Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert.
He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for his services to the arts and he speaks to audiences around the world about creativity. He has written several books on the subject, the latest being The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
Some may also recognize Robinson from his lecture on creativity that he gave for TED (an annual conference featuring lectures from the top minds in technology, entertainment and design) about how school kills creativity, available to watch on the TED website or YouTube. Spanning topics from the innate creative talents of kids to explaining school systems to aliens, Robinson’s TED talk is funny, entertaining and thought-provoking.
These qualities are the reason Peter Stoicheff, the vice dean of humanities and fine arts with the College of Arts and Science, said the college chose Robinson for the Gail Appel Lectureship in Literature and Fine Arts.
“He’s extremely entertaining; he’s really funny and he’s very anecdotal, so he’s easy to listen to and he’s very compelling to listen to,” said Stoicheff. “He’s not going to be reading from a prepared academic text.”
Robinson’s stance is that creativity is as important in education as literacy but schools tend to quell creativity rather than foster it. Schools around the world, he says, have a heirarchy of subjects with math and science at the top and the arts at the bottom. Stoicheff agrees.
“Everybody is innately creative and the wrong kind of school system is the one that gradually or quickly shaves this and knocks this out of kids,” said Stoicheff. “It’s based on a kind of industrial age model starting from the early 19th century. You put in some raw material in the form of a kid and it comes out in the end as a grade 12 student. What’s lost is what the kid is individually creatively good at.”
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
While Soicheff doesn’t know the exact content of Robinson’s lecture, called “Out of Our Minds, Learning to Be Creative,” he’s thinks it will focus on encouraging creativity at the post-secondary level, which Stoicheff says is fitting considering the current state of education. “It’s a time of enormous change even in humanities and fine arts,” said Stoicheff. “The university is really looking to the innovative programs it hasn’t even thought of before as being far more attractive to students, to offer courses that aren’t offered elsewhere that are really relevant to the world we live in.”
Past Gail Appel lecturers have included songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and novelist Alan Lightman. Stoicheff says it’s important to showcase successful performers, writers and actors, and give them a chance to speak to the university and wider community.
The morning after the lecture, Robinson has plans to sit down for breakfast with key community members such as U of S president Peter MacKinnon, university provost and vice-president academic Brett Fairbairn, Mayor Don Atchinson and the Saskatchewan Arts Board chair Byrna Barclay.
“They’ll be talking about ways in which the arts board, the province, the city and university can work together to be more innovative,” said Stoicheff.