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Monday Musing: Beyond Conformity & Compliance

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Here’s an article I encourage you to read to start your week: 

Sir Ken Robinson: How to Create a Culture For Valuable Learning (Mind/Shift, KQED News). 

Sir Ken has been a major inspiration for my work on museums and the future of education. His TED talk on changing educational paradigms does a fabulous job diagramming the problems plaguing the current educational system. In his recent remarks at Big Picture Learning conference Sir Ken boiled it down to this: “If you design a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it does it.” 

Sir Ken with students at Big Picture Learning
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The American educational system, he contends, is designed to create conformity and compliance, rather than to foster creativity. As MindShift notes, “Robinson firmly believes that creativity is a central element of what sets humans apart from other forms of life on earth and so educators’ mission should be to bring out the unique creative energy within each child.” Corollary: it is more important to focus on nurturing happy, fulfilled human beings than on graduation rates. 

“Great schools enrich the entire neighborhood, the entire ecosystem,” says Sir Ken, and he calls on “all educators to look at the available resources differently, more creatively, and to use them to create learning environments that allow individual students to thrive and flourish.” I of course, firmly believe museums are part of that learning environment.

What I’d like you to keep in mind, as you read the article, is this: in what ways do museum education programs reinforce the “conformity and compliance” of the formal school system, and in what ways do we diverge, providing the kind of experiences, valuing the kinds of experience and outcomes, that schools do not? Sir Ken’s remarks are a sobering reminder that the very fact that there is a lot of funding around a current educational trend (like emphasizing STEM learning) may be a reason to take the other road, and make sure that kids with other passions and proclivities are not being left behind. 

Anyway, that’s my thought for the day.

Monday Musings are my way of sharing “brain blorts”: brief, off-the-cuff thoughts about something I have read recently, both to help clarify my thinking an in the hopes of generating discussion and response. I give myself a few minutes to jot down a summary of the article(s) stuck in my brain, and outline why I think they may be important. I hope you help me explore these issues in the comments section, below, or via social media @futureofmuseums.

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