Women in Physics posters for schools

I’ve updated my poster pack for my lab that has 36 mini posters of successful women in physics. I wanted the girls who came into the lab to see a future pathway for themselves right there. I wanted them to walk into the room and think this is a subject for them and a career for them as much as anyone else. These women are not in the textbooks.

Unusually for most wall displays in classrooms, students (and visitors) stop to read the stories. Not only that, when I’m telling the tale of a discovery I can quickly point to the relevant one.

I took the photos from the internet so I can’t profit from it so happy for it to go far and wide. There are two up on each A4 so just print each page in colour and cut out to make your display.

The idea was to make these scientists look real, normal, varied and relevant, on first name terms. I chose the best photos I could find close to the age where they did their best work. In two cases I used actors portraying the person; anything to bring these women to life and for our girls to see themselves in them.

Let me know if you get them up somewhere and if anyone comments on it!

Thanks to translation by @vincent_grgoire we now have a version in French!

This new version has all the images in colour (I’ve colourised the black and white photos) and increased the quality of the images.

I’ve been delighted to hear that other physics teachers have downloaded it and put it on their lab walls. It’s now in around 50 classrooms around the country.

Download your new copy as a PDF here (Heddy Lamarr typo is now fixed and Andrea Ghez added):

Words from the Woods

I’d long had the goal of inspiring children to write more and better stories and collect them into an anthology and finally this year I achieved that goal.

The book is called Words from the Woods (my 7 year old daughter came up with the title from the fact that our school bus nestled on the edge of the woods.)


Initially it had the double goal of using stories with some as a tool to better engage students in science, by encouraging them to create a narrative around a scientific phenomenon an with others, to draw out the creativity of those already proficient in science but less likely to develop their imaginations. Surprisingly, most of the schools I had worked with had little interest in the idea. It was only when I came to Fyling Hall in January 2016 that I could set up an after-school club to develop these ideas and The Intergalactic Writers’ Guild was born.


I say ‘guild’ and not ‘club’ as just like the trade guilds of old, the idea of the meetings was to develop, home and improve our craft of storytelling. We met for an hour every week and played creativity games designed to encourage and develop different aspects of story creation and writing: imagination, description, characters, locations, voice, atmosphere, style and purpose. Two of these exercises resulted in short pieces that are so interesting, I’ve included them as works in their own right at the back of the book.

The themes we explored centred around two interesting techniques that you’ll see reflected in most of the stories. The first and most powerful starting idea for a creative expression was the speculative fiction idea of ‘what if?’ – asking a question or changing one aspect of reality and dealing with the consequences which unfold as a story. 

The other key theme was ‘the ghost story’ which was especially exhilarating during dark autumn and winter evenings (and sometimes telling stories by candlelight) and it is this genre more than any other threw up so many interesting ideas that you’ll find many of the stories herein fall into that category.

Not all contributions contained herein have come via the Guild. A batch of stories were written as part of English lessons for years 7, 8 and 9. Some being given themes such as ‘the cold’ or ‘the other side’. I also gave two special sessions on ‘Writing the Ghost Story’ and on ‘Speculative Fiction’ for year 7 which have led to some fascinating stories that I was able to harvest for the anthology.

Overall we have 52 contributors, including those that have submitted artwork from their GCSE portfolios (not linked to any of the stories) to break up the pages between stories. Special thanks goes to Hee Joo Jin who painted the original artwork for our cover and Head of English Alex Woodhead who proofread our grammar and punctuation.

Layout 1

A sample page from the book.

The challenges that face young authors are the same that face any young person in any 21st century endeavour and fall into these four categories, which we aimed to deal with one by one in the Guild:

1. How to have an idea (creativity).

2. How to turn an idea into an interesting narrative (communication skills).

3. How to keep going (perseverance)

4. How to have a great ending (find purpose and meaning).

These skills creativity, communication, perseverance and finding a purpose are critical for a rounded education and fulfilling life and yet they don’t always fall within the traditional curriculum in many schools. For that reason I believe the work we have done here is of the highest value and has, I hope, enriched the experience of those that have participated in the book. On behalf of all our writers, artists and myself, we now hope that it will in some small way entertain, inform and educate you too, do take a look on Amazon.

I’m preparing a tool kit for teachers on how the Guild and the book were put together with such a good outcome. Drop me a line on twitter or here @aydinstone if you want to know more. I’ll post the resources on my blog here when it’s ready.

Education is all wrong: Training doesn’t work. Teaching doesn’t exist

education is wrongAre teaching and training not quite what we thought?

What if we’ve got it all wrong?

We believe that a teacher or trainer imparts information which is digested and ‘learnt’ by the student.

What if that’s not what’s happening at all. What if the ‘learning’ is a by-product of another phenomenon, a side effect of something else? What if all the theory of ‘learning styles’ is wrong?

Could we be looking at it from the wrong angle? When it comes to teaching and training we focus on the information and the delivery style. We collate masses of information that needs to be transferred from our notes and brains to the student’s notes and brains. Yet we all know that people retain only tiny amounts of information just a few hours after the teaching session. We spend ages working out the best way to get the information across and all believe we’ve found the right mix of audio, visual, kinaesthetic, interaction, jumping up and down, shouting, playing, flipchart, group work, powerpoint, dictating and so on. We find what we think is our ‘sweet spot’ of a mix of methods and assume learning will happen.

But what if it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with all that?

What if, instead, whatever we say, whatever information we impart, whatever delivery style we use, all that is happening in a teaching session is that we are training the students to think like us? What if that is ALL it is?

The more the audience adjust their neural pathways to be like us, the more bits of our information stick. The more the student likes the teacher, the more they think like them, the more they want to be respected by them, the more they want to be like them, the more they want to BE them.

If our teaching or training fails, is is really because the audience didn’t like us and didn’t want to be like us?

Take two of the greatest ‘teachers’ that come to mind, let’s choose Jesus and Gandhi. Both were actually information content poor. There are no bullet points in The Sermon on the Mount. All of Jesus’ recorded works that we have access to are contained in a short historical narrative in one book’s worth, from a teaching career of just three years.

Gandhi was equally un-prolific in content creation. He run few lectures, gave just a handful of speeches, none of which were turned into home-study courses and information-products in his lifetime. So how can these two be such great teachers when they taught so little?

The answers is that what they taught was not information. Information is a new toy and one that is overrated. Some might say, ‘they taught a message’. No they didn’t. That too is a side effect of us focusing on the wrong thing. We’re so geared to the trees of ‘information’ that we fail to see the wood.

What the great teachers taught was how to think like them, and therefore how to be like them. It’s not that they walked the talk (that’s being information focused yet again). It’s that they walked the walk and showed their audiences that walk, by walking it. Everything else was secondary. Everything else was hundreds and thousands (information) on the icing (so-called message) on the cake (the teacher himself).

In the school classroom, children learn more about who to live, how to think and how to grow from teachers they like, who inspire them. Children who respect and inspired by a  parent want to ‘follow in their footsteps’ – to be like their parent, to be that parent when they grow up. Children look to the role-models of sportspeople, pop stars and celebrities: they want to be like them, they want to be them. Role models give a mould, a model example to follow (whether they actively know it or not). They have the power to inspire (for good or ill) by modifying how the child thinks, therefore how they act as the child uses the one and only, genetic, built-in, human method of true learning: imitation.

It doesn’t matter how good the message is if the messenger is uninspiring and unlovable. If the audience don’t want to be like, to think like, to live like the messenger, there is no message.

Tony Robbins is an inspiring teacher. He delivers his near-messianic message of personal success to audiences of tens of thousands at a time. He has a cult following that has grown up around him that borders on being a religion, i.e. it has a model for living your life. When people go to Robbins’ events, they may make notes of some of his rhetoric and catchphrases, certainly, but the main things is that they have an overwhelming desire to either be his friend (they feel a close affinity with him and that if they could only meet, they’d be the best of friends) or they want to BE him. That’s why his audience is made up from coaches, trainers and speakers. Those people are attracted to him in the first place but after attending, most people find that their destiny is to BE a coach, trainer or speaker (just like Tony).

If a teacher is exceptionally successful we call them a ‘guru’. Originally that term applied to just religious figures but now is linked to people like Tony Robins and others who are exceptionally good at making people think like them.

This is why people listen to wealthy people. They want to be wealthy like them. It may be a sad inditement but it’s true. Gurus can be good, bad and neutral.

Let’s take The Beatles as being one of the best examples of individuals who attracted unusual levels of adulation. They weren’t teachers in the traditional sense, but with our definition of ‘guru’ their success can be explained in a similar way. Girls wanted to marry them, boys wanted to be them (so that the girls would be attracted to them). It wasn’t just about the music. Many people love Beethoven with a passion. But he doesn’t make them scream.

What if teaching is a con? What if it doesn’t actually exist? What if, instead we have gurus who show us how to think and how to be like them?

Information will soon become irrelevant. We don’t need to store information in our heads. What we store in our heads is how to get the information we need. Within a generation, people will have a totally different view of information than us and our predecessors in history. Information will be even more easily available than it is now and will be grabbed as and when it’s needed. Personal memory will be used to remember context instead of facts.

The question is, will our education systems and our training operations be able to grasp this idea? Will they become an outdated and irrelevant waste of time?

If we want to educate people, to improve people, to get them to take the action we think will serve them, to improve society. If we want to give our children the best way to succeed in their lives – we can’t teach them what to do. We can’t train them what to do.

We have to capture their imagination and their attention. Then we have to SHOW them who we are so that they think like us.

The most important think we can ‘teach’ a child is HOW TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Ask yourself the question: is that happening to the children you know?

If we are in the so-called information business, the education arena, the training world, we may have to question our approach, our methods, our very existence.

Perhaps we need a new paradigm. My conclusion is that we have to be the guru that our students want to follow. We have to be the guru they can believe in. We have to be the guru that they want to become. Otherwise we’re just creating more white noise that wastes time and dulls potential.

IF this is true – are we up for the task?

Can you ‘walk the walk’?

Learn more about writing and publishing your book:

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

How I was labelled ‘sick’ by some school kids

boba fett star wars comics

My comics from aged 10 (left) to age 13 (right)

(click on any of the drawings to make them bigger)

“But they’re amazing”

“Totally sick”*

I’d shown a group of fifty 14 years olds my comic strip drawings from when I was 12 from Doctor Who and Star Wars (more here). I delivered four sessions that day, to batches of fifty pupils each time and got the same reaction from each.

They seemed to think the drawings were pretty good even before I told them they were done by a 12 year old. I then told them that by the time I was their age I’d given up on wanting to be a comic strip artist. You can see my final drawings, done aged 15, below.

“But why? You’re really good.” they said.

Daleks Cyberman

Drawings of a Dalek and a Cyberman, by me aged 13

I told them it was because I didn’t think I was good enough. I’d compared myself with the professionals and felt I obviously didn’t have the talent so I gave up. I told them how I’d gone down a different route that was less frowned on by parents and teachers but was not my real passion. (For the full story, click here.)

“But all you had to do was keep at it.”

“You just needed to keep practicing” they said.

They had got the message. The previous exercise I’d done with them to write down what they really enjoyed doing, just three things they were passionate about suddenly made more sense.

Dalek Masterplan

My drawing of a Dalek, done aged 15

“But I like horseriding. How can I make a living from horseriding without doing racing?” said one girl. The girls next to her reeled off a list of horse related ways she could live a life of horseriding and make money.

That’s what my session is really about. Getting the students to realise that there already is something they can be inspired about. That their creativity can help them imagine a better, more worthwhile future right now, even when they’re constrained in the restriction of having to keep their heads down and focus on GCSEs.

In fact, a student who is inspired about their worth, about future plans and understands that the life they might like to lead can actually be theirs with application of time and energy (rather than abstract talent they may think they don’t have) does better in school right now, getting better grades as a result.

K9 from Doctor Who

My last drawing, of K9, my me aged 15. I didn't draw again until I was 23.

Unprompted, two students separately gave me a great testimonial (which I’ve actually had before a number of times):

“You’re like Willy Wonka. Not the new one, the original one.”

I’m very happy with that. It’s spot on. Do you remember the song?

“Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free, if you truly want to be.”

For more see:

Do you have contacts in schools who may like to bring in external speakers to inspire the students and get better results from them? If you do, please let me know.

In addition to me and my creative thinking sessions I have some great colleagues who cover a range of topics that inspire, improve and educate students in topics that schools don’t have the resources to tackle internally.

Please do pass this list onto the schools you’re in touch with.

Dave Hyner

Dave Hyner

Dave Hyner is the Rhino man of massive goal setting and personal achievement in schools. He runs teacher and parent workshops too to get the messages of how to achieve more and better get embedded. www.stretchdevelopment.com

Angela Whitlock

Angela Whitlock

Best-selling author Peter Roper delivers sessions on ‘natural’ presentations skills, how to speak in public with confidence in your own style. Best suited for 16-18 year olds. www.positiveground.co.uk

Angela Whitlock is an expert coach in communication skills, improving students, teachers and parents emotional resilience, often working one-to-one with parents and children to help connect them to their future. www.angelawhitlock.com

Miguel Dean unlocks learning potential for disadvantaged youngsters, especially those experiencing homelessness. www.migueldean.co.uk

Chris Matthewman

Chris Matthewman

Chris Matthewman is a comedian and self-proclaimed expert at all things to do with love and relationships which he presents as a highly entertaining and thought provoking ‘stand up comedy for schools’ show. Especially suited for PSHE and 6th forms. www.chrismattewman.com

James Burch inspires 15-19 year olds after overcoming challenges and adversity developed from been knocked down by a hit and run drunk driver to now creating the best out of every situation and help teenagers reach new levels in life.

Nigel Vardy

Nigel Vardy

Nigel Vardy survived temperatures of -60C in 1999, losing his fingers, toes and nose to severe frostbite on Mt. McKinley in Alaska.  Regardless of that, he still climbs internationally and has tackled some if the worlds toughest mountains. He talks about overcoming adversity and project management, guaranteeing to give pupils a huge dose of reality. www.nigelvardy.com

Paul Kerfoot, aka ‘The Bulletman’ is a creative director and award winning designer who has a session where the pupils (usually aged 14-16) create their own comic-book style superhero exploring themes of imagination and confidence. www.paulthebulletman.com

Michael-Don Smith helps pupils create a success mind style using his NLP for Young Mind s programmes. www.mindstyle.co.uk

Barry Jackson gives pupils interview skills to prepare them for the world of work and help them to be memorable in front of an employer.

Penny Mallory

Penny Mallory

Penny Mallory delivers a knockout 2 hour workshop to Year 9-11 students based on her experience as a homeless teenager turned rally driver and TV presenter – a high impact presentation that inspires students to achieve their maximum potential. www.motivatingstudents.co.uk

Lee Jackson talks about motivation and relationships at school. His fantastic and original new book ‘How to be Sick at School’ written for pupils, taps into what makes the children want to listen to the message to achieve more. www.howtobesickatschool.com

* I’d only recently learnt from Lee Jackson that this word is used where previous generations would have used ‘wicked’, ‘bad’, ‘skill’ or ‘cool’.

My Creativity Mission

You’ve got to have a convincing ‘why’ to motivate you to do something. I’ve learnt that it can’t simply be ‘to make money’, there should be a higher purpose, a goal beyond that. So I decided to write down what mine was. Once that was clear it was interesting to see how it then affected behaviour. If I now have a decision to make on whether to pursue a particular project, I can run it past the mission: will this new project support my mission in any way? If the answer is ‘no’, then the decision is easy to make.

So here’s my mission statement:

“To create environments where creativity flourishes, where people experiment with innovative ideas together, free of dogma and boredom, where adults and children are able to develop and use their talents, uniqueness and abilities to their fullest potential without judgement, to benefit themselves and others. Empowering all people to be confident so that they can innovate their personal and business lives. To invest in a more creative future for all.”

With that in place it seemed more like a good idea for me to speak more in schools, to help empower both children and teachers in supporting creative thinking and doing. I’ve put together a compilation of my recent schools talks in the video below.

Here is a testimonial from a head teacher:

“Organised, personable, entertaining, and with some very clear and relevant messages for our Sixth Formers. Ayd is sincere and the students do appreciate that, and are far more likely to listen and weigh up what is being said, as a consequence.

Within 24 hours, one of our students changed her university course application to match her new understanding of the challenges the future might bring.

There was food for thought for all, and I would also consider booking Ayd for an hour at the start of a  staff inset day, particularly if the teachers needed to embrace change in a creative way. His anecdotes are also clear evidence of the huge power of teachers to add or detract from peoples’ lives, and we often forget this as we go about our everyday interactions with kids.”

— Ken Sullivan, Head of Sixth Form, Leighton Park School

If you’d like me to come and speak in a school near you, please do get in touch.

In the meantime, what’s your mission?

For more see:

Creative confidence – totally lacking in today’s schools?

I’ve done talks at a fair few schools recently. I’ve written about what I’ve found before (see here) and some of those same concepts of a lack of creative confidence keep appearing. It all makes me wonder – is it worth it? Should I be bothering at all?

When I ask the audience (of 14 to 18 years olds), “what would you do with a billion pounds?” they manage to answer it, just, but in such a low level way.

“Buy a car” was one boy’s answer.

“What sort of car?” I asked.

“I dunno”

“What about one of those small bubble cars?”

“No way!”

“What then?”

After a big pause he said, embarrassed, “A BMW”

“Ah, one of the small BMWs”

“No way, a great big one.”

“So, you do know” I said. “Why didn’t you know that you knew? Why didn’t you write down ‘A big BMW’?”

One other girl said, in all seriousness, she would by “A book”. A billion pounds and she’d by a book.

“What book?” I said.
“I dunno”

Reading this you’ll probably laugh and say ‘that’s teenagers for you’. But I’m not sure that it is, or rather that it should be.

The question is of course testing imagination and barriers to thinking about what we want and what we deserve.

One teacher questioned my approach of attempting to ‘inspire the students to think big, break out of artificial boundaries and claim their future’ saying that they were quite capable of that and really what they needed was to knuckle down and concentrate and that my message negated hard work and academic study.

What would be the point of booking a speaker on Creativity and Brilliance for them to say “you’ve got to get your head down and study” – that’s the schoolsjob. I have to assume they’re doing her job and I can build my message on top.

It was announced this week on the news that on average 70 graduates apply for every graduate job. Companies will not even look at anyone who has less than a 2:1 degree. My theme is not that hard work and study are not important, the opposite in fact that you need to perform even better than before, but that great qualifications are no longer enough ON THEIR OWN. And that creativity is what will be the deciding factor if everyone has the same high standard.

So are children confident with their creativity? Are they able to unleash it and use it to be brilliant, to better solve problems and further themselves and their careers?

I’m not so sure. When I do any of my creativity games at schools, fun tests to see who’s paying attention and who recognises boundaries to their creativity, they all fall for it, everytime. They’re all so eager to please that they don’t have any thoughts of their own without thinking about the answer they think the teacher (or in this case me) is looking for. When I do the same routines for business we have good fun with the games and occasionally people see through them. But when the children stand there in my orange hula hoop, terrified to step out of it in case they ‘do it wrong’ I feel that imagination, thinking big and identifying boundaries is needed by them more than any generation I’ve ever worked with.

This raises the question of how far I can go without appearing to tread on teachers or the system’s toes. I don’t think I do, but anyone who has a particular bee in their bonnet may feel that I do.

If you see me do the hoop thing you’ll see that I say we need to get rid of the artificial self imposed limitations that constrains us but we are still bound by the walls of the room – the real boundaries and we need to know what those real boundaries are in order to be fully creative. I use sport as an example: without following the rules you can’t play the game. I make a big point of saying that everyone has unbounded ‘creativity’, not ability. What we all chose to do, what we’re all eventually capable of, is different. Only an idiot would say “you can do anything”.

If you look at the lyrics of my closing song it says: “You’ve got to do everything that you can” not “You can do anything that you want”. There’s a key difference there.

Schools by their nature have to operate like sausage factories. My message is anti-sausage factory, it’s an add-on to what schools do, it’s what they can’t do. At the end of the day, I’m talking about creativity, not about being normal. I’m talking about standing out and standing up, not about being the same. To do that I have to be a maverick, I have to be a loose canon, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing the job right.

We’re dealing with a changing world. The only thing we can be certain of is that things will change, and at a faster pace too. I think that systems, like schools, don’t like that and try to fight it.

My message is that if we can teach our children one thing, it needs to be that they are able to cope with change. We need to make sure they learn how to learn. And that’s what creativity is.

My opinion is that the schools may not want it, but our school children certainly need it.

(Read more here)

For more see:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

In my presentations to both school and business audiences, I ask who is an artist and who is a scientist.

The idea of course is that my proposal is that to be creative we have to be both scientist and artist. We need to be able to embrace both logic and chaos, both critical and possibility thinking.

At a school recently I spoke to an audience of 14 year olds. I asked the question,’who here is a scientist’. Note this is after I have explained what a scientist is in simple terms – someone able to question, to make judgements, to experiment to search for the truth. Out of a group of sixty, five hands went up (two of those were teachers). I’d already warmed them up so I knew they were capable and confident in raising their arms to earlier questions.

Does that surprise you? Perhaps not. But the name of that school had as it’s suffix “school of science”. Science was its specialism and yet know one who attended it was a scientist? Why? My theory is that none of the pupils considered themselves ‘a scientist’ or ‘an artist’ or anything else because those are labels applied only to worthy adults. They hadn’t noticed that if you do science, you’re a scientist. If you do art, you’re an artist. Their version of the situation was that they are pupils. Boring, unimportant, useless and irrelevant pupils. Their job, their identity was to be a pupil. You might well say, what’s wrong with that? I feel it’s so limited and constraining that it’s dangerous.

Children adopt this label of nondescript ‘pupil’ as their identity. Then they reach 14 or 15 and are told to choose a route to a job. They used to call it ‘Which Way Now’ with a poster of some inane Radio1 DJ with his headphones on, as if he was some expert in career development. We ask them to choose another label. Do you want to be a doctor or a tv presenter? There probably were a few other rubbish choices. To be a doctor the pathway is fairly clear: you have to be good at everything and then go to medical school. Almost every other profession is less clear. How do I become an archeologist? How do I become a philosopher? Those ‘options’ weren’t on the poster. How do I become head of marketing for a major international corporation? No-one knows. The options are so limited. The reason they are even more limited is that the ‘chooser’ has to make such a leap from generic pupil to sophisticated label. There’s such an obvious chance hat the pupil says ‘forensic science sounds interesting, but I’m not that type of person. I don’t know anything about it.’ Of course they don’t have technical knowledge, but the attitude or ideals probably was there, at one point but was suppressed out by genericness.

I went to a large mechanical engineering exhibition when I was seven with my Dad whose company was exhibiting large machine tools. It was called MACH’78. On arrival you were given a name badge which had your name, occupation and company embossed it just like a credit card. How exciting to get my name on such a object! They asked me for my name and typed it into a computer. I was about to give my occupation and company name when they printed the card. Under my name it read: ‘Schoolboy’. I was incensed that my identity had been reduced to something so trivial, and short-lived (I saw my attendance at school as a temporary condition). Perhaps I hadn’t really got it clear in my head exactly what I would have put had they asked me but that’s not the point.

I was lucky. My imagination wasn’t dulled by such things. Perhaps a large group of children do still flourish in the same way. But from what I’ve seen at schools I’ve visited, we’re doing a big disservice to so many.

What do you want to be when you grow up? What an annoying patronising question.

For more see:

What would YOU do with a billion pounds? I dunno.



Speaking at schools recently I came upon scenarios and attitudes that I didn’t expect and that, although subtle, are more damning to the future of the children (and therefore our society) than at first they appear. I started off the talk with a simple warm up question: What would you do if you have a billion pounds? I make sure I tell them what a billion is as it’s so out of our ordinary experience. A billion is a thousand million. It’s a lot of money. That large Euro Lottery rollover win recently was only £30 million. So a billion pounds will buy a lot of stuff.

The question is really one of aspiration, imagination and to a certain extent goal setting. The answers I hope to see are big, bold, creative thinking ideas, hopefully as far-fetched as the question. What actually happens is underwhelming. There are a always a few good ones, ‘buy a football team’ or ‘buy a mountain and run my own skiing centre’. There a a few obvious and vague ‘give some of it to charity’ – with rarely a specified charity or amount. But from a group of sixty children, the vast majority fail to think of anything beyond the dull, ‘go shopping’. For what? They don’t know. Bare in mind the task is done in small groups, privately, written down with no onus to share publicly. It is not fear of being seen to be foolish that stops them (which does stifle imagination and creativity dramatically).

What appeared to be the cause of the astonishing lack of, well, anything, was perhaps a roadblock in being able to answer the question at all. After talking to some teachers I came to the conclusion that the children couldn’t answer the question because they were unable to guess what answer I required. They were using their brain power to try to figure out what I wanted from them, to pass the test, to be give correct answer. They had been trained at school to absorb information and then regurgitate it in a particular fashion to please the system. Their whole being was geared up to pleasing or satisfying the system. They were trained in the didactic of right and wrong, true or false. They had to give the truthful, correct, winning answer. Imagination, creativity and interestingly, personal opinion, desire and future thinking didn’t come into it.

This, in my mind is dreadful and a sad indictment. Is it true that our children are having their imaginations undeveloped as we condition them to give the required answers that are easier to mark and to filter for statistics and charting? Have we created sausage factories, churning out conditioned little parrots with no thoughts of their own and no ability to think of them? Without nurturing hopes and dreams, without encouraging imagination and opinions we are setting up children to lives of mediocrity at best and years of misery through low self confidence and worthlessness at worst.

I asked the question, “Who here thinks they are capable of being a creative genius?”. As you’d expect, out of 60 only four hands went up (as two of those were teachers). So I asked a control question, “Who here thinks they are a complete dullard who wouldn’t recognise a good idea if it bit them on the nose?” An astonishing 60% put their hands up.

I asked the teachers a question we should ask ourselves, “What are we teaching these kids?”

For more see:

Do our schools programme us to fail in business?

What is the point of the education system? Is it to prepare our young people for a productive and happy life in society? That would be nice. Is it to allow every child to be the best they can be? That would be a great goal. Is it just to keep kids off the streets (as many believe)? Sadly, it is possible that the education system has no goals at all.

But it once did have a goal. It was set down in the Victorian Industrialist era to prepare children to work in factories. That purpose was never replaced with anything more suitable. That’s why we were all educated in a room full of children all sat in rows. We were all told to shut up, don’t talk to your neighbour, don’t look to see what anyone else is doing, just concentrate on your own work and face the foreman at the front. Above the foreman was a clock and when a bell sounded we were all allowed outside and when a bell sounded again we all came in. Just like in the factory. We were given a smattering of almost useless general knowledge and the education system’s job was done.

The problem with having a goal such as this means that we were all trained to behave in a certain way in the world of work, for a world that no-longer exists. Being told that to ‘conform is good’, that to ‘keep quite is good’ and ‘not to copy is good’ all have latent side-effects. Those behaviours give rise to beliefs that strangle creativity and leave us unprepared for a changing world in three ways:

1. If you conform in business you don’t stand out. Ok, you don’t risk making mistakes, but being risk-averse means you become frightened of failure and that means you’re unable to grow. Instead we’re taught that failure is bad.

2. If you’re in business and don’t talk to anyone else you will hate networking and fail at building relationships and teams, the secret to success in society. Instead we’re taught that you should work by yourself in silence.

3. If you’re in business and you don’t look to see what the competition is doing, if you don’t copy the best ideas and improve on them you end up being left behind. But we’re taught that we have to be totally original (which is impossible) so we fail.

As adults, by realising this, we can turn back the clock and reinstate our creative selves that were persecuted and locked away all those years ago. Perhaps times have changed slightly. Perhaps there are individual schools that have greater, more honourable goals. But the ‘system’ has no such goal except to produce ‘results’ by testing and ranking pupils and schools. For our children we can and should examine how they are being educated and ask the simple question – what is the system for.

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