Sir Ken’s Corollary

For those of us who cut our virtual teeth on BBS culture, usenet,  and a world of online debate that consisted of very few graphics, massive scrolls of text, protracted argument, and multi-thread flamewars… “Godwin’s Law” is probably old hat. For those not steeped in the lore of Lynx-era geekery, Godwin’s Law basically says that as an argument intensifies and grows more protracted (specifically in the online space), the chance of Hitler analogies being used approaches 1. Basically: the longer people argue, the more likely someone is eventually going to compare the other side to a bunch of Nazis. Godwin’s law inundated the online screamfest for years with people invoking it as a victory flag e.g. “Haha! You compared us to Nazis! I invoke Godwin’s and have won the argument!” The whole point here is that certain cultural touchstones well up as people discuss things. When people argue, Hitler becomes a cultural touchstone synonymous with “evil.”

I’m now proposing a corollary to Godwin’s Law. And that is the “Sir Ken Corollary.” On my commute I have started listening to a lot of podcasts (Teachthought, Adam Jones Education Podcast, TeacherCast), I’m looking at you. As I’ve listened to them all, I’ve realized that there is a common touchstone in the educational space. That touchstone is Sir Ken Robinson. In my own world as I’m talking about education, I will eventually get around to talking about Sir Ken. I thought I was uniquely obsessed with Ken Robinson, but I’ve realized that everyone in education is obsessed with him. Additionally, people throw Sir Ken out there at varying levels depending on conversational partner: Examples

  1. I’m talking to a fellow educational disruptor who has been in the game for a while. I can probably casually mention in passing, “Ken Robinson’s TED talk…” and know that they’ll immediately get the reference.
  2. I’m talking to someone else in the “current’ ecosystem. Here, I’m working with an assumption that they 1) Are familiar with TED talks and 2) Are familiar with some of the larger issues facing education. The mention might sound like, “Have you seen Ken Robinson’s, TED? Oh man! You should really check it out. It’s really important.”
  3. I’m talking to someone who has zero online native status. At this point the conversation goes something like, “There are these great online vidoes you can watch where a bunch of really interesting people share ideas in 20 minute segments. It’s called TED. Just google it. By the way, check out Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Why Schools Kill Creativity” first!”

The common touchstone is that I’m going to be recommending Sir Ken Robinson in all three scenarios. Therefore, I propose the Sir Ken Corollary to Godwin’s Law. “As a conversation about education (or TED) progresses, the chances of Sir Ken Robinsons TED talk being mentioned approaches 1.”

And this is all for good reason. After all, he has the most viewed TED Talk of all time, logging in at around over 13 million views and counting for “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Charting all the times I’ve show it to students and colleagues, I’m probably responsible for a few thousand of those.

Moment of confession: this is all a really long winded way of telling you all: I’m going to see Ken Robinson at Big Bang in a few months! I couldn’t be more excited. As the post proves, I think that he is, literally, at the epicenter of the educational paradigm shift on Planet Earth.  If you’ve never seen his video, check it out.


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