The Element: An Inspiration to Re-Envision Education
A BOOK REFLECTION BY BEN KOCH
In his 2009 book, The Element, educational philosopher Ken Robinson makes a heartfelt attempt to rescue the joy, spontaneity, passion and creativity that is being methodically hammered out of curriculum and, hence, our students, by the blind machinery of standardized testing and a politicized understanding of accountability. Robinson’s thesis is quite simple: when we humans live, work and play in a space in which our natural talents and our spontaneous passions meet, we are happier, healthier and more fulfilled beings.
We need not get academic or obscure to highlight just how far public education has strayed from creating an environment where this passions/talents sweet spot is the goal. Just earlier this month, we watched in dismay as dozens of teachers and administrators from the Atlanta public schools were to face arrest and possibly severe prison time for their involvement in a cheating scandal on Georgia’s standardized test. I can tell you they knew exactly what was on the line when the undertook those behaviors. In the weeks before a standardized test we teachers are pounded with legalese and warnings about consequences for “irregularities.” So what would motivate a group of elementary teachers and administrators to risk it all? The pressure to raise test scores by any means necessary. The fact that not a single child benefited from the whole operation only highlights the confused state of the incentive system.
At NuMinds, both Ben and Justin are products of public education and we are invested in it wholeheartedly. There are geniuses and brilliant innovators and I daresay even saints among the ranks of those educating and inspiring our kids. And we do sense a shift in the national mood. Even Texas, our home state, is looking to reduce the number and duration of standardized tests, especially at the elementary level.
This is a big ship with a lot of momentum built up (note to self: resist Titanic metaphor here… you can do it!) however, while we work day in and day out from the inside to do right by our students, NuMinds is our inspired mission, our bold project of the heart, to contribute to future generations of gifted students and an unshackled pathway to what Robinson has called “The Element. “
Taking inspiration from Robinson, NuMinds has developed aPKT needs analysis system that assesses, through a combination of written questions and personal interviews with both the student and parent, the state of a student’s Passions, Knowledge and Talents in order to customize a learning enrichment path that might most quickly lead a student to a state of fulfillment, success and even happiness.
We don’t hold the panacea that might effortlessly turn around a monolithic cruiseliner headed toward an iceberg (almost there…), but the resonance of Sir Ken Robinson’s bold manifesto for The Element inspires us in our own unique model for acknowledging and nurturing each student’s passions, knowledge and talents.
The Element: how finding your passion changes everything by Sir Ken Robinson, with Lou Aronica, 2009. New York, Viking.