This is the compelling book I mentioned in my last post. Author Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human potential, subjects that I’ll boldly call 21st Century imperatives.
The Element is a fascinating read, packed with real-life stories of unexpected achievement, and a work of scholarship, summarizing research done all over the world for decades. Reading it is an inspiring and troubling experience.
First, the inspiring stuff: Sir Robinson shares the personal trajectories of extraordinary achievers as diverse as Paul McCartney, Nobel Prize-winning Economist Dr. Paul Samuelson, world-renowned choreographer Gillian Lynne, International Gymnastics Hall of Fame member Bart Conner, and legendary photographer Gordon Parks. He tracks their childhood journeys and those of many others who found and are living what he describes as their Element:
The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. [These] people… are doing the thing they love, and in doing it they feel like their most authentic selves…. When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being… [to] who they really are and what they’re really meant to be doing with their lives.
Then the troubling part: Our education systems at least fail to facilitate this kind of self-discovery and at worst actually suffocate and extinguish such personal inner fires. In the two additional quotes below, Sir Robinson describes similarities in education systems in the USA, the UK, and most other parts of the developed world:
First, there is the preoccupation with certain sorts of academic ability… of critical analysis and reasoning, particularly with words and numbers. Important as these skills are, there is much more to human intelligence… [S]econd… is the hierarchy of subjects. At the top… are mathematics, science, and language skills. In the middle are the humanities. At the bottom are the arts…. In fact, more and more schools are cutting the arts out of the curriculum altogether. [T]hird… is the growing reliance on particular types of assessment. Children everywhere are under intense pressure to perform at higher and higher levels on a narrow range of standardized tests.
And a little more of his straight scoop:
The result is that school systems everywhere inculcate us with a very narrow view of intelligence and capacity… neglect[ing] others that are just as important, and… disregard[ing] the relationships between them in sustaining the vitality of our lives and communities…. The current systems also put severe limits on how teachers teach and students learn…. These approaches to education are… stifling some of the most important capacities that young people now need to make their way in the increasingly demanding world… This is exactly why some of the most successful people you’ll ever meet didn’t do well in school.
The book is packed with true stories, bald facts, and deeply-considered solutions. Click on the image above or right here to get The Element, then facilitate it and live it! And write to me with your comments on what I’ll again boldly call an evolutionary topic for our species at a critical juncture. (Sir Robinson also suggests a direct connection between our concepts of human and natural resources.) Most importantly: no despair, right? Even vibrantly living your own passions changes the planetary game.
’til soon, beautiful people of passion… ’til soon!