Ahmed’s clock may provide just the push Americans need to examine the damage inflicted by the movement to standardize everything that happens in a school. The accountability culture in American schools has, for all practical purposes, declared war on innovation and creativity. If it can’t be counted, tested, homogenized, and duplicated, it’s considered by many educrats to be unimportant and—in at least one Texas principal’s office—dangerous.
In Creative Schools, Ken Robinson illuminates the failures of the standards movement and presents numerous models and examples for replacing it with creativity as the cornerstone of American schooling while still maintaining high academic expectations. What if schools were places where learning is an enjoyable process, where competent teachers have autonomy to make professional decisions, where parents are a welcome addition to classroom activities, where assessment means something more than standardized tests? Robinson shows how these characteristics are happening in high-performing schools in America and abroad.
I want my own children, future neighbors, and fellow citizens to be independent thinkers and creative spirits like Ahmed, not highly-trained test-takers who only know enough to “meet standards.” I want people like Ahmed to live on my block, and I want people like his principal to live somewhere else.
Nothing excites me more than seeing brave teachers go rogue as they employ project-based learning, conduct Genius Hour, and teach like pirates. These inspirational educators give me hope that the academic pendulum may finally be swinging back toward common sense and thriving curiosity.
Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools is an enlightening book with many good ideas. Although I agree with every syllable of the book, some of it seems pulled from Robinson’s earlier speeches and articles, and it doesn’t completely hang together with a unified focus. Still, it is well worth the time of anyone who cares about the direction of American schools.
Every school has students like Ahmed, as well as students who are interested in many other worthwhile areas, but they are choking on the test-based, standards-driven curriculum. What if every American child attended a school where the principal and more of the teachers encouraged creativity, innovation, and self-direction instead of schools where the leaders arrest kids who carry around harmless engineering projects?
Ahmed and his clock may have just given us a national “teachable moment.” If we want to seize that moment, Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools can provide a valuable path.