Cover of An Education
A few months ago, the Lone Wolf and I hightailed it to the cinema to see the film An Education . In case you haven't seen it, the movie is a coming-of-age story--the autobiographical memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber who has quite a good story to tell.
We were knocked out by it. We loved the way the film was shot. The period of 1961 England was captured as pure charm as were the performances of the perfect cast (as far as I was concerned), including Carey Mulligan who stole the show. Watch out world. A new Audrey Hepburn has arrived. Ms. Mulligan is dripping with star-power.
When the film began, Mulligan was a schoolgirl, working extremely hard so she could get into Oxford. By the end of the picture, her school work was hardly the education that she had received.
I recently watched a very funny and visionary TED talk of Sir Ken Robinson, who believes that we're educating people out of their creativity. Robinson referred to this crisis of human resources as our "second climate crisis" and asserted that we needed to address it with the same urgency as global warming.
Sir Ken is singing to the choir with me. Pigeon-holing and making people into soulless worker bees is tantamount to beating out the properties that make each of us and the work we produce, the lives we lead, the culture that is generated, the air we breathe unique and nourishing.
The Cheese Princess was watching this TED talk with me, and she was entranced as I was. This is a serious subject, especially since we had our own run-ins with an education system that didn't fill our needs or enhance gifted intelligence and creativity. Our system is designed to march in one-step. Do not deviate from the rules. Be like everyone else.
So far as I am concerned, it is critical for us to be open to Sir Ken's ideas. They are massive food for thought. Here's an introduction to what he said:
"I believe fundamentally...that we make very poor use of our talents. Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of. I meet all kinds of people who don't think they're very good at anything....
"I meet all kinds of people who don't enjoy what they do. They simply go through their lives getting on with it....they endure it rather than enjoy it and wait for the weekend. But I also meet people who love what they do and couldn't imagine doing anything else. If you said to them, "don't do this anymore," they'd wonder what you were talking about. Because it isn't what they do, it's who they are. They say, "But this is me. It would be foolish for me to abandon this because it speaks to my most authentic self.
"It's not true of enough people. On the contrary, I think it's true for a minority of people. And I think there are many possible explanations for it, and high among them is education. Because education in a way dislocates very many people from their natural talents, and human resources are like natural resources, they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them. They're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves. You might imagine education would be the way that happens, but too often it's not.
"Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment, and it's not enough. Reform is no use anymore, because that's simply improving a broken model. What we need...is not evolution but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else."
Please take the time to watch his talk. You'll be glad you did. As a society, we must become conscious of the values and environment in which our children grow and prosper--or not--and in which adults prosper--or not.
"Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent--not a singular conception of ability."
"The other big issue is conformity....We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it's impoverishing our spirits and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies."
"It's about passion and what excites our spirit and our energy. If you're doing the thing that you love to do that you're good at, time takes a different course entirely....If you're doing something you love, an hour feels like five minutes. If you're doing something that doesn't resonate with their spirit, five minutes feels like an hour. The reason so many people are opting out of education is that it doesn't feed their spirit. It doesn't feed their energy or their passion....We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process it's an organic process."
What do you think?
---Beth Arnold in Paris