Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley
Now the reason I say this is because one of the effects of the current culture here, if I can say so, has been to de-professionalize teachers.There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers.Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative profession.Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you're not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage. You see, in the end, education is about learning. If there's no learning going on, there's no education going on. And people can spend an awful lot of time discussing education without ever discussing learning. The whole point of education is to get people to learn.
A friend of mine, an old friend -- actually very old, he's dead. (Laughter) That's as old as it gets, I'm afraid. But a wonderful guy he was, wonderful philosopher. He used to talk about the difference between the task and achievement senses of verbs. You know, you can be engaged in the activity of something, but not really be achieving it, like dieting. It's a very good example, you know. There he is. He's dieting. Is he losing any weight? Not really.Teaching is a word like that. You can say, "There's Deborah, she's in room 34, she's teaching." But if nobody's learning anything, she may be engaged in the task of teachingbut not actually fulfilling it.
The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. That's it. And part of the problem is, I think, that the dominant culture of education has come to focus on not teaching and learning, but testing. Now, testing is important. Standardized tests have a place. But they should not be the dominant culture of education. They should be diagnostic. They should help. (Applause)If I go for a medical examination, I want some standardized tests. I do. You know, I want to know what my cholesterol level is compared to everybody else's on a standard scale. I don't want to be told on some scale my doctor invented in the car.