Ken Robinson (educationalist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Sir Ken Robinson)

Sir Ken Robinson
Ken Robinson speaking in 2009
Kenneth Robinson

(1950-03-04)4 March 1950
Liverpool, England
Died21 August 2020(2020-08-21) (aged 70)
London, England
Occupation(s)Author, speaker, expert on education, education reformer, creativity and innovation
Marie-Therese "Terry" Watts
(m. 1982)
Academic background
EducationLiverpool Collegiate School
Wade Deacon Grammar School
Alma materBretton Hall College of Education (BEd)
University of London (PhD)[1]
ThesisA revaluation of the role and functions of drama teaching in secondary education, with reference to a survey of curricular drama in 259 secondary schools (1981)

Sir Ken Robinson (4 March 1950 – 21 August 2020)[2] was a British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies. He was director of the Arts in Schools Project (1985–1989) and Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989–2001), and professor emeritus after leaving the university.[3] In 2003, he was knighted for services to the arts.[4]

Originally from a working-class Liverpool family,[5] around September 2001[6][7] Robinson moved to Los Angeles with his wife and children[8] to serve as Senior Advisor to the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Liverpool, to James and Ethel Robinson, he was one of seven children from a working-class background. One of his brothers, Neil, became a professional footballer for Everton, Swansea City and Grimsby Town.[9] After an industrial accident, his father became quadriplegic. Robinson contracted polio at age four and spent 8 months in hospital. He attended Margaret Beavan Special School due to the physical effects of polio, then Liverpool Collegiate School (1961–1963) and Wade Deacon Grammar School, Cheshire (1963–1968). He then studied English and drama (Bachelor of Education – BEd) at Bretton Hall College of Education (1968–1972) and completed a PhD in 1981 at the University of London, researching drama and theatre in education.[1]

Career and research[edit]

From 1985 to 1988, Robinson was director of the Arts in Schools Project, an initiative to develop the arts education throughout England and Wales.[10] The project worked with over 2,000 teachers, artists and administrators in a network of over 300 initiatives and influenced the formulation of the National Curriculum for England. During this period, Robinson chaired Artswork, the UK's national youth arts development agency, and worked as advisor to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.[citation needed]

For twelve years, he was professor of education at the University of Warwick, and became professor emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Birmingham City University and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He received the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education, the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, the LEGO Prize for international achievement in education, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005, he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN's "Principal Voices".[11] In 2003, he was made a Knight Bachelor for his services to the arts.[11]

In 1998, he led a UK commission on creativity, education and the economy and his report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, was influential. The Times said of it: "This report raises some of the most important issues facing business in the 21st century. It should have every CEO and human resources director thumping the table and demanding action". Robinson is credited with creating a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, publishing Unlocking Creativity, a plan implemented across the region and mentoring to the Oklahoma Creativity Project. In 1998, he chaired the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education.[12]

In 2001, Robinson was appointed senior advisor for education and creativity at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which lasted at least until 2005.[13][14]

Robinson gave three TED talks on the importance of creativity in education, which together have been viewed over 98 million times (2023) on the TED website.[15][16] In April 2013, he gave a talk titled "How to escape education's death valley", in which he outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish – and how current American education culture works against them.[17] At the time of his death in August 2020, his "Do schools kill creativity?" presentation was the most watched TED talk of all time, with 66.3 million views on the TED channel and millions more on YouTube. It has been translated into 62 languages.[10][18][19] In 2010, the Royal Society of Arts animated one of Robinson's speeches about changing education paradigms, which has been viewed more than 17 million times on YouTube as of August 2023.[20]

Ideas on education[edit]

Robinson suggested that to engage and succeed, education has to develop on three fronts.[21] Firstly, that it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encourage individualisation of the learning process. Secondly, it should promote curiosity through creative teaching, which depends on high quality teacher training and development. Finally, it should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardised testing, thereby giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers. He believed that much of the present education system in the United States encourages conformity, compliance and standardisation rather than creative approaches to learning. Robinson emphasised that we can only succeed if we recognise that education is an organic system, not a mechanical one: successful school administration is a matter of engendering a helpful climate rather than "command and control".[17]


Learning Through Drama: Report of the Schools Council Drama Teaching (1977) was the result of a three-year national development project for the UK Schools Council. Robinson was principal author of The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice, and Provision (1982), now a key text on arts and education internationally. He edited The Arts and Higher Education, (1984) and co-wrote The Arts in Further Education (1986), Arts Education in Europe, and Facing the Future: The Arts and Education in Hong Kong.[citation needed]

Robinson's 2001 book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley-Capstone), was described by Director magazine as "a truly mind-opening analysis of why we don't get the best out of people at a time of punishing change." John Cleese said of it: "Ken Robinson writes brilliantly about the different ways in which creativity is undervalued and ignored in Western culture and especially in our educational systems."[22]

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,[23] was published in January 2009 by Penguin. "The element" refers to the experience of personal talent meeting personal passion. He argues that in this encounter, we feel most ourselves, most inspired, and achieve to our highest level. The book draws on the stories of creative artists such as Paul McCartney, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Meg Ryan, and physicist Richard Feynman to investigate this paradigm of success.[citation needed]


  • 1977 Learning Through Drama: Report of The Schools Council Drama Teaching Project with Lynn McGregor and Maggie Tate. UCL. Heinemann. ISBN 0435185659
  • 1980 Exploring Theatre and Education Heinemann ISBN 0435187813
  • 1982 The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice, and Provision, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. ISBN 0903319233
  • 1984 The Arts and Higher Education. (editor with Christopher Ball). Gulbenkian and the Leverhulme Trust ISBN 0900868899
  • 1986 The Arts in Further Education. Department of Education and Science.
  • 1998 Facing the Future: The Arts and Education in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Arts Development Council ASIN B002MXG93U
  • 1998 All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture, and Education (The Robinson Report). ISBN 1841850349
  • 2001 Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Capstone. ISBN 1907312471
  • Robinson, Ken (2009). The element : how finding your passion changes everything. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-02047-8. OCLC 233549573.
  • Robinson, Ken (2013). Finding your element : how to discover your talents and passions and transform your life. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-02238-0. OCLC 829096794.
  • Robinson, Ken (2015). Creative schools: the grassroots revolution that's transforming education. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-14-310806-1. OCLC 893894810.
  • Robinson, Ken (2018). You, your child, and school : navigate your way to the best education[21]
  • Robinson, Ken (2022). Imagine If... Creating a Future for us All. Penguin. ISBN 014199097X

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

In 1977, Robinson met Marie-Therese "Terry" Watts, while delivering a course in Liverpool.[32] They married in 1982 and had two children, James and Kate.[32]

Robinson died on 21 August 2020, aged 70, at his home in London.[32][10] According to his daughter, Robinson died of cancer.[33]


  1. ^ a b Robinson, Kenneth (1981). A revaluation of the role and functions of drama teaching in secondary education, with reference to a survey of curricular drama in 259 secondary schools. (PhD thesis). University of London. OCLC 1000625866. EThOS Free access icon
  2. ^ Rampen, Julia (22 August 2020). "Liverpool born education superstar Sir Ken Robinson dies aged 70". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Bio". Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  4. ^ "No. 56963". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2003. p. 2.
  5. ^ Robinson, Ken (2015). Creative Schools. New York, NY: Penguin Books. p. 34. ISBN 9780698142848.
  6. ^ Robinson, Sir Ken (24 May 2010), Bring on the learning revolution!, retrieved 15 October 2020
  7. ^ a b "Ken Robinson Appt. (Getty Press Release)". Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  8. ^ Better Together: California Teachers Summit (13 August 2018), Sir Ken Robinson Keynote Speaker at the 2018 Better Together: California Teachers Summit, archived from the original on 19 December 2021, retrieved 25 April 2019
  9. ^ Tongue, Steve (3 March 2013). "Outside the Box: Eat leaves and shoot rather than hoofing it up the field". Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Strauss, Valerie (25 August 2020) Tribute to the late Sir Ken Robinson in The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 August 2020
  11. ^ a b "Ken Robinson ~ Biography". Principal Voices. 2014. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Sir Ken Robinson – Creative Oklahoma". State of Creativity. 2014. Archived from the original on 1 December 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  13. ^ Bates, Stephen (26 August 2020). "Sir Ken Robinson obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  14. ^ Tim Bogatz (25 August 2020). "REPLAY: An Interview with Sir Ken Robinson". The Art of Education University. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  15. ^ "Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? | TED Talk". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talk". Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley". April 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Ken Robinson – Speaker". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!". February 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  20. ^ RSA Animate (14 October 2010). "Changing Education Paradigms". YouTube. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  21. ^ a b Robinson, Ken (2018). You, your child, and school : navigate your way to the best education. New York, New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-01672-3. OCLC 993684586. "LEARNING is acquiring new knowledge and skills, EDUCATION is an organised program of learning, SCHOOL is a community of learners"
  22. ^ "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  23. ^ Robinson 2009.
  24. ^ "LIPA Companions". Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. 2014. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  25. ^ a b "Biography". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  26. ^ "Honorary Graduates of Birmingham City University". Birmingham City University. 2014. Archived from the original on 27 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  27. ^ "Ken Robinson Keynote Address at Commencement 2009". RISD. 30 May 2009. Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  28. ^ "Gordon Parks Celebrating Creativity Awards Dinner and Auction". Gordon Parks Foundation. 1 June 2011. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Foundation Confers Honors for Lifetime Achievement, Innovation, and Imagination". The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  30. ^ "Robinson, Vennerberg to speak at OSU Commencement ceremony". OSU. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  31. ^ "Honorary Fellows & Honorary PhDs". Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  32. ^ a b c Bates, Stephen (26 August 2020). "Sir Ken Robinson obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  33. ^ Sandomir, Richard (11 September 2020). "Ken Robinson, Who Preached Creativity in Teaching, Dies at 70". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2022.

External links[edit]