Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review of "The Element"

I recently finished "The Element" subtitled "How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything" by Ken Robinson. I think it is worth the read as it is only 260 pages and has some good ideas and some great stories. It starts off with the title of the book and entices you with stories and a general criticism of public education as done today. He then goes into a decent discussion of intelligence with extra attention debunking IQ tests.

Creativity is the next topic. I loved the relative pictures of the planets. Some great stories including one on my favorite physicist, Richard Feynman. He ends with a great quote from
William James "...if you change your mind, you can change your life." Next topic is the zone which wasn't new for me, but his history of Myers-Briggs was. He claims they were unqualified to make such a test and research shows it to be unpredictable for judging anyone. He recommends the HDBI.

Finding your tribe is next. The stories were good, but the material was lacking. I think the Internet and it's various ways of connecting with people would have fit nicely here. Maybe I should read "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us" by Seth Godin. Next was what could be stopping you is your fear of other's opinions. Again, nothing new but some good stories.

Luck was next and it made up for the last two chapters by shining a light on "The Luck Factor" by Richard Wiseman. Wiseman identified 4 principles that characterized people who call themselves lucky:
  • Maximize chance opportunities
  • Listen to their intuition
  • Expect to be lucky
  • Don't allow events to deter them
People who call themselves unlucky have the opposite. In Wiseman's eyes luck is attitude!

Next he covers the roles of a mentor (recognition, encouragement, facilitating & stretching). He follows that by talking about a fear of age, "is it too late?" Good coverage of how age and health are affected by creativity and doing something you love, shockingly the point of the book. Next is on doing something for love or money. Nothing new there. His last chapter is a condemnation of how we run our public schools and a Utopian, highly impractical approach he recommends. 

While I agree that test driven education is completely wrong, I'm not sure his recommendation is actionable. Maybe I'm wrong, but I haven't met a teacher who thinks that time spent preparing the students for standardized tests is beneficial to the students. Education is tricky because it is so dependent on the one being educated.

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