An Education Revolution: The Tyranny of Common Sense

Across the globe today, nearly every educational system is being re-evaluated.  Attempts to implement reform within these existing models are likely headed for failure.  In a recent TED video talk, Sir Kenneth Robinson explains why reform alone is not enough, stating that it is simply an attempt to improve a broken model.  Robinson firmly believes that a revolution — not an evolution — is needed in education.

The question of how to truly innovate is perhaps the most significant challenge to transforming educational models in a revolutionary way.  True innovation means challenging that which we take for granted — looking beyond what is most obvious.  Robinson refers to it as “the tyranny of common sense.”  He believes educators have become unnecessarily attached to many traditional educational tenets.  One specific tenet is the concept of linearity.  An example of this idea of linearity is that of the traditional college degree track where all students start at the designated beginning, stay on the prescribed track throughout their studies and — assuming they have complied with all the requirements of the program — receive the expected degree, get a job in their field of study and eventually end up set for life.  However, life seldom works that way.  It is not linear; it is, rather, based on various parts coming together in a random, yet harmonious fashion.

Robinson describes how our lives are created from mutually beneficial relationships and the interactions they spawn.  These interactions between different people do not always have a beginning, middle and end.  They often occur in a random fashion, but we still ascribe to this idea of linearity out of some misplaced common-sensical tradition of conformity.  Robinson believes educators and society are obsessed with getting people to get college degrees — that it is the ultimate vision of higher education.  While his intention is not to imply people should avoid college, he feels college is not for everybody, at least not at a specific point in life determined by society, family or other external forces.

The other big issue is conformity.  Robinson believes we have built our education systems on the model used by the fast food industry.  As a result, our mental and emotional faculties are suffering just as our physical bodies are being depleted by fast food.

Robinson sees the need to shift metaphors from the existing industrial model of education, which is based on linearity and conformity, to a model that is based more on the principles of agriculture.  “We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process.  And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”  This notion of humans flourishing within the concept of education as an organic process is connected to humans’ innate passion to become immersed in what they love and care most about.  Adds Robinson:

Often, people are good at things they don’t really care for.  It’s about passion, and what excites our spirit and our energy.  And if you’re doing the thing that you love to do, that you’re good at, time takes a different course entirely.  And the reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn’t feed their spirit, it doesn’t feed their energy or their passion.

So in the context of transforming education, it is about tailoring it to specific circumstances and to the people who are actually being taught.  This shift toward developing situational solutions and technologies along with the personalization of curriculum is the answer to the future of education.  Add strong external support and highly talented teachers to the mix and the chance to revolutionize education becomes a reality.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Please add your comments to this post.


Robinson, K. (2012). Bring on the Learning Revolution [Video file]. Retrieved from