I am fortunate to be a member of the sessional faculty at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I say fortunate because I think I get more out of it than my students do. It stimulates my energy and creativity and it makes me think. For me, the university environment — the academic realm — is like a warm bath. I feel right there and I thrive in it. And, for 80-90% of the fourth year students I teach, it has the same effect.
But it is not like that for everyone. Nor should it be. As a society, we have put academia on a pedestal. A vast majority of parents push their children to go to university, as if it is the only worthy career path. I’m here to tell you that it is not. Sir Ken Robinson has spoken twice at TED Conference in California on education. First, in 2006, his talk called Schools Kill Creativity, he posits that we are crushing the life out of our children and forcing them into molds into which only a portion of them really fit. He spoke again in May 2010 with a talk called Bring on the learning revolution!. I encourage you — with emphasis — to watch both of these talks. This is no light-weight TEDster. Ken Robinson “led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.”(1)
I’ve grown up understanding the hypocrisy of pushing children into universities when not all of them are well suited to it. And the greater tragedy is that we see being “not well suited to university” as inferior. It is not inferior. We need hairdressers, dry wallers, plumbers and clerks. These occupations are not “less”. This work is valuable to all of us. We need to respect every worker. We need to allow anyone to feel great pride in what they do. If not, are we then developing our own western caste system?
I think it is in human nature to want to dominate or to serve, but it is less than civilized to encourage the practice. Any education, be it apprentice, trade or life, is — in fact — education. Any great skill, regardless of how it is gained, is still a great skill. Even the most technical careers, peppered with MAs and PhDs are also populated by self-taught geniuses who simply do not fit the standard eduational mold.
I call on all educators and parents to consider — before any other factor — the happiness of their child. What gives them joy? What makes them get out of bed in the morning? Nurture it. Support it. And, if it doesn’t lead to an Ivy League school or a “profession”, celebrate its value. As a society, we need to grow in this direction.
Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.
The Value of Varied Choices in Education by Casey Hrynkow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.