The renowned TED speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, was in Abbotsford a few weeks ago for the Learning Revolution event, hosted by Abbotsford Christian School. Videos of his famous talks to the prestigious TED Conference are the most viewed in the history of the organization, and have been seen by an estimated 350 million people in over 160 countries.
As Sir Ken presented his topic ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’, the audience was struck with an analogy he used to emphasize how our educational system is, artificially, producing output. With Abbotsford situated in one of the country’s most intensely farmed areas, this is an analogy that our community can relate to. Specifically, the move towards farmers embracing more natural practices. In the 1850s, Sir Ken spoke of the need to produce more food for the world’s rapidly increasing population, and some of the unintended circumstances the developing world experienced because of this push.
During the Industrial Revolution, the world witnessed another revolution only it was in farming, which was made possible by mechanization and the invention of chemical fertilizer. Essentially, we grew larger crops in less time. The downfall was the loss of natural protection, so we decided to apply chemical pesticides to prevent crop attacks. And, it worked for some time until we realized that we were destroying the planet, evident by soil erosion and chemical run-off. In fact, we changed the genetic make-up of some of our creatures. With the objective of maximizing output and yield, mankind used a chemical, mechanized approach to a natural, organic process. We are still facing the consequences, of this short-sighted approach, today.
The movement of returning to more sustainable farming methods has farmers focusing on the soil as opposed to the crop itself. These farmers recognize that enriched soil creates healthy crops in the short and long term...that the methodology is sustainable.
Applying this analogy to our education system, similarly, we have, artificially, enhanced ‘growth and output’ in our schools by grouping children by age or gender. Further, we segment our students by isolating children of certain talents or, the opposite, where we remove children that don’t fit the traditional mold. We pathologized a lack of interest in certain disciplines and continue to suggest medicating children so that they can cope with being different. A perfect example is the rise of ADD and ADHD diagnoses.
Just as organic farmers also realize the gifts of respecting the land, in which the crops grow, and allowing for a natural crop to yield a nutrient-rich harvest, great teachers take a holistic approach, focus on the culture of the classroom and recognize that a positive environment is conducive to natural development. These forward-thinking teachers connect their students to the external environment using tactics that allow them to interact and respond in a manner that plays to their natural talents and understand the world within them.
Sir Ken challenged his audience as he asked, “Why don't we get the best out of people?” His answer was that it's because we educate people out of their creativity as we're told to become good workers as opposed to creative thinkers. Students with ‘restless’ minds are ignored or even stigmatized.
Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. It’s a race we can win if we treat our children differently and value their talents. Schools all over the world are fighting the headwind of conformity with innovation. A vocational school in Cambodia is developing patents and is giving support to turn them into businesses to combat regional poverty. Oklahoma wants to become the state of creativity. Grace Living Centre created a classroom in the foyer of the retirement home and a Book Buddies Program where seniors were reading to kids. The result? Connecting the generations had the residents taking less depression medication and living longer, and the children were advancing more quickly than their peers.
A school in our own backyard has joined this movement. Abbotsford Christian School is re-thinking talent and ability by: re-imagining education, scaling innovation, and revolutionizing its approach to education.
This is another example of the innovation Abbotsford has always been known for whether it’s agriculture, food-processing, education, aerospace, or character development through initiatives, such as Character Abbotsford. Our ‘soil’, made up of forward-thinking people, businesses, and institutions, has repeatedly been recognized on the national and international stage for significant achievements. A community that nurtures the uniqueness of each child’s inherent gifts, creates a cultural fabric that is rich in creativity, transforming into a society where, as adults, they continue to innovate.