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Mason meets Sir Ken Robinson
Education Expert

Mason meets Sir Ken Robinson | Kidspiration

Sir Ken Robinson would like you to know that even if you think you aren’t good at anything, you still have talents – and probably lots of them.

“We’re all born with immense, natural, creative abilities,” he said in an interview with National Public Radio. But somewhere during our days in school, we learn that being ‘creative’ only means being good at things like art or music or writing poetry, even though many adults – from scientists and historians, to cooks and construction workers – are creating and exploring new ideas every day.

Discovering what you like to do and then figuring out how to learn to do it well means you will be able to create your own life – and recreate it when you want to change. Taking chances and experimenting may mean goofing up or making mistakes, he says, because if you’re not willing to be wrong, you won’t come up with anything new or original.

A quiet kid who spent years recovering from polio, a dangerous disease that left him wearing leg braces, Sir Ken spent most of his time reading and watching from the sidelines. Then when he was a teenager, despite being terrified, he agreed to be part of a family musical production.

To his surprise, he discovered that he liked being on a stage, talking and acting. He found that his talent is communicating and working with people, which he’s done as a writer, researcher, adviser, and teacher. Today, he works with schools, government organizations in the United States and Great Britain, and many private and public organizations that want to improve education and promote the arts.

What’s most important for kids to know as they go through school? Explore your own talents, find what you’re good at, he says, and know that you can and will create your own life, by yourself. Respect where you come from but don’t be locked into that one place. And be prepared – but not afraid – to be wrong!

In this episode, Mason interviews education expert Sir Ken Robinson at the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre in Los Angeles.



Mason:
Hey, I’m Mason and today I am meeting with Sir Ken Robinson, he’s an educationalist who is a major advocate for creativity in schools and really trying to get that student interaction. Today I am talking to him at Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater; let’s go check out what he has to say.

Hello Sir Ken, it’s nice to meet you, I’m Mason.

Sir Ken:
Hi Mason, hi.

Mason:
Now can you tell me who you are and a bit about what you do?

Sir Ken:
No. [laughs] Okay, what about that? So you’re off to a bad start you see, already! I can. I always have a hard time telling people what I do but I’ll tell you who I am, I’m Ken Robinson, I am an educator, and a writer. I’ve worked in education all my life and I get increasingly asked on the kind of education I think people need now, the 21st Century. A big thing I have is that a lot of schools aren’t designed to get the best out of kids and we need better schools to do that.

Mason:
Actually, you mentioned your TED Talk, I actually watched it and you really hit home on creativity and why students should be acknowledge by their teachers, why specifically do you think that creativity is something that we need to – well – teachers need to bring out inside of their students?

Sir Ken:
Well because creativity is what makes us human. Now life is relatively short, we start small, we grow up, we flourish, we get older, we need nutrients to be alive at all, as much as the fish or the zebras do. But there’s obviously a difference between us and the rest of life on earth as well, I mean one of them is that other creatures, you know they’re not going to school. Human beings do and we’re the only creatures who do, you know we write books, we produce music, we create technology, we have languages which is sophisticated, we design clothes. We live in a world that we have created and different cultures create the world differently. So to me it’s what makes us human and if you stifle that in education then you’re suppressing a big part of people’s humanity.

Mason:
A curious question, you’re clearly a pretty funny guy, what is the best joke you’ve ever told?

Sir Ken:
I don’t think I can tell you that particular joke, but it is really funny. Call me when you’re 18 and I’ll tell you that joke if I can remember it by then, I’ll have probably passed off by then.

Mason:
Now how were you in school as a kid, were you ever a troublemaker, did you do great in terms of grades, just how were you as a kid in school?

Sir Ken:
How old are you now?

Mason:
I’m 12.

Sir Ken:
Okay well up until 12 I was good, it’s just a warning. When you become a teenager you become a bit harder to please about some things, you know, I’m trying to find the right way to put this. You wouldn’t know this but in the early ’50s there was a big epidemic of polio in England, well actually in America as well. And it was a bad disease and people got it, you could die, you know you could get paralyzed and so I got it when I was four. My dad was very smart, my mom was, too, and although they’d never been to college they could see the importance of it and they used to say to me, my dad particularly, “You know you’re not gonna make a living doing manual work, you know like your brothers could or your sister, or doing some heavy job, you’re gonna have to use your head.” And he kept pushing me, he said you know you gotta do well at school; you gotta focus on your exams –

Mason:
So would you say that’s sort of how your childhood sort of affected what you do now and if not how would that correlate?

Sir Ken:
You know it’s a interesting thing this, Mason, I’ve found. I wrote a book a few years ago, which is very good, I’m just saying, you should get this book. It’s called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, I’ve been asking people around and some of ’em put you on the spot, but I’ve been asking people recently how many human beings they think have lived on the earth. The best estimate there’s been like 100 billion human beings like us, it’s a lot, it’s a big number. There are about 7.5 billion on the planet now so it’s a lot of people. But the thing is every single life has been different, unrepeatable, and unique. And the reason is in part that we all have our own talents and we have imaginations and we can, we create our own life. So the reason I’m saying this is that yes obviously what happens to you at school has a big influence, of course it does, but it’s not a straight line from school to what you do afterwards. I’ve been asking people and I travel a lot you know, I speak to quite large groups and I’ve been asking people when I was working on the other book, how many people knew exactly what they were going to do with their lives when they were 12 and very few. Or rather I mean saying how many of you are doing now what you thought you’d be doing when you were 12? And people follow all kinds of paths, you know they go to college, they might study dentistry but they end up being a DJ somewhere, you know or they might think they’re gonna be a manager or an economist and they end up running a home for elderly people or teaching in a kindergarten and a dozen other things besides. I mean, ask adults as you go around if they’re doing now what they thought they’d be doing at school. So what happens at school is very important but then you create your own life after that and it’s about the opportunities you take and the ones you don’t, the things that interest you, the things that don’t. But I always believe you can do anything. People achieve remarkable things, do them because they think they can and are willing to invest in, they get confident and invest in it. It’s like I was saying, if you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t you probably won’t. I mean do you have any idea just now what you might do?

Mason:
I don’t know really, I have a lot of interests but –

Sir Ken:
Like what?

Mason:
I love entertainment, I love writing, I love athletics, I love politics, I love a lot.

Sir Ken:
That’s fantastic, do you play anything?

Mason:
In terms of –

Sir Ken:
Instruments?

Mason:
I’m learning how to play guitar but I’m a leftie so it’s sort of hard to, trying to figure out how to use my right and still play at the same time.

Sir Ken:
Yeah well you can do that, the Paul McCartney, do you know Paul McCartney?

Mason:
Yes sir.

Sir Ken:
He’s left handed.

Mason:
So is Jimi Hendrix. What would be your advice to kids?

Sir Ken:
Two things really, one is to explore your own talents and to know that you have them. An awful lot of people think they don’t have any talents or abilities because they go through a system which doesn’t encourage them to discover them, that’s the first thing. And the second is to know that you do create your own life and that you can recreate it. And if you looked at my situation in 1955, you know in the hospital with polio in a working class family, it didn’t seem very likely that all these years later I’d be in LA talking to you about it, or that we’d meet like this. And that’s because our paths take us in that direction and because you create your life and I just want to get people to realize that, you don’t have to be a victim. People can achieve extraordinary things from all kinds of beginnings and where you start is not where you have to end up and you should respect where you come from but you shouldn’t be bound to it if you feel that you have a different path to take and you can create that path.

Mason:
Thank you, it was very nice talking to you.

Sir Ken:
My pleasure Mason, great questions by the way, thank you.

Mason:
Thank you.

Sir Ken:
You should do this professionally at some point.

Mason:
Well it was amazing being able to meet Sir Ken Robinson but it was also great to see how much of a sense of humor he had and understand his creative ideas for making education more fun. And until next time, I’ll see you later.