Posts Tagged ‘RSA Animate’

Rethinking Education: Will It Take More Than Just Funding?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

In philanthropy we’ve seen Education come under a spotlight with the release of Waiting for Superman and the announcement that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will be donating $100 million to “save Newark schools.”

And yesterday a Huffington Post article by Don Tapscott critiquing the New York Times cover story “Growing Up Digital” intersected with the issue of how digital media impacts education:

“The sad truth, according to the Gates Foundation report, is that most dropouts could have made it. Nearly half who dropped out said classes were either not interesting or just plain boring. So perhaps the real issue is the gap between how Net Geners think and how most teachers teach. Net Geners are not content to sit mutely and listen to a teacher talk. Kids who have grown up digital expect to be able to respond, to have a conversation. They want a choice in their education, in terms of what they learn, when they learn it, where, and how. They want their education to be relevant to the real world, the one they live in. They want it to be interesting, even fun…”

What intrigued me the most about the article was the teaser:

“Rather than kids losing their attention spans there is a stronger case to be made that growing up digital is equipping today’s youth with the mental skills that they’ll need to deal with today’s overflow of information.”

What’s all this have to do with education? Well, it’s interesting how today’s youth are adapting to the digital environment they find themselves living in…so I guess the question is: is Education keeping pace with this new way of thinking?

The public education system has long been refining what they do, trying to be more effective, efficient, with fewer resources…but if the funding is provided, the staffing, the student resources–will that be the solution?

This brings me to RSA Animate’s visualization of a speech entitled “Changing Education Paradigms”, given by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education expert and recipient of the RSA Benjamin Franklin award.

“The current education system was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of The Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution…

“The Enlightenment view of intelligence: that real intelligence consists in the capacity for certain type of deductive reasoning and a knowledge of the classics, originally. What we come to think of academic ability. And this is deep in the gene pool of public education, that there are really two types of people: academic and non academic. Smart people and non smart people and the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not because they’re being judged against this particular view of the mind. So we have twin pillars economic and intellectual and my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people’s lives. It’s been great for some. there have been people who have benefited wonderfully from it but most people have not.”

If our education system was designed for a different age…have we adapted it for the 21st century? Because people and societies are adapting to modern technology, how is the practice of teaching adapting?

Robinson picks up this thread and addresses the issue of the digital age’s influence on today’s youth and on education:

“Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged with information and calls for their attention from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracting. From what? Boring stuff. At school, for the most part.”

Robinson calls for a paradigm shift when it comes to thinking about Education:

“We have to think differently about human capacity. We have to get over this old conception of academic, non academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational and see it for what it is: a myth. Second, you have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups. That collaboration is the stuff of growth. If we atomize people and separate them and judge them separately we form a kind of disjunction between them and their natural learning environment. And thirdly, it’s crucially about the culture of our institutions. The habits of institution and the habitats that they occupy.”

He makes a compelling case…especially the part about how the vast majority of kindergarteners score at a genius level on a divergent thinking test, but as they grew up and became more educated their capacity for divergent thinking deteriorated.




Does Charity “Degrade and Demoralize”?

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Twice now I’ve watched/listen to a provocative RSA speech by Slavoj Zizek and I have to admit I’m still processing it. I’m fascinated though, by his argument that:

“[C]harity degrades and demoralizes…There is a certain type of misanthropy which is much better as a social attitude than this cheap, charitable optimism.”

Zizek’s problem with charity is that it doesn’t remedy the evil in the world, doesn’t cure the disease, but rather distracts from it. His solution is to reconstruct society so that poverty is in fact impossible.


Interesting when you consider how long philanthropy has been trying to address societal problems…how those problems still exist despite how long philanthropy’s been at work on them.

But, perhaps there’s another point to consider. Perhaps it’s how philanthropy has been working. Remember what Beth Kanter and Allison Fine said about complex social problems (yes, I know I often return to this thought/quote):

“Complex social problems outpace the capacity of any individual organization.”

But more importantly they said:

“[T]he focus on the growth of stand-alone institutions makes it impossible to scale social change because complex social problems, and all social problems are complex by definition, outpace the capacity of any individual or single organization to solve them.”

I guess what I’m saying, is that perhaps the societal ills in the world that Zizek talks about can be addressed with charity, if those philanthropic entities begin to work differently.

And, since we’re just beginning to see how philanthropic organizations are changing how they work in this interconnected age, it may be too soon to just abandon the efforts of philanthropy all together.

What do you think?


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