#CBR7 Review #142: Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Updated) by Ken Robinson

Several of the creativity-oriented books I’ve been reading have cited the work of Sir Ken Robinson, a prominent educator and public speaker. There are even mentions of his TED Talk being the most popular on the website. So I figured that it would be beneficial to read his book and gain more insight in developing my pedagogy. My teaching statement last year focused on vulnerability, and while I very much do believe in a professional sort of vulnerability, I believe that thinking about my work in terms of innovation and creativity may be more accurate. So Out of Our Minds went on my list.

Robinson focuses on the state of education, the history of creativity and innovation, and examples or models of creativity in use in our society. He deplores the standards-driven and streamlined models that exist in American public schools, especially considering No Child Left Behind. He breaks down creativity and change in three phases, which I found to be the most helpful: imagination (the idea where you first begin to dream or envision something that doesn’t exist); creativity (the work of changing your paradigm to something that can exist); and innovation (the work of creating and implementing your vision).

I was excited about this book, but I was somewhat disappointed in what I ended up reading. Yes, contemporary education in America is not perfect. Yes, we need to change things. So, how do we do it? Where do we start? How does an ordinary teacher with no administrative power to change state standards and curriculum be creative in his or her classroom? These are the practical questions I found myself wishing had been answered. We can pile on the woeful state of education all we want, but until you give someone the tools to make small, attainable changes that snowball into larger structural changes, you don’t end up changing anything. You just write a theory of creativity, and I feel ultimately that’s what this book is: a nice theory of creativity with no real way to implement it at the classroom level. And that’s just too bad.

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