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Have you ever heard of Sir Ken Robinson? He is a British man currently living in the United States. He works as an adviser on education to governments, and his Wikipedia page describes him as an “educationalist.”

At the age of four, he contracted polio, and the damage his body suffered from that still affects him today. I first became aware of him when I watched a presentation he gave on TED. If you have never seen it, please take a look now. (If you click on “transcripts” under the video, you can read the speech in either English or Japanese.) Not only is the content of the talk extremely interesting, he is without doubt the best presenter I have ever seen (and I’m not even going to say “except for Steve Jobs”!). If you are a person who has to give presentations, watch this man and just do what he does.

Recently, I found that a new talk by Ken Robinson has been uploaded to TED. I watched it this morning, and I’m happy to say that it is just as good as his first one. The points he makes are in relation to the education system in America, but I think you will see that they apply just as much (if not more) to education here in Japan.

This week, I want to do a kind of free discussion about the topic he discusses in the second video above. I don’t know if any of you fancy a challenge, but if you do, I also noticed that there is no Japanese transcript for the latest video. What do you think about the idea of doing one together as a team? (The English translation is already up, so you wouldn’t have to do it purely from listening.) When we finished it, we could sent it to TED and they might actually put it on the site! If you like that idea, maybe everyone could volunteer to do one or two minutes of the talk, although we would have to decide that in advance to avoid duplication.

Anyway, whether you want to try the translation or not, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on his talk.

このブログは英語学習者のためのものです。レベルの高い人もいれば、初心者もいますので、自分のレベルや学習経験を気にする必要はありません。「いつもコメントを書いている人は仲間みたいだから参加しにくい」と思う方もいるかもしれませんが、勇気を出してコメントを書いてみてください。必ず温かく迎えてもらえます。多くのコメントは英語で書かれていますが、もちろん日本語もOKですし、英語と日本語を混ぜて書いても大丈夫です。言いたいことが言えないときは、How do you say 「〜」in English? と聞けば、きっとだれかが教えてくれると思います。私のエントリー、または他のメンバーのコメントの中に分からないところがあったら、「”…”はどういう意味ですか?」と遠慮なく聞いてください。このブログで使われているフレーズや表現をたくさん吸収すると、より自然な英語に近づけることができますよ!

コメントを投稿するときは、名前とメールアドレス、メールアドレス欄下に表示される4文字の英数字(CAPCHA code)を入れてください。 最初のコメントは承認後の公開になりますが、2回目からはそのまま投稿できます。


※CAPCHA codeは時間切れになることがあります。コード右上の矢印で更新してから入力してください。



  1. John Spiri on Monday May 20th, 2013 at 04:09 PM

    Sir Ken Robinson’s talk was splendid as usual. He really identifies some problems with the American education system. As David implies, these problems are found in other countries, including Japan. I particularly like his second point about people, that we are naturally curious. I think the school system makes it hard for children to maintain curiosity. And his ending metaphor is so powerful and true: there is always hope, regardless of how bad things appear.

  2. Biwa on Monday May 20th, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Hi David,

    >It would have been okay if you had added “for years.”

    Thank you so much, that is very helpful.

    By the way, for your new entry, do you mean you pasted the videos on the black boxes above? I couldn’t see anything. I think I need technical help! However, I was able to watch the one he was talking about the death valley which was posted on the TED site. That was the only one I could find.

  3. Fumie on Monday May 20th, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Hi David,

    I just watched both of Ken Robinson’s talk. He sure is the best presenter. The audience howled with laughter many many times. He captures people’s heart not only by jokes but also his ideas about today’s education problem.
    As for your idea of translating the talk, although I fancy a challenge, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to do that. Because I can’t understand his talk so much. And hard part is how to translate the jokes. Some of the jokes don’t get them if you don’t know the culture thing. As a matter of fact, I can’t laugh some of his jokes even though I read Japanese transcript. Another problem is there must be limits on numbers of words/ letters.

  4. David on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Hi Biwa,

    The two videos are showing up on my computer. Can you not see them at all? Is anyone else having the same problem? I have never embedded a TED video before, so I might have made a mistake. The system is a bit different from You Tube.

  5. Biwa on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Hi David,

    I still don’t see anything. There’s only two black boxes. I’m left-clicking the boxes, but do I need to do something else?
    By the way, the spaces for my “name” and “address” are always filled in automatically, but it has been blank (I have to type it in) since yesterday. Do you think this has something to do with it?

  6. Biwa on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Hi David,

    Have you embedded the videos on the smartphone site, too? I don’t even see the black boxes on my iPhone, all I see is the text.

  7. David on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Hi BIwa,

    It’s hard for me to say anything unless I know whether other people are having the same problem.

  8. David on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 01:38 PM

    Hi Biwa,

    Apparently, the TED videos are based on Flash. Apple devices can’t use this program, so that’s why you can’t see it on your smartphone. As for your computer, I’m not sure. Do you have the Flash player installed? Is it up to date? If you want to check, please go to this site and download the latest version.

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

  9. David on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 01:38 PM

    Hang on, I just realized that is for Macs. Click on “Do you have a different operating system or browser?” at the top of the page and choose the right one for your computer.

  10. Biwa on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 02:25 PM

    Thank you so much, and sorry for bothering you, David. I know you’re really busy. As you say, my Flash Player wasn’t up to date. I’m so embarrassed, as always! Now I can see both, and I’m glad I was seeing the right one.

    What happened at Death Valley reminded me of your idea “Sowing the seeds of Grammar”. I really think every child has his own potential, and that schools should not be a place to just create standardized human robots.
    As for the translation, I’d love to try!

  11. Cameron on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 02:59 PM

    The importance of trusting teachers and supporting their professionalism is right on the money. The best judges of whether someone is actually learning (in the sense of “learning” that is actually valuable) are qualified *people*, rather than computer-gradable tests (which are, after all, merely attempts to mimic qualified people’s judgement.)

    Here’s something I found interesting recently. I was looking into the effects of birth age in the school year (our youngest was due to be born by caesarian (ie by appointment) around the Japan school entry cut-off dates of April 1/2). Is it better to be the oldest or the youngest in your school year?

    It’s that compared to other western countries American and British parents seemed to be unusually obsessed with the development of their child’s “intelligence”. This is illustrated by how the age at school entry question is answered for people in the US/UK by looking at the impact on their grades over time, and by, particularly in America, investment in “gifted child” programmes. In many other European countries, the debate apparently focusses more on emotional and personal development – that your child is well adjusted and happy.

    Of course, as a Briton, in thinking about my own child’s birthdate, I immediately went to look for the impact on grade scores…

    So I wonder if there is a need to shift the focus of the question “how well is my child doing” away from the numbers (which forces a focus on tests and what is easily testable). It’s one of the ironies of politics, that populism does not necessarily result in popular policies. Everyone seems to hate No child Left Behind, but articulating opposition to a system which seeks to guarantee accountability through “objective” (cough) measures of strictly scholastic progress, is very, very difficult.

    I think that’s an important difference between Finland and a US state of the same size. It’s easier to change the parameters of the debate in a small country compared to a subdivision of a big one.

  12. YU on Tuesday May 21st, 2013 at 09:35 PM

    Hi Cameron,

    > Is it better to be the oldest or the youngest in your school year?

    We’ve just discussed it in recent entry titled “The Relative Age Advantage”(April 1st, 2013). If you have time, please have a look.

    Hi everyone,

    I watched the videos.

    I’ve just heard last night on TV that Japan’s English education has been criticized since 30 years ago or more, and people attempted to change it many times, but they always met with a strong resistance from vested interest groups like 日教組(nikkyouso) and others and failed to reform the old systems.
    Is this the dominant culture of education in Japan?

    As for the translation, I don’t think I will have enough time to join the challenge. I changed my working schedule this month and have to finish my work by Thursday morning.

  13. Biwa on Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    >Is this the dominant culture of education in Japan?

    Probably. I don’t really know if my sons’ teachers join(?) “Nikkyoso” or not, and I don’t think all teachers are that bad. However, as I said when we talked about elections a couple of months ago, teachers hardly ever tell their students which party they are in favor of, and thus the students have very little chance to learn about elections in the real world. I guess it has a lot to do with the power of Nikkyoso.

    Hi Cameron,

    >So I wonder if there is a need to shift the focus of the question “how well is my child doing” away from the numbers (which forces a focus on tests and what is easily testable).

    I understand. However, I think the problem is that recent schools focus too much on just some of the multiple intelligences. Every child is a “star” at some fields/places, and I can’t help thinking that the teachers are too busy to really “watch” each child. I think teachers need to focus more on creating confidence in each student.

  14. Biwa on Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Sorry, I forgot to say “Hi YU,” for the first half of my comment!

  15. I Love Nutella on Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Hi, David and everyone

    It’s been so long since I posted my opinion here last time. That time I lived overseas, and had the helper who helped me out, did all housework except cooking, and even took care of my 2-years-old daughter. So I had some time for myself. Now I live in Tokyo, and do all housework by myself. I am incredibly busy. When, however, I found myself too busy, I always get an urge to do something makes me grow up. I decided today I am going to get my housework done in a quick way, to think about the issue in English.

    I read the transcript of Ken’s speech quickly. I may miss some points… I’m sorry in advance, if so.

    I totally agree with the idea that school should be the place to develop individuality, curiosity and creativity, so do many people including teachers and school staffs, I guess. But school doesn’t work like that in reality.

    I think social system also needs to be changed. Many Japanese have believed people have to enter top-ranked university to get good decent jobs, to get high salary, and to live healthy life in their future. Recently situation has been changed. Even graduates from top-ranked school strugle to get good jobs. What has not been changed is that people from low-ranked school have less oppotunity to get high-salary jobs than one from top-ranked school do.

    What I’m saying is that there is pressure on school to let students enter a high-ranked school as possible as they can. They need to allocate most of their time to teach what would be on the test and how to solve it. They hardly have time to see and grow each student’s individuality, as a result.


  16. YU on Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 at 02:49 PM

    Hi everyone,

    Like Death Valley in America, I hope Japan’s education isn’t dead yet, either.
    He says that we need to create the right conditions under which people thrive. In the case of Japan’s education systems, I think we first need to exterminate harmful insects including 日教組. They are very fond of amakudari systems and die hard, though.

  17. David on Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 at 03:15 PM

    Hi YU,

    As you know, I believe that it will be impossible for Japan to become strong again until we manage to get rid of the cancer that is amakudari. It poisons everything from education to power generation.

  18. Biwa on Thursday May 23rd, 2013 at 08:17 AM

    Hi everyone,

    On the subject of going to good schools to get good jobs, I read in the newspaper yesterday that some companies are doing unique hiring tests.

    For example, they let the newly-graduates to build a plastic model for a whole three hours for a dental technician test to see if they were well-skilled with the hands and also had a character of perseverance. For hiring good salespersons, some company tested the applicants by seeing how well they played mah-jongg! As you know, a good mah-jongg player tends to be a good negotiator or a tactician.

    I know these are quite extreme cases, but as many people say, I think the companies already know that hiring students just because they were good at standardized testings won’t help the companies to survive. (By the way, I’m not criticizing good schools or students. Those students usually have guts, and I think it’s often the case that they’re talented in other fields, too!) That means the older generation(including me!) was lucky in a way, because we weren’t required so much as our children. I’m really worried if my sons are going to make it.

  19. I Love Nutella on Thursday May 23rd, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Hi everyone,

    >That means the older generation(including me!) >was lucky in a way, because we weren’t required >so much as our children. I’m really worried if >my sons are going to make it.

    This is what I’m concerned. We parents also should see each kid and help them develop their potential abilities. But unfortunately, I have no confidence to do it, because I don’t know how to do it. I grew up just being told study hard and enter good uni so that I would be easy to get good jobs. As Biwa said, we might be lucky, because studying hard promise our brilliant future… I shouldn’t take care of kids in a way my parents did. I am not blaming them, but it’s true that they missed the point I should find by myself what I like, what I’m good at, and how I can develop those skills. I should have started to find it when I graduate junior high school or at least high school.

  20. YU on Thursday May 23rd, 2013 at 01:30 PM

    Hi Biwa and I Love Nutella,

    > As Biwa said, we might be lucky, because studying hard promise our brilliant future

    It was not the case any longer when I graduated from university. I finished uni. in 1993, that means, just after bubble economy burst. Some of my friends gave up on the idea of finding jobs and went abroad to study English to make themselves look more important when companies see their C.V.

    By the way, have you ever taken SPI tests Synthetic Personality Inventory(総合適性検査). I took them several times when I looked for a job after coming back from Germany about 8 years ago. I don’t think I took tests like that when I hunted a job as a uni. student about 20 years ago. I took something like 常識テスト, though….

    Hi everyone,

    I agree with him that public education kills children’s creativity.

    “Picasso once said this – all children are born artists. The problem is to remain as an artist as we grow up.”

    All children start taking the same curriculum in school at age six no matter how good they are at dancing or painting by nature. Artistic subjects aren’t as well valued as maths or languages in elementary schools.

    If it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encouraging individualization of the learning process, we’ll need to give the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers, as he suggests.
    The problem is that Japanese teachers aren’t diverse or creative enough to define the course of education because they also received standarlized education.

  21. Biwa on Thursday May 23rd, 2013 at 09:31 PM

    Hi everyone,

    If Picasso is right, I guess what teachers and parents should do is “not” to intervene children’s activities as much as possible. As Sir Ken Robinson says, we should rather focus on creating a good climate for learning instead of trying to teach something decided in the government offices. I agree that each school should decide how to do it on their own discretion. It would be a lot better if schools had different features and parents had choices where to send their children.

    Hi David,

    By the way, the word “choice” reminded me of “The Paradox of Choice”. Thank you always for recommending nice books. It was really interesting! Actually, I got so interested in “choosing” that I have started reading another book called “The Art of Choosing”. Have you read it? I was surprised to see Malcolm Gladwell’s review on the back cover. I went shopping with my younger son last weekend, and it was really interesting to consciously “choose” something, even trivial things as T-shirts.

  22. Biwa on Thursday May 23rd, 2013 at 09:58 PM

    Should I say “I have been reading another book called…” or add “already” like “I have already started reading another book…”? (Again, present perfect tense!)