Are You In The Element?


The Element by Ken Robinson challenges both individuals and the public education system to realize the importance of creativity and its role in the modern world.  Creativity doesn’t just refer to arts and crafts, but rather a mode of independent thinking and problem solving.  Every individual has specialized talent and they often get sidelined by standardized curriculum and the daily grind.

Robinson believes its time to wake up and realize the value of understanding individual intelligence on every level.  The Element is defined as finding your niche both personally and professionally in order to lead a life that has meaning on both of those levels.  The idea of a fulfilling life extends beyond the standards of what we define as “success.” Success is a relative term and we might want to consider changing what it means to us as a society. Imagine how the world might change if everyone got the chance to discover their true talents whether it be math, engineering, art, dance, writing, singing, drawing, forensics, etc.

However, Robinson makes an interesting point that being in your element doesn’t always translate to a career. Sometimes, being in your element simply creates balance between professional responsibilities and free time. For example, maybe someone is a cashier by day and a painter by night. Essentially, finding your element can provide meaning no matter how it is implemented in your life.

The problem is current public education system provide few opportunities (or none at all) for people to discover their true talents. We are in an era that needs creative independent thinkers, but as it stands education is drowning in a sea of standardized testing. Teachers are bound to teaching to tests that fail to include a wide variety of intelligences. In a sense, we are trapping our society into one mode of thinking. Now that isn’t to say standardized testing should be abolished — it does have its purpose — but our reliance on it to define and pigeonhole intelligence has overrun the education system. They key here is to find a balance between accountability and helping people figure out  their true talents.  As Robinson puts it, we shouldn’t be asking, “How intelligent are you?”  Instead, the question should be, “How are you intelligent?”

Are you in your element?

c.b. 2011


16 thoughts on “Are You In The Element?

  1. Ugh! Don’t even get me started on standardized testing! I think everyone everywhere knows that they don’t measure intelligence, talent or even knowledge of a particular subject! What they do measure is which kids test well.

    Sorry – I got started…. I’ll put this book on my tbr list!


    • I keep this book on my desk at work to remind me that its my job to teach my students how to think, rather than turn them into rote machines that only care about the “right” answer. If we teach people how to think, its inevitable they will do well on any sort of test, whether standardized or those put forth by life itself. 🙂


    • Well, said. 🙂 For a long time, I remember being regarded as strange because my notes were full of doodles, colors, and patterns. And that I never seemed to see things like everyone else. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to treasure that facet of my personality. I don’t want my students to have to wait that long.


  2. Symbolically, art and craft, represent creativity for me, along with writing fiction or poetry. They keep me connected with my inner self, keep me believing in hope, even as work and finances and health issues want to squash the spirit. Finding one’s passion does change everything, but at what expense to those around them? As a parent, I watched as the innate curiosity and enthusiasm of my oldest son slowly dwindled in a sea of worksheets. CB, I think your post has struck a nerve in me and this subject needs more reflection.


    • The interesting thing about creativity is that it has the capacity to be defined in multiple ways. Some people are creative in the traditional sense, while others turn creativity into something entirely different . . . and quite amazing. For some, they are creative with numbers or business plans. While I enjoy arts and crafts, my creativity extends to my profession where I relish the challenge of coming up with interesting lesson plans that help my students learn. Creativity can function in any field, but it can only flourish when individual thought is not only taught but valued. If we are always after the right answer, we’ll never come up with a better one we never considered before. 🙂

      I hope the nerve I struck is a positive one as you are the epitome of following your muse, no matter what you choose to do! 🙂


  3. Since retiring, I am finally in my element: music, writing, creating of all sorts. All discovered as an adult, certainly not encouraged by schooling, even as long ago as I was a student. Rarely in my work life was I allowed to be in my element – the standardized test mentality permeated my ex- working world. No creativity or independent thought allowed, either as a supervisor or worker bee. I feel so fortunate that I have this opportunity to be in my element, now that the shackles of school and job no longer chain me to someone else’s idea of what my life should be. I’ll definitely be reading this book!


    • Your blog appealed to me because of your journey. When I started reading about your adventures with your harp and how music is a such a huge part of who you are, it made me think about The Element. You are so lucky to be in a place where your passion is part of your life! 🙂


  4. Your summary definitely piqued my interest. I’ll put the book on my list of things to read during my time off school.

    Check out this whimsical video, “Creativity Requires Time,” that demonstrates the importance of letting people find their own voice and intelligence. It made me smile – and think you’ll enjoy it too!


  5. Sounds like a really good read!

    I am totally there — *yes*. We need a bit of a copernicus shift in the world view we spend so many years instilling in those still seeking a mix of cultural, economic and personal identity that suits them. The view we present is stark, and the pickings slim. No one knows how to follow those few who’ve bushwhacked their way to a life in their ‘element’ so to speak. Looks like a miracle from the ‘authorized’ road we so carefully trudge. 😉



    • It’s a great read! I hear he’s coming out with a follow up book in 2012 and I hope its true. This is such an inspirational book for anyone who knows the feeling of being trapped in a narrow vision.

      There’s always more than one road to travel . . . we just have to be brave enough to see it. 🙂


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