Dr. Morgan Phillips, Head of Education and Youth Engagement at Global Action Plan, reflects on ‘A Future For Us All’ a newly released animation of Sir Ken Robinson’s final public speech.  As ever with our blog, the views expressed are not necessarily shared by the Association.

Being the change you want to see in the education system

What a New Year treat it has been to watch and re-watch this new video. It is an animated version of Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Call to Unite’ speech. It was his final public speech, and he specifically asked the team behind the RSA Animates – We Are Cognitive – to create this animation as a parting gift to the world. 

While he was alive Robinson wasn’t really known for his environmentalism, but it comes through very clearly here (as well as in the recent ‘Imagine if…‘ book) and it is very instructive stuff. 

The speech builds towards this key insight: 

“Real social change comes from the ground up through people cultivating the grass roots… it’s a mistake to believe that we just need to wait till some enlightened politician to come along and show us the way… the real power is with the people and connecting people is the key to this. Getting people to share ideas, to collaborate, to work together, to see future possibilities and to bring them about through joint projects and from the joint support that comes from compassionate collaboration.”

I didn’t used to believe this, I used to be one of those people who waits for the enlightened politician. That was my position until really quite recently. I’m so glad to have changed my mind. It is very clear to me now (as Robinson pointed out) that change comes from the ground up – and as Robinson also pointed out, this is as true in environmentalism as it is in education. 

Our work here at GAP straddles both these worlds. Through our Generation Action projects and programmeswe are endeavouring to be the change we want to see in the education system. This creates change at the micro level of the communities and schools we engage with, but also at the macro level as we add to the momentum that is gathering in the wider movement for education policy reform. 

The way Robinson connected the way education and environment is what is key here. Both are victims of the same thing: 19th century design thinking (the industrial factory model) but both will benefit from the paradigm shift that currently seems to be underway. More and more people are waking up to the importance of cultivating the roots; that is to say, they are focusing on the soil and the culture from which great things grow. 

The implication of this is that farmers need to nurture a rich organic soil culture, and educators need to nurture a culture of compassion, collaboration, innovation, trust, and creativity. It is not that hard. If you nurture soil well, it will look after your plants; if you nurture the right culture in your school, your students will grow into an image of it.

At Global Action Plan we are working hard to support educators in this effort. We train, deliver, and demonstrate what’s possible. A growing minority of schools and teachers are doing this too, and doing it in spite of an education policy environment that broadly inhibits such approaches. Imagine what could happen if we had education policy that encouraged and enabled schools to focus on cultivating a culture from which great people emerge…. 

Remember though, waiting around for an enlightened politician to reform that policy is not the way. Policies change when practices change. If enough of us change our education practice, education policy will change to match it. It is through our work (as a movement), through our example, that politicians come to see what’s possible and what’s popular. This creates a momentum and mandate for change. Be the change you want to see in the education system, ‘real social change comes from the ground up.’ 


Morgan can be contacted at Morgan.Phillips@globalactionplan.org.uk

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