While attending TEDxDeadSea, one of the featured TEDtalks was one of Sir Ken Robinson. I left the Dead Sea and Googled him the second I got home. A few days after that I decided that nothing would be greater than ordering my first online book to be about such an interesting subject: Education.

Sir Ken Robinson starts off his book, The Element, by giving a definition. The element: describes the place where the things we love and the things we’re good at come together. Now that sounds very simple and realistic, but if we think about it for a second we’d find that very few people have it. Sir Ken goes on to talk about the need for every individual to find his element, he says it’s not only needed for personal fulfillment, but that the future of our communities depends on it, on developing a new capacity to meet a new era of human existence.

Then you’re given multiple examples, of people who were more or less thought to be failures during school or university but then found their element and excelled. People who were not defined to be intelligent, but have shown later that they were.

You might then be shocked to learn that like peer groups, cultures and expectations; education (according to this book) is one of the factors that limit our view of our own capacities, of what we’re good at or have the ability to develop.

He then introduces the three features of general education in both the United States and United Kingdom (you can add Jordan to that too). The first feature is the importance given to certain academic abilities, particularly words and numbers. The second feature is the hierarchy of subjects. At the top: Mathematics, science and languages. Followed by the humanities and ending with the arts. The arts alone have another hierarchy: music and visual arts on the top with theater and dance at the bottom. The third feature of education is the growing reliance on particular types of assessments.

When talking about these rigid assessments we’re talking about our wrong definitions of intelligence, the definitions that formulated during the 17th and 18th centuries (Enlightenment period), in which philosophers and scholars connected intelligence with logic and critical reasoning and stressed the importance of evidence in support of scientific ideas, ones that are observed through the five main human senses.

These 2 pillars rose to the surface again when during the time of the industrial revolution easy means of assessment were needed and knowledge became quantified and measured in terms of mathematical and verbal reasoning.

Examples on that are standardized tests such as the IQ or SAT tests we know today. Sir Ken doesn’t at any point demean the importance of science/math/languages, but he clearly defines intelligence to include them, but not only them. He says standardized testing does measure some type of intelligence but not all.

Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors. ~ Dr. Paul Samuelson.

I will be blogging more about this book and its ideas soon, so stick around.