And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.
So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is
that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with
the same status. Thank you.
….I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing
lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little
girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was
fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the
girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows
what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”
When my son was 4 in England — actually he was 4 everywhere, to be honest; if
we’re being strict about it, wherever he went, he was 4 that year — he was in the
nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it was big, it was a big story. Mel
Gibson did the sequel, you may have seen it, “Nativity II.” But James got the part of
Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts.
We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!”
He didn’t have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in. They
come in bearing gifts, and they bring gold, frankincense and myrhh. This really
happened — we were sitting there and we think they just went out of sequence, we
talked to the little boy afterward and we said, “You OK with that” and he said “Yeah,
why, was that wrong?” — they just switched, I think that was it. Anyway, the three
boys came in, little 4-year-olds with tea towels on their heads, and they put these
boxes down, and the first boy said, “I bring you gold.” The second boy said, “I bring
you myrhh.” And the third boy said, “Frank sent this.”
What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know,
they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong.
…the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.
Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to
remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into
creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it. So why is this?
I lived in Stratford-on-Avon until about five years ago, in fact we moved from Stratford
to Los Angeles, so you can imagine what a seamless transition this was. Actually we
lived in a place called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford, which is where
Shakespeare’s father was born. Were you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t
think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of
Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being 7? I never thought of it. I
mean, he was 7 at some point; he was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he? How
annoying would that be? “Must try harder.”
Being sent to bed by his dad, you know, to Shakespeare, “Go to bed, now,” to
William Shakespeare, “and put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. It’s
….. every education system on earth has the same heirarchy of subjects.
Every one, doesn’t matter where you go, you’d think it would be otherwise but it isn’t.
At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are
the arts. Everywhere on earth.
And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and
music are nomally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There
isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the
way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I
think maths is very important but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re
allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting?
Truthfully what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them
progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to
……. the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process
of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant,
creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school
wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that
In the next 30 years. according to Unesco, more people worldwide will be graduating
through education than since the beginning of history. More people, and it’s
the combination of all the things we’ve talked about — technology and its
transformation effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in
Suddenly degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you
had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job it’s because you didn’t want one.
And I didn’t want one, frankly.
But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games,
because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a
PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole
structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our
view of intelligence.
We know three things about intelligence: One, it’s diverse, we think about the world
in all the ways we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think
kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly,
intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard
yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The
brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process
of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through
the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things…..
It’s really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most
people have never heard of, she’s called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some
have. She’s a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did Cats, and
Phantom of the Opera, she’s wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet,
in England, as you can see, and Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said Gillian,
how’d you get to be a dancer? And she said it was interesting, when she was at
school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the 30s, wrote her parents and
said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t concentrate, she was
fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the
1930s and ADHD hadn’t been invented at this point. It wasn’t an available condition.
People weren’t aware they could have that.
Anyway she went to see this specialist, in this oak-paneled room, and she was there
with her mother and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her
hands for 20 minutes while this doctor talked to her mother about all the problems
Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it — because she was disturbing
people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of 8 — in the end, the
doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, “Gillian I’ve listened to all these things
that your mother’s told me, and I need to speak to her privately.” He said, “Wait here,
we’ll be back, we won’t be very long,” and they went and left her.
But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk,
and when they got out the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.”
And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the
music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said,
“Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”
I said, “What happened?”
She said, “She did. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and
it was full of people like me, people who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to
think.” Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did
modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet
School, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet, she
eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and founded her own company,
the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, and met Andrew Lloyd Weber.
She’s been responsible for some of the most successful musical theatre productions
in history, she’s given pleasure to millions, and she’s a multimillionaire.
Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.
Now, I think — What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other
night about ecology and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe
our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in
which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity.