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Teach the Arts to Overcome Robot OverLords!

Following on from last week’s blogpost, I’d like to draw your attention to a speech given by Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum last year.

Jack (also known as Ma Yun) is one of China’s most successful, powerful, wealthy and philanthropic business leaders who lectures widely about how to, in his own words, “help more people to make healthy money, 'sustainable money,' money that is not only good for themselves but also good for the society. That's the transformation we are aiming to make.”

He has a slightly different slant on the present challenge to education. While totally behind the argument that a knowledge-based system regurgitating the facts of the last 200 years is outmoded, he states that the danger we face comes from automation. His point of view is that as it’s possible that robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030, we shouldn’t be trying to compete with what machines can do better than us, but rather concentrate on the areas where humans excel - where robots cannot follow.

His conclusion is the same as many of us who want to see major change, despite coming at it from a different angle and background. 

Values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, care for others, creativity, are the areas of focus he cites as desirable for the future - and guess what? He advocates teaching sports, music, painting, art: soft skills and creative competencies learned through experiential activity rather than needless repetition by rote.

I want to see these things too, primarily because I believe that a life spent learning, always being interested in learning more, is a life well led, and I don’t think today’s education system instils this in our children - quite the opposite in fact.

To my mind, the slight differences in motivation for change are unimportant, and I’m thankful if it means more voices coming together to persuade the powers that be that we are currently failing our children, and that it has to stop.

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