TED Conversations

Simon Caira

Personal Coach, Peak Performance Techniques

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If it's true that our gifts, passions and identity were educated out of us as we grew up, how can we reclaim and rekindle these gifts?

Sir Ken Robinson asks that we be mindful of the 'really extraordinary capacities that children have - their capacities for innovation,' and he contends, 'All kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.'

He says, 'We don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.'

He believes - and I tend to agree - 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.'

Have you been steered away from your true talents in order to follow a more conventional route to success? Or was it your sense of identity that was in some way challenged and even squandered?

Sir Ken believes that a child's ability to take a chance, to not be frightened of being wrong, is lost by the time they become adults. If this is true I guess it's fair to say there are a lot of us running around with limiting core beliefs that inherently hold us back from our originality and creativity. Beliefs like: I'm frightened to make mistakes, or, I'm scared to be wrong.

Identity statements and beliefs govern our thoughts, behaviors, actions and outcomes. I wonder if you agree that you had your identity, creativity and talents educated out of you and what can be done to rekindle the fire of lost passions and to rebuild those latent talents, qualities and abilities?


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  • Nov 21 2013: I agree that it's likely that children are, generally. more creative or daring than adults. But the school system may or may not the only cause of their loss of such creativity. For example, before there were formal school system, people tended to be acting like a "grown-up" when they grew into adulthood. Humans have an innate ability to change or adapt to the survival instinct of "rather be safe than sorry" attitude. Part of this attitude was probably "taught" from their parents or guardian. Or it might be due to the gradual change of one's attitude to be more timid and less adventurous because of the consideration of one's responsibility to his/her family, and is fearful of the failure resulted from his/her adventure. This is rather a real worthwhile consideration justified by the tragedies caused by the "childish" adventure of someone who eventually died, severely injured or lost all his/her wealth and left all his/her family in poverty or become orphans. However, I wouldn't say that the modern government controlled school system is completely guiltless. I would say that if there are all private schools, complemented with charity schools for the poor, that would be better than the the all gov controlled school system or no-schools-at-all system.
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      Dec 3 2013: Thanks for your comment Bart.
      Just wondering, do you know if there is a country that runs a schooling sytem like the one you suggest?
      • Dec 3 2013: First, I want to say that according to a report cited by the aei.org, as a result of the deterioration of U.S. education system, the present crop of high school graduates are probably having PISA proficiency equal to the 8th graders in the countries with better education systems. So, how can the parents who are just the product of our failed system in the past 20-30 years to supplement the school teaching? I like the 2nd suggestion by aei.org copied below:
        "A second possibility is that the system constructed in the Progressive Era will gradually be replaced by a new set of actors and institutions. Each of the institutions that serve a major function in the current system faces challengers that are seeking to replace it. Charter operators such as KIPP, Green Dot, and Achievement First are competing with traditional public schools; Teach For America, TNTP, and a variety of other alternative certification providers are creating new routes for entering teachers; charter networks have created their own teacher preparation institutions such as Relay Graduate School of Education in New York and the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego to replace traditional education school training; and foundations like the Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation are actively funding economists and others from outside the usual educational research world to do what they view as more rigorous analysis.
        Consequently, a longstanding cartel now has an active challenger. While numerically still small in comparison to the much larger traditional cohort, this group of challengers has received enormous media attention, has considerable influence in a number of major cities (for example, in Washington, DC, New York, and New Orleans), and has increasingly had its ideas incorporated into federal policy.[6]"
        The only way is to gradually and radically change the entire system by infusing of "new blood" teachers based on carefully designed training programs.
      • Dec 4 2013: Let me answer your question in two sections. The first is the section included in the above about the new model proposed by the aei.org. for the U. S. private education system.
        The second is a model by the education authority in Finland, which has been ranked in the top 5 during the past years consistently. You may find the references in Google Search easily.
        In my opinion, there are 2 essential ingredients for a good education system. 1. Teach the students HOW TO LEARN, rather than regimentation to memorizing without understanding. For instance, the Finnish students are led by teachers with individual attention and are not formally tested until the 9th or 10th grade. 2. The teachers were trained with much more special knowledge, better than the "college of education mills" in the U. S. which usually are consisted of lower qualifications like that of the physics or engineering majors. Furthermore, once hired by the schools, they have the free hands to model the teaching methods, and they are usually better paid because they do have advanced degrees above the bachelors' . In other words, the most important reason for K-12 education is always the quality of the teachers AND the freedom of the teaching approach. If the government binds the hands of the teachers with all kind of restraint, then, even a very good teacher will become a mediocre one, and the student's initiative and creativity will be suppressed.
        I was educated in a first rate "provincial" high school in Shanghai, China many years ago. At that time, the principal later on became the minister of education for the whole country and many of our teachers were elected as model teacher of honor. And even as recently as few years ago, the the high school students from Shanghai were again ranked at the top in the recent PISA test competition internationally. I say that the quality of the students in most countries are probably not so much different, but the result certainly depends on the education system.

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