Thursday, March 14, 2013

TED Talks: Octopi and Knights

For the past few weeks, my English class has been focusing heavily on TED talks and visual note-taking. At first, I started watching these talks simply because they were assigned for homework, but before long I was hooked. I found out that there were TED talks about every subject imaginable, including marine life, which I happen to be extremely fascinated with. For a few days, I focused on David Gallo's presentation of his underwater photography and filming and various marine biologists' efforts to protect the ocean. One of my favorite Gallo TED talk moments, which I found myself rewatching nearly a dozen times today was this shot of a piece of coral that, when approached, suddenly turned into an octopus. Within seconds, the octopus had swam away, but those few seconds of transition from coral to octopus was amazing. The camouflage was so sophisticated - not just a pattern of colors, but also textures that the octopus imitated so perfectly. It was really fascinating to see.
Then, for homework yesterday, I watched Sir Ken Robinson's talk on "How Schools Kill Creativity." And I was mind-blown. In a mere eighteen minutes, this man made me laugh (really laugh, not just quietly chuckle or smile), he made me question, and he made me think more times than I can count. His presentation was such a perfect blend of informal banter, serious content, and interesting anecdotes. From the very start, I was hooked. So I downloaded Robinson's sequel TED talk, which he gave four years after his original one, and watched that today. Often, I find that a sequel is nowhere near as good as the first work. That was definitely not the case with Robinson. His second presentation was every bit as funny, as engaging, and as interesting as his first one. This time, he spoke more specifically about talents and how schools don't emphasize certain talents enough and, instead, force children to conform to what society deems is important (namely math and languages). 
It was as if he had summed up all my thoughts on the current education system into a fifteen minute speech. For years, I had these wonderful teachers who were forced to bend their lessons around standardized testing and an outdated curriculum. Instead of fostering an individual student's creativity, the education system forced these teachers to give their kids an x amount of non-fiction based reading assignments, x amount of projects, x amount of hours spent preparing for state tests. And all for what? These students weren't interested in when the Battle of Monmouth occurred or what a Bose-Einstein condensate is. Besides, that information would not help the majority of them, in any way, in their future careers. Rather than trying to find a talent that the student both enjoys and is good at, that student is forced to focus on subjects that the government decided was important. That's increasing even more now with the emphasis on STEM subjects, to meet the economy's need for engineers. The little ballerina, who was more at home in a dance studio than in a classroom, and the gymnast, who found more comfort in the balance beam than in a wooden desk, will be pushed into a school where their futures are already mapped out for them, whether they like it or not. Elementary school, middle school, high school, undergrad studies in college, graduate studies in college, and then a job as a doctor or engineer. Nobody bothers to ask whether their dreams actually follow that path. 


  1. What I find nowadays is that many various ways of communication with the public (including newspapers, TED Talks, etc.) are starting to pick up on the point of view that Sir Ken Robinson expresses. And then the next time such an article or video is made, it usually includes, somewhere in it, the opening phrase "What most people don't realize..." or something of that sort. But now people are starting to see. They do realize; they're recognizing the problems. But no one is doing anything to fix them.

  2. Very well done, N.K. Now I have to go watch that other TED talk!