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Why teaching is 'not like making motorcars'

By John D. Sutter, CNN
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Teacher: Education is broken
  • Educator says the school system is broken and must focus on individuals
  • Sir Ken Robinson: Schools today work like factories
  • Robinson: "The problem is that educating young people is not like making motorcars"
  • Comments came in an interview after the recent TED Conference

(CNN) -- Sir Ken Robinson says our education system works like a factory. It's based on models of mass production and conformity that actually prevent kids from finding their passions and succeeding, he said.

"The problem is that educating young people is not like making motorcars -- at all," the author and educator said in a recent interview. "And one key difference is that motorcars have no interest in how they're made, and young people do."

Robinson, author of "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything," spoke to CNN after a recent lecture at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

TED is a nonprofit group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading" which makes talks from its conferences available online.

Watch a 2006 "TED talk" with Ken Robinson

Instead of trying to mass-produce children who are good at taking tests and memorizing things, schools should emphasize personal development, Robinson said. Not all kids are good at the same things, and the education system shouldn't pretend they should all turn out the same, he said.

"We can't just improve [schools]," he said. "We have to radically transform them."

Schools today are "preoccupied with certain types of ability," he said.

The comments came before the current debate over education policy erupted in the United States. President Obama this week proposed an overhaul of the U.S. education system, and a school board in Rhode Island made headlines after it fired all of the teachers at an underperforming high school.

Robinson said his aim is to help students find their passions and to inspire creativity.

That will keep them from turning into complacent and bored adults, he said.