse school environments. At the centre of his approach is a belief in really valuing human capacity in its fullest sense, both in ourselves and in others.

Sir Ken has inspired so many educators and organisations through his truly deep insights into how we will ultimately solve the world's problems through collective creativity. So if you are a teacher and know that you want to bring a change of emphasis to your students, and develop open create school climates, then this book will be a perfect resource. Written in 2001 - more relevant than ever in 2008.

This book is equally important for all other types of organisation as well.

For a good insight into this topic watch Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk - "Do Schools Kill Creativity"... literally hundred's of thousands of people have!
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on 25 October 2008
This book is facinating. If you have any interest in how the education system is, well, not failing our children, but stifiling their creativity through the application of "conventional wisdom" read this. You have to see his fantastic 30 min TED talk on You Tube (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html) - simply brilliantly funny and insightful at the same time. Find it here : [...]
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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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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? )
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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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 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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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. www.steamco.org.uk - are you with us?
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to say that I rather struggled with a lot of this book. It's not that I disagree with what the author is saying, quite the opposite in fact, but I felt it was padded out in a lot of places and would have benefited from getting to the point a lot quicker.

The last two chapters of the book summarise the issues and try to address what can be done. These are certainly the parts of the book where the authors message felt clearest and stopped me from feeling like I was just wading through the text.

Essentially the book is about how both education and business stifle peoples creativity. The authors arguments for dramatically changing the way children are educated are certainly convincing and I agree with a lot the points he makes in the book. During my own education, over 20 years ago now, I certainly felt that I wasn't helped or encouraged enough by the teachers - let alone anyone trying to inspire my creativity.

There will always be those for whom traditional education doesn't work or it isn't what they want to do. It seems that every year students get better GCSE and A-Level results and go on to do degrees in an ever widening variety of subjects. Is this glut in the market devaluing the qualifications for everyone? How are employers supposed to find the right person for the job when you can't rely on qualifications to tell candidates apart?

I think 'Out of Our Minds' is a worthwhile book to read as the issues it's tackling are certainly both important and thought provoking. This is certainly a topic I'd like to know more about, especially as I have a little boy who will be starting school in just over a years time.
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