Stupid fish and a changing world, a lesson in education reform

Posted by Flux on 

6 March 2012

What’s trending now?

Our world is changing at a rapid pace and almost every country in the world is reforming their education systems to meet this challenge.
A few voices are crying out against the current reforms taking place, stating that a mere raising of standards and a doing-what-we-always-did-only-better approach is not going to cut it. We need to go back to teaching kids how to be, or in fact just keeping kids creative.

Why it’s important?

‘How can we prepare our kids for an economy twenty years from now, when we don’t know what the economy will look like next week?’ – Sir Ken Robinson
In his book, ‘Out of our minds, learning to be creative’ Sir Ken Robinson challenges the idea of ‘traditional’ education reform and systems. The traditional systems were born out of a need for standardised people to work in standardised factories during the industrial revolution. This is no longer the case. The future is no longer a factory or a production line (which ironically many school systems have become).

It is in constant flux.


It is always changing and shifting. The only way to react to an uncertain future is to act and to act creatively. In his book ‘Action trumps everything’ Harvard professor Len Schlesinger, show through his research that all the successful serial entrepreneurs on the planet have one thing in common. They act, and they act creatively.
Reacting creatively to an uncertain future is the only way to indeed move forward. It has been said, that in the not too distant future logic will be outsourced to microchips and that you better be nice to right brainers because you will be working for one soon. When we act and act creatively our actions trigger responses and consequences, hopefully enough re-action for us to learn from and to guide us towards the next action.

We are living in the most creative and information rich time in history. Yet the school reforms are an-aesthetising our children instead of aesthetising them, waking them up to aesthetics, the wonder of creativity and numerous possibilities.

What’s the butterfly effect?

Listening to these voices that education should take the creative route, and of course whole brain route, will produce a people that can react appropriately to the ever changing world. Human beings are the only creatures that can create and listening to these voices championing creative and holistic education will help to unleash this creativity.

Focusing on developing a child’s creativity instead of developing only their logical abilities will force the educator to bring out the child’s strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses. How many of us have sat in extra math classes only to go from a bad to mediocre, when we could have gone from good to brilliant in English literature.
‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid all its life’ Einstein.

In South Africa funding is continually being pushed to developing maths and science, and taken away from the arts. In so doing we can possibly be creating a workforce that will no longer be relevant or creative enough to respond to an uncertain future.

In South Africa it seems, if the recent stampede at UJ is anything to go by, that vocational training, such as offered by SETA, is completely underrated and undervalued and ‘getting a degree’ seems to be the gold. The irony of course being that people with vocational training and artisans are far more likely to be employed that someone with a degree. See especially this recent article on BizCommunity.

The pioneers

Sir Ken Robinson’s very famous TED talk back in 2006 was one of the sparks, his book: Out of our minds, learning to be creative is fantastic read on the subject.
Len Schlesinger’s book and research, Action trumps everything, is also a very important voice. You can download the book for free via the link above.
Some schools are already experts in allowing children to explore their own learning styles and learn creatively, google Maria Montesorri for her ‘follow the child’ principle and the Waldorf schools for their ‘learning through doing’ value system.

The global hot spots

The entire world, especially in the west, is slowly waking up to the fact that the industrial era education styles are no longer working and are already reforming their education systems, and some are realising that in order to take on this future (and present) we cannot merely do what we have done in the past even if we can do it better.

By: Pierre Du Plessis

About Pierre

Pierre is a communicator, a dreamer and a troublemaker. He loves how we are all connected in more astounding ways and more than we ever thought. He is completely obsessed with life in contemporary culture and he wallows in new ideas and marvels at how they can restore and re – create our world.


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