Enthralled With Linearity

By Scott Schimmel

In the YouSchool world, Sir Ken Robinson is less of a knight and more of a saint. He’s been saying provocative critiques about the frozen and ineffective state of education for a long time, and we’ve been swallowing the pill. 

In one of his famously well-viewed TED talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution, Robinson says, “We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”

We’re finding that many students are stuck on a path that’s been carved out for them, and they grate under the pressures and expectations to conform. If they get good grades in math class, then they get a LOT of encouragement and unsolicited advice to pursue more math, regardless if they like it or not. If they’ve excelled in a sport, they’re recruited to private lessons and travel teams and get on a track to college recruitment. Again, regardless if they feel joy while they play. 

What happens, though, when kids are good at something they really don’t enjoy? What if there are students who, like me, have learned how to get good grades in every class, making it pretty hard to pick a path that matches aptitude with passion?

Robinson reminds us that we’re overly enthralled with linearity, following the trajectory towards educational and career paths that “make sense”, are “practical”, and on paper make rational sense. But if you widen the lens to the broader concept of well-being, we might see things a bit differently.