Looking Back Looking Ahead

  • "Gillian was only 8 years old, but her future was already at risk."

That's the first line from Ken Robinson's new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everythingexternal image ir?t=adifference-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B003VWC4AI. He begins with a favourite story about Gillian Lynne. He continues ...

  • "Her school work was a disaster, at least as far as her teachers were concerned. She turned in her assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly. Not only that, she was a disruption to the entire class, one minute fidgeting noisily, the next staring out the window, forcing the teacher to stop the class to pull Gillian's attention back, and the next doing something to disturb the other children around her. Gillian wasn't particularly concerned about any of this — she was used to being corrected by authority figures and really didn't see herself as a difficult child — but the school was very concerned. This came to a head when the school wrote to her parents.

  • The school thought that Gillian had a learning disorder of some sort and that it might be more appropriate for her to be in a school for children with special needs. All of this took place in the 1930s. I think now they'd put her on Ritalin or something similar. But the ADHD epidemic hadn't been invented yet. It wasn't an available condition. People didn't know they could have that and had to get by without it.

  • Gillian's parents received the letter from the school with great concern and sprang into action. Gillian's mother put her daughter in her best dress and shoes, tied her hair in ponytails, and took her to a psychologist for assessment, fearing the worst."

If you don't know how the story ends I'll tell you when I see you. Or you can look up Sir Ken on TED.com or YouTube and watch his talks.

I was really struck by this opening to his new book. It very much reminded me of the video, The Essay.

I often wonder what would've happened to Robin Williams if ADHD had been an available condition when he went to school.

I find these stories, of Gillian and the girl in the video, an interesting juxtaposition because it contains elements of how we look at our students (and our own children) today and how they imagine the world will be in their future. They start from different assumptions than we do.

What assumptions do you think we have about how the world works, or can be, that our students today don't have? What implications, if any, do you think these ideas may have about what learning looks like in the future?