Good morning, how are you?
It's been great, wasn't it?
I've been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I'm leaving.
There have been 3 themes running through the conference, which are relevant to what I want to talk about.
One is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity... in all the presentations that we had and all the people here. Just the variety, you know, and the range of it.
The second is that it's put us in a place where we have no idea what is going to happen... in terms of the future. No idea... how this may play out.
I have an interest in education. Actually, what I find is everybody has an interest in education. Don't you? I find this strange: When you're at a dinner party and you say you're working in education, actually you're not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education, you're not asked. And you're never asked back, curiously.
But if you are and somebody asks you "what do you do?" and you say you work in education, you see the blood run from their face. They think, "Oh my god, why me? My one night out all week."
But if you ask about their education they pin you to the wall. 'Cause it's one of those things that goes deep with people, am I right? Like religion and money... and other things.
So I have a big interest in education and I think we all do. We have a huge vested interest in it. Partly because it's education that is supposed to take us to this future that we can't grasp.
If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that's been on parade for the past four days what the world will look like in five years' time. And yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability I think is extraordinary.
And the third part of this is that we've all agreed nonetheless on the, really, extraordinary capacities that children have. Their capacities for innovation. I mean Serena last night was a marvel. Wasn't she? Seeing what she could do.
And she's exceptional but I think she's not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person of extraordinary dedication who's found a talent. And my contention is all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.
So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy. And we should treat it with the same status.
[applause] ... Thank you. [applause ends]
That was it by the way. Thank you very much.
So... fifteen minutes left.
Well, I was born – no ... [people laughing] ... I heard a great story recently of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was six, and she was at the back, drawing. And the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. And the teacher was fascinated. She went over to her and she said, "What are you drawing?", and the girl said, "I'm drawing the picture of God.", and the teacher said "but nobody knows what God looks like.", and the girl said, "They will in a minute."
When my son was four in England, actually he was four everywhere, to be honest, if we're being strict about it, he was four. But he was in the Nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it's big, it's a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel. You may have seen it. Nativity 2.
But James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered it to be one of the lead parts. We had the place **crammed full of agents** in t-shirts, you know, "James Robinson is Joseph". He didn't have to speak. But do you know the bit when the three kings come in? They come in bearing gifts. They bring gold, ???, and meare, this really happened, we're sitting there and they, I think, just went out of sequence, 'cause we talked to the little boy after, and we said, you know, you okay with that? And he said "why was that wrong?" They just switched, anyway the three boys came in, little four-year-olds with ??? on their heads and they put these boxes down, and the first boys say "I bring you gold", and the second boy said, "I bring you meare", and the third boy said, "Frank sent this."
... [people laughing]
What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don't know they will have a go. Am I right? They're not frightened of being wrong.
Now I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same as being creative. What we do know is that if you're not prepared to be wrong you'll never come up with anything original.
If you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies this way, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes.
And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, that we are educating people OUT of their creative capacities.
Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately: That we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.
So why is this?
I lived in Stratford, until about five years ago, actually, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, so you can imagine what a seamless transition, you know, this was. Actually, we lived in a place called Smithfield just outside Stratford which is where Shakespeare's father was born. Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don't think of Shakespeare having a father. Do you? Do you? Have you ever thought about Shakespear being a child? Shakespeare being seven. I never thought of it. I mean he was seven at some point, he was in somebody's English class, wasn't he?
... [people laughing]
How annoying would that be?
... [people laughing]
MUST TRY HARDER.
... [people laughing]
Being sent to bed by his father. Telling, you know, "Go to bed, NOW" to William Shakespeare. And put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. You know, it's ... [people laughing] ... "it's confusing everybody".
Anyway, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to tell you about the transition, my son didn't want to come, I've got two kids, he's 21 now and my daughter is 16. He didn't want to come to Los Angeles. he loved it, but he had a girlfriend in England. This was the love of his life. Sarah. He'd known her for a month. Mind you they had their fourth anniversary. 'Cause it's a long time when you're 16. Anyway, he was really upset on the plane, he said: "I'll never find another girl like Sarah". And we were rather pleased about that, frankly, because she was... [people laughing] ... she was the main reason we were leaving the country. [people laughing]
But something strikes you when you're leaving for America, every education system in the world has the same hierarchy of subjects. Everyone. Doesn't matter where you go, you'd think it would be otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth. And in pretty much every system too there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given higher status than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children as we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to. We all have bodies. Don't we? Did I miss a meeting, I mean?
Truth to what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.
If you were to visit and education as an alien and say "what's it for? – public education", I think you'd have to conclude, if you look at the output, you know who's really succeeds by this, who does everything they should, who gets all the brownie points, you know, who are the winners? I think you'd have to conclude that the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn't it? They're the people coming out on top.
Now I used to be one. So THERE, you know. But... and I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn't hold them up as the high watermark of all human achievement. They're just a form of life. You know, another form of life. But they're rather curious, and I say this out of affection for them. There's something curious about professors. In my experience, not all of them, but typically, they live in their heads. They live up there. And slightly to one side. They're disembodied, you know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. ... [people laughing] ... Don't they? It's a way of getting their heads to meetings. If you want real evidence of out-of-body experiences, by the way, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics, and pop into a discotheque on the final night. And there you'll see it grown men and women writhing uncontrollably, off the beat. ... [people laughing] ... Waiting until it ends so they can go home and write a paper about it.
Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there's a reason. The whole system was invented around the world, there was no system of public education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to the need of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted in two ideas.
Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the ground you'd never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not gonna be a musician. Don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice. Now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.
And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities design the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is 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. And I think we can't afford to go on that way.
In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people. And it's the combination of all the things we've talked about: technology and its transformational effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population. Suddenly, degrees aren't worth anything. Isn't that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn't have a job it's because you didn't want one. And I didn't want one, frankly.
... [people laughing] ...
But now, kids with degrees are often heading home to carry one playing video games. Because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a Ph.D. for the other. It's a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. We know three things about intelligence.
One, it's diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.
Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn't divided into compartments. In fact, creativity – which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value – more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.
By the way, there's a shaft of nerves that joins the two halves of the brain, called the corpus callosum. It's thicker in women. Following off from Helen yesterday, this is probably why women are better at multitasking. Because you are, aren't you? There's a raft of research, but I know it from my personal life.
If my wife is cooking a meal at home, which is not often ... thankfully. ... [people laughing] ... No, she's good at some things. But if she's cooking, she's dealing with people on the phone, she's talking to the kids, she's painting the ceiling, you know, she's doing an open heart surgery over here.
If I'm cooking, the door is shut, the kids are out, the phone's on the hook. If she comes in I get annoyed. I say, "Terry please I'm trying to fry an egg in here." ... [people laughing] ... "Give me a break."
Actually, do you know that old philosophical thing, "if a tree falls in a forest, and nobody hears it, did it happen?" Remember that old chestnut? I saw a great T-shirt recently, which said, "If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" ... [people laughing] ...
And the third thing about intelligence is, it's distinct. I'm doing a new book at the moment called "Epiphany" which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I'm fascinated by how people got to be there. It's really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman, who maybe most people have never heard of, Gillian Lynne. Have you heard of her? Some have. She's a choreographer, and everybody knows her work. She did Cats and Phantom of the Opera. She's wonderful. I used to be on the board of The Royal Ballet, as you can see. ... [people laughing] ...
Anyway, Gillian and I had lunch one day, and I said "How did you get to be a dancer?" And she said it was interesting. When she was at school she was really hopeless. And the school, in the '30s, wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. You know, it wasn't an available condition. ... [people laughing] ... People weren't aware they could have that.
Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on this chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes, while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it, because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on. Little kid of eight. In the end, the doctor went and say next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things your mother's told me. I need to speak to her privately." So he said, "Wait here, we'll be back. We won't be very long." And they went and left her. But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room, he said to her mother "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school." I said, "What happened?" She said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked into this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think. Who had to move to think." They did ballet, they did tap, jazz. They did modern. They did contemporary. She eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet school. She became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School, founded the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multimillionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.
What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us.
We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, "If all the insects were to disappear from the Earth, within 50 years, all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years, all forms of life would flourish." And he's right.
What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios that we've talked about. And the only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way, we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.
Thank you very much.
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