Letters From the President: What the Popularity of TED Talks Means for Education

The ever-increasing popularity of TED Talks is, to say the least, an interesting reflection on the state of education today. The talks provide a unique opportunity to learn from the best and the brightest, experts in a wide range of fields. We of course, have the internet to thank for enabling these large scale discussion forums. But what does our general enjoyment of these miniature lectures say about us?

First of all, I think it presents a quite refreshing outlook on our sense of curiosity as human beings. TED Talks almost didn’t happen simply because the concept was deemed too intellectual for the general public, and yet over 140 of their lectures have over a million views each. Which is a massive figure considering what they are. This is people seeking out knowledge on things they’re interested in or don’t know much about, and sharing this knowledge. It’s an avenue of creating a more educated and well-rounded public – absolutely incredible! And I, for one, take comfort in the knowledge that we have not been so desensitized by information access on the internet that we still seek to learn more.

It is also interesting to note that the most popular TED Talks are not only those that are longer, but those that address huge and risky questions. The current state of the world presents a lot of problems, especially in the case of education, and we are being given a way to open these issues up to general discussion.

The TED Talks which address education, education technology, and education reform are among the most interesting. Education is, as it should be, one of the most important aspects of society. It is the preparation of future generations for their inheritance of the world. And yet, it seems to my a highly-undervalued topic of conversation. That’s why talks like Sir Ken Robinson’s on schools killing creativity are so monumental in their potential. There are aspects of the American education system which aren’t the best or most efficient or as productive as they could be, and the only way we can root out the problems and improve is if we start talking about it. And I don’t mean bureaucrats – I mean teachers, administrators, students – those who are facing the issues on a local level. Bureaucrats have their place, but it may not necessarily be within these discussions.

In short, I equate the general public watching and conversing about TED Talks to trying to solve a puzzle and finding the answer after talking it through with someone else. Dialogue has the potential to reform education, and it may do just that if we let it.