The Takeover of The Robo-Student

A while back I wrote about the importance of creativity in education, and lack thereof in America’s education system. Since then I have found several articles exploring the issue. It was comforting to know that I was not alone in thinking that a public high school education had failed me. I felt bitter and spoiled; maybe I had missed the point of my education, or I was lazy, or just lacked the commitment to pursue a real career.

I watched a TED Talk with and author and education critic Sir Ken Robinson about how we teach students in America titled “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley”. He criticized the “No Child Left Behind” initiative saying it was legislation based on conformity that only served a small portion of students. Every student is different, learns differently, and expresses themselves differently so one omnipotent assessment cannot be an accurate indicator of everyone’s achievements. Robinson says a widespread, cumulative test should be used as a diagnostic tool and not form the basis of education. In order to cater to the students’ needs, teachers must provide individualized education and accommodate students of all passions and pursuits. It was music to my ears.

Robinson says, “There are three principles on which human life flourishes and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure.”

These principles go as follows:

  1. Human beings are naturally different and diverse
  2. Curiosity is a permanent state of mind
  3. Human life is inherently creative

 According to these principles learning should come naturally. However, the current education system does its best to extinguish the natural curiosity children have and turn them into the “robo-students” as Katrina Schwartz said in her article, “Do Rigid College Admissions Leave Room for Creative Thinkers?” Her article took my concerns about the high school education system and juxtaposed them to the kind of students colleges are looking for. They say they want independent, creative thinkers but at the same time only look at the same criteria that high schools judge their students by.

“There is often a disconnect between the kind of student colleges say they want and what students have to do to be admitted,” says Schwartz. Consequently, high schools continue to focus only on the things colleges look at, those being courses, grades, and standardized test scores.

It might be too late now for me to go back and get the enriching and supportive high school education I was promised. I’ve accepted the fact that I will have to do a lot of learning on my own to get where I want to be professionally. Fortunately things are slowly beginning to change for everyone else. New schools like the Science Leadership Academy, a magnet high school in Philadelphia, and the Minerva Institute, an online college, are trying new methods of teaching that focus less on grades and more on individual creative thought. The next challenge is getting college admission boards and future employers to warm up to the idea of alternative education. Sir Ken Robinson “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley” Katrina Schwartz “Do Rigid College Admissions Leave Room For Creative Thinkers?”


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