The Role of Cities in a Learning Revolution


This post is part of a special series of blogs inspired by NLC’s annual Congress of Cities and related events such as the National Summit on Your City’s Families.

sir-ken-2Children are born learners.  From infancy on, they approach the world with an innate curiosity.  With a twinkle in their eye they master the complexities of language, navigate familial, social and cultural expectations and continuously adapt as the world throws them daily challenges and new lessons.

But somewhere around the 3rd grade, for many children that twinkle starts to fade.  Their natural inclination toward curiosity gets lost amidst the classrooms, desks and books that comprise a system designed to facilitate learning.

For something so profoundly important to what makes us human to disappear for so many kids, simply put, boggles the mind.  But the data appears to support this: 1 in 3 youth entering the 9th grade will not graduate from high school.

However, according to Sir Ken Robinson, keynote speaker at a joint session of NLC’s National Summit on Your City’s Families and the Urban Libraries Council’s (ULC) Partners for Success conference, it has less to do with kids not wanting to learn, and more that they just aren’t interested in what’s being offered to them.

“A country that is hemorrhaging children from its education system can’t be stable,” said Sir Ken.  “Our education system was designed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the industrial revolution, not for the world today.”

Sir Ken believes that getting the educational system to a place where truly no child is left behind requires a more personal, less industrial approach to education.  After all, kids aren’t widgets.  Each person is a “unique moment in the history of humanity” with a profound capacity for creativity.

“We are living in a time of revolution,” he went on to say.  “We have to learn differently, we have to do things differently.”

If we can’t create a system that leverages our intrinsic capacity for creativity and adaptation, then the world will never reach its full potential.  And as a result, there will continue to be children left behind, innovations gone undiscovered and fewer vibrant, safe and productive communities.

This revolution is something we all can play a part in. And cities are a great place to start given their important role in shaping how we live our lives. Cities are naturally great repositories of creativity and leadership — and with great leadership develops opportunities for a better system to flourish.

If you couldn’t join us at the event, connect with NLC on Twitter and Facebook and let us know your ideas for transforming education with the hashtag #ideaYCFSummit.

Details: Sir Ken’s appearance was made possible by the generous support of the Urban Library Council and marks the launch of a new strategic partnership between ULC and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families.

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