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Why Dropping Out of School Could Actually Help Your Kid, According to One Education Expert

Source: Time

“Sir Ken Robinson is the kind of person who has always been good at school. He spent more than a decade as a professor of education after earning his Ph.D. He led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy in the United Kingdom. And he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his service to the arts.

But he is now one of the most vocal advocates for unconventional types of education that foster creativity and champion students who aren’t wired for worksheets and standardized tests. He allowed his daughter to leave high school at age 16 to pursue a self-designed curriculum. And he wants other parents to consider that a nontraditional education — even dropping out — might be what’s best for their children. To be sure, Robinson, a strong proponent of public education, does not believe that’s a solution for everyone.

“I studied for a Ph.D. I write books. I was a university professor. It’s not as if I’m some outcast from the system who thinks it’s all awful,” Robinson told TIME. But he notes that there are too many people for whom the current education system doesn’t work.

“We have cultivated a very narrow conception of intelligence, and while academic work is important in itself and rewarding for the people who enjoy it, it should not be seen as the sole measure of intelligence,” he said.

Robinson is urging parents to rethink how they define a good education and consider other types of learning for their children. He also wants them campaign for change within school systems that he thinks have failed to adapt in the 21st century. That’s the focus of his new book, released Tuesday — You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education.

“A common misconception among parents that I’ve spoken with is the idea that the best thing they can do for their kids is go along with this — encourage them to get all the GPA scores as high as they can and get into the best college, and everything will be great,” he said. “What I’m arguing is there are many other routes to success, and that one is not as tried and tested as it used to be.”

Robinson — whose 2006 TED Talk, “Do schools kill creativity?”, has been watched more than 50 million times and is the most-viewed TED Talk ever — remains troubled by the high rate of standardized testing in schools, the emphasis on STEM disciplines over arts and humanities programs, high levels of student stress and anxiety and the trend toward more homework and less recess.

Some education leaders, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have championed school-choice initiatives and charter schools, arguing they give parents more decision-making power over their children’s education. But Robinson is critical of voucher programs that draw funding from public schools, raising concerns about the “proliferation of charter schools of mixed quality.”

He argues that a good school — whether public, private or charter — should have a broad curriculum that incorporates language arts, mathematics, science, arts, humanities, physical education and life skills, including financial literacy and nutrition. If a curriculum lacks that breadth, he encourages parents to work with teachers and principals, help balance their child’s learning outside of school, or consider an alternative type of education altogether, rather than force children to adapt to an education system that doesn’t fit.