At the beginning of his book, Heroes, Legends, Champions: Why Heroism Matters, Andrew Bernstein makes his point:
Flourishing human life requires heroes.
Bernstein goes on to explain that this is not just because heroes typically perform great deeds, but because “they inspire us to seek the best within ourselves.”
As the news spread this weekend of the death of Sir Ken Robinson, many of us no doubt felt that we had lost a hero; a champion of children that was also an educational giant; a storyteller that not only knew how to spin a good yarn, but inspired a generation of educators around the world to think that we could all do better; that we could make a difference.
The majority of us never had the opportunity to meet Sir Ken in person, let alone call him our friend. The majority of us never even sat in an auditorium and heard him speak. As with many heroes in our lives, the majority of us simply watched from afar, marvelling at his effortless wit and impeccable timing.
And we smiled. At least, that’s what I remember most.
But this was no ordinary smile. It wasn’t the smile of ridicule or poking fun. It wasn’t restricted to clever word play or observational comedy. This was a comedic art in which our hero, not unlike the Shakespearean fool, would tell the story from a different point of view and, in doing so, turn the story of learning completely on its head.
So when we smiled at the absurdity of it all, we found ourselves smiling at ourselves and wondering how we could do better.
Some may say that Sir Ken never told us how to become the school that we were inspired to dream about. He never published the 10-step guide to moving beyond the industrialist model of which he spoke. Heroes rarely take on such matters of governance.
But he pushed us all to be better by reminding us that, behind our political systems, protocols and structures, wherever we may be, there is a child and that it is our honour and duty to ensure this and every child is given the opportunity to flourish.
And, for that, they will need heroes of their own.