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Review of Ken Robinson’s “The Element”

I just finished reading Ken Robinson’s “The Element,” just released in paperback this December. It’s been marketed as a self-help book, and in many ways it is. But it’s actually a celebration/appreciation of the combination of art, science, creativity, and letting the thinking mojo flow.

Ken Robinson is a creativity advocate, with a focus is education reform, so the book covers a lot of his ideas about why current public mainstream education practices are bunk and how they squash creative thinking. One of the ways “The Element” does this is by providing examples of people who allowed their brains to work as a whole, combining both the art and science parts to think as a cohesive organ and create breakthroughs in Physics, dance, and entertainment.

Unfortunately these sections end up feeling latched onto the book rather than flowing from concept to example and back, but they do a good job of illustrating Robinson’s emphasis on creativity and letting all parts of the brain work together, not compartmentalizing it as we often do in education today.

I am also a huge fan of Robinson, from his TED talks and other presentations, so I also noticed that some of the stories in this book were the same ones that he often uses in talks and lectures. It only bothered me because I know there are more amazing stories out there than these half dozen, and Robinson did share some new stories I had not heard. However, these handful of stories are really powerful, and for someone who isn’t a Robinson fanatic it shouldn’t be a problem.

Despite the lack of flow of some parts of this book, it was a great read; I blazed through all 288 pages of it in one night. Overall Robinson is a great storyteller, as is evident in his presentations. He has written a couple of other books on the subject, and I look forward to picking them up too.


Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.

One thought on “Review of Ken Robinson’s “The Element”

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