sex education worldwide
good morning. how are you? (laughter) it's been great, hasn't it? i've been blown away by the whole thing. in fact, i'm leaving.
sex education worldwide, there have been three themesrunning through the conference which are relevantto what i want to talk about. one is the extraordinaryevidence of human creativity in all of the presentations that we've had
and in all of the people here. just the variety of itand the range of it. the second isthat it's put us in a place where we have no ideawhat's going to happen, in terms of the future. no idea how this may play out. i have an interest in education. actually, what i find is everybodyhas an interest in education. don't you?
i find this very interesting. if you're at a dinner party, and you say you work in education -- actually, you're not oftenat dinner parties, frankly. if you work in education,you're not asked. and you're never asked back, curiously.that's strange to me. but if you are, and you say to somebody, you know, they say, "what do you do?" and you say you work in education,
you can see the blood run from their face. they're like, "oh my god,"you know, "why me?" "my one night out all week." but if you ask about their education,they pin you to the wall. because it's one of those thingsthat goes deep with people, am i right? like religion, and money and other things. so i have a big interest in education,and i think we all do. we have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it's educationthat's meant to take us into this future
that we can't grasp. if you think of it,children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that's beenon parade for the past four days, what the world will look likein five years' time. and yet we're meantto be educating them for it. so the unpredictability,i think, is extraordinary. and the third part of this
is that we've all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinarycapacities that children have -- their capacities for innovation. i mean, sirena last nightwas a marvel, wasn't she? just seeing what she could do. and she's exceptional, but i thinkshe's not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. what you have there is a personof extraordinary dedication who found a talent.
and my contention is,all kids have tremendous talents. and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. so i want to talk about education and i want to talk about creativity. my contention is that creativity nowis as important in education as literacy, and we should treat itwith the same status. (applause) thank you. (applause) that was it, by the way.
thank you very much. so, 15 minutes left. well, i was born... no. i heard a great story recently-- i love telling it -- of a little girlwho was in a drawing lesson. she was six, and she wasat the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girlhardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. the teacher was fascinated.
she went over to her,and she said, "what are you drawing?" and the girl said, "i'mdrawing a picture of god." and the teacher said, "but nobodyknows what god looks like." and the girl said,"they will, in a minute." when my son was four in england -- actually, he was foureverywhere, to be honest. if we're being strict about it,wherever he went, he was four that year. he was in the nativity play.do you remember the story? no, it was big, it was a big story.
mel gibson did the sequel,you may have seen it. "nativity ii." but james got the part of joseph,which we were thrilled about. we considered this to beone of the lead parts. we had the place crammedfull of agents in t-shirts: "james robinson is joseph!" (laughter) he didn't have to speak, but you know the bitwhere the three kings come in? they come in bearing gifts,gold, frankincense and myrrh.
this really happened. we were sitting there and i thinkthey just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boyafterward and we said, "you ok with that?" and he said,"yeah, why? was that wrong?" they just switched. the three boys came in, four-year-olds with tea towelson their heads, and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said,"i bring you gold."
and the second boy said,"i bring you myrrh." and the third boy said, "frank sent this." what these things have in commonis that kids will take a chance. if they don't know, they'll have a go. am i right? they're notfrightened of being wrong. i don't mean to say that being wrongis the same thing as being creative. what we do know is,if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come upwith anything original -- if you're not prepared to be wrong.
and by the time they get to be adults,most kids have lost that capacity. they have becomefrightened of being wrong. and we run our companies like this. we stigmatize mistakes. and we're now runningnational education systems where mistakes are the worstthing you can make. and the result is thatwe are educating people out of their creative capacities. picasso once said this, he saidthat all children are born artists.
the problem is to remain an artistas we grow up. i believe this passionately,that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. or rather, we get educated out of it. so why is this? i lived in stratford-on-avonuntil about five years ago. in fact, we movedfrom stratford to los angeles. so you can imaginewhat a seamless transition that was. actually, we lived in a placecalled snitterfield,
just outside stratford, which is whereshakespeare's father was born. are you struck by a new thought? i was. you don't think of shakespearehaving a father, do you? do you? because you don't thinkof shakespeare being a child, do you? shakespeare being seven? i never thought of it. i mean, he was seven at some point. he was in somebody'senglish class, wasn't he?
how annoying would that be? "must try harder." being sent to bed by his dad, you know,to shakespeare, "go to bed, now! and put the pencil down." "and stop speaking like that." "it's confusing everybody." anyway, we movedfrom stratford to los angeles, and i just want to say a wordabout the transition. my son didn't want to come.
i've got two kids;he's 21 now, my daughter's 16. he didn't want to come to los angeles. he loved it, but he hada girlfriend in england. this was the love of his life, sarah. he'd known her for a month. mind you, they'd hadtheir fourth anniversary, because it's a long time when you're 16. he was really upset on the plane, he said, "i'll never findanother girl like sarah."
and we were rather pleasedabout that, frankly -- because she was the main reasonwe were leaving the country. but something strikes youwhen you move to america and travel around the world: every education system on earthhas the same hierarchy of subjects. every one. doesn't matter where you go. you'd think it would beotherwise, but it isn't. at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities,and at the bottom are the arts.
everywhere on earth. and in pretty much every system too,there's a hierarchy within the arts. art and music are normallygiven a higher status in schools than drama and dance. there isn't an educationsystem on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. why? why not? i think this is rather important. i think math is veryimportant, but so is dance.
children dance all the timeif they're allowed to, we all do. we all have bodies, don't we?did i miss a meeting? truthfully, what happens is,as children grow up, we start to educate them progressivelyfrom the waist up. and then we focus on their heads. and slightly to one side. if you were to visiteducation, as an alien, and say "what's it for, public education?" i think you'd have to conclude,if you look at the output,
who really succeeds by this, who does everything that they should, who gets all the browniepoints, who are the winners -- i think you'd have to concludethe whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. isn't it? they're the people who come out the top. and i used to be one, so there.
and i like universityprofessors, but you know, we shouldn't hold them up as the high-water markof all human achievement. they're just a form of life, another form of life. but they're rather curious, and i say thisout of affection for them. there's something curiousabout professors in my experience -- not all of them, but typically,they live in their heads. they live up there,and slightly to one side.
they're disembodied, you know,in a kind of literal way. they look upon their body as a formof transport for their heads. don't they? it's a way of gettingtheir head to meetings. if you want real evidenceof out-of-body experiences, get yourself along to a residentialconference of senior academics, and pop into the discothequeon the final night. and there, you will see it. grown men and womenwrithing uncontrollably, off the beat.
waiting until it ends so they cango home and write a paper about it. our education system is predicatedon the idea of academic ability. and there's a reason. around the world, there wereno public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. they all came into beingto meet the needs of industrialism. so the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. number one, that the most usefulsubjects for work are at the top. so you wereprobably steered benignly away
from things at school when youwere a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you wouldnever get a job doing that. is that right? don't do music, you're notgoing to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. benign advice -- now, profoundly mistaken. the whole worldis engulfed in a revolution. and the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominateour view of intelligence, because the universities designedthe system in their image.
if you think of it, the whole systemof public education around the world is a protracted processof university entrance. and the consequenceis that many highly-talented, brilliant, creativepeople think they're not, because the thingthey were good at at school wasn't valued,or was actually stigmatized. and i think we can't affordto go on that way. in the next 30 years, according to unesco, more people worldwide will be graduating
through educationthan since the beginning of history. more people, and it's the combinationof all the things we've talked about -- technology and its transformationeffect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population. suddenly, degrees aren't worth anything. isn't that true? when i was a student,if you had a degree, you had a job. if you didn't have a job,it's because you didn't want one. and i didn't want one, frankly. (laughter)
but now kids with degrees are often heading hometo carry on playing video games, because you need an ma wherethe previous job required a ba, and now you need a phd for the other. it's a process of academic inflation. and it indicates the wholestructure of education is shifting beneath our feet. we need to radically rethinkour view of intelligence. we know three things about intelligence.
one, it's diverse. we think about the world in all the waysthat we experience it. we think visually, we think in sound,we think kinesthetically. we think in abstract terms,we think in movement. secondly, intelligence is dynamic. if you look at the interactionsof a human brain, as we heard yesterdayfrom a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. the brain isn't divided into compartments.
in fact, creativity --which i define as the process of having original ideasthat have value -- more often than not comes aboutthrough the interaction of different disciplinaryways of seeing things. by the way, there's a shaft of nervesthat joins the two halves of the brain called the corpus callosum. it's thicker in women. following off from helen yesterday, this is probably why womenare better at multi-tasking.
because you are, aren't you? there's a raft of research,but i know it from my personal life. if my wife is cooking a meal at home --which is not often, thankfully. no, she's good at some things,but if she's cooking, she's dealing with people on the phone, she's talking to the kids,she's painting the ceiling, she's doing open-heart surgery over here. if i'm cooking, the dooris shut, the kids are out, the phone's on the hook,if she comes in i get annoyed.
i say, "terry, please,i'm trying to fry an egg in here." "give me a break." actually, do you knowthat old philosophical thing, if a tree falls in a forestand nobody hears it, did it happen? remember that old chestnut? i saw a great t-shirtrecently, which said, "if a man speaks his mindin a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" and the third thing about intelligence is,
it's distinct. i'm doing a new book at the momentcalled "epiphany," which is based on a seriesof interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. i'm fascinatedby how people got to be there. it's really prompted by a conversationi had with a wonderful woman who maybe most peoplehave never heard of, gillian lynne. have you heard of her? some have. she's a choreographer,and everybody knows her work.
she did "cats" and "phantom of the opera." she's wonderful. i used to be on the boardof the royal ballet, as you can see. anyway, gillian and i hadlunch one day and i said, "how did you get to be a dancer?" it was interesting. when she was at school,she was really hopeless. and the school, in the '30s,wrote to her parents and said,
"we think gillianhas a learning disorder." she couldn't concentrate;she was fidgeting. i think now they'd say she had adhd.wouldn't you? but this was the 1930s, and adhdhadn't been invented at this point. it wasn't an available condition. people weren't aware they could have that. anyway, she went to see this specialist. so, this oak-paneled room,and she was there with her mother, and she was led and saton this chair at the end,
and she sat on her hands for 20 minuteswhile this man talked to her mother about the problemsgillian was having at school. because she was disturbing people;her homework was always late; and so on, little kid of eight. in the end, the doctorwent and sat next to gillian, and said, "i've listened to all thesethings your mother's told me, i need to speak to her privately. wait here. we'll be back;we won't be very long," and they went and left her.
but as they went out of the room, he turned on the radiothat was sitting on his desk. and when they got out, he said to hermother, "just stand and watch her." and the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. and they watched for a few minutesand he turned to her mother and said, "mrs. lynne, gillianisn't sick; she's a dancer. take her to a dance school." i said, "what happened?"
she said, "she did. i can't tell youhow wonderful it was. we walked in this roomand it was full of people like me. people who couldn't sit still. people who had to move to think."who had to move to think. they did ballet, they did tap, jazz;they did modern; they did contemporary. she was eventually auditionedfor the royal ballet school; she became a soloist; she hada wonderful career at the royal ballet. she eventually graduatedfrom the royal ballet school, founded the gillian lynne dance company,
met andrew lloyd webber. she's been responsible for some of the most successfulmusical theater productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions,and she's a multi-millionaire. somebody else might have put heron medication and told her to calm down. what i think it comes to is this: al gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolutionthat was triggered by rachel carson. i believe our only hope for the future
is to adopt a new conceptionof human ecology, one in which we startto reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth:for a particular commodity. and for the future, it won't serve us. we have to rethinkthe fundamental principles on which we're educating our children. there was a wonderful quoteby jonas salk, who said,
"if all the insectswere to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all lifeon earth would end. if all human beingsdisappeared from the earth, within 50 years all formsof life would flourish." and he's right. what ted celebrates is the giftof the human imagination. we have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely and that we avert some of the scenariosthat we've talked about.
and the only way we'll do it is by seeingour creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our childrenfor the hope that they are. and our task is to educatetheir whole being, so they can face this future. by the way -- we may not see this future, but they will. and our job is to help themmake something of it.