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Annotated captions of Gever Tulley on 5 dangerous things for kids in English

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Welcome to "Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do."

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I don't have children.

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I borrow my friends' children, so

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(Laughter)

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take all this advice with a grain of salt.

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I'm Gever Tulley.

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I'm a contract computer scientist by trade,

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but I'm the founder of something called the Tinkering School.

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It's a summer program which aims to help kids to learn

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how to build the things that they think of.

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So we build a lot of things.

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And I do put power tools into the hands of second-graders.

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So if you're thinking about sending your kid to Tinkering School,

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they do come back bruised, scraped and bloody.

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So, you know, we live in a world

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that's subjected to ever more stringent child safety regulations.

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There doesn't seem to be any limit on how crazy

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child safety regulations can get.

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We put suffocation warnings on all the -- on every piece of plastic film

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manufactured in the United States or for sale

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with an item in the United States.

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We put warnings on coffee cups to tell us

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that the contents may be hot.

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And we seem to think that any item

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sharper than a golf ball is too sharp

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for children under the age of 10.

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So where does this trend stop?

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When we round every corner and eliminate every sharp object,

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every pokey bit in the world,

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then the first time that kids come in contact with anything sharp

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or not made out of round plastic,

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they'll hurt themselves with it.

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So, as the boundaries of what we determine as the safety zone

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grow ever smaller, we cut off our children from valuable opportunities

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to learn how to interact with the world around them.

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And despite all of our best efforts and intentions,

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kids are always going to figure out

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how to do the most dangerous thing they can,

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in whatever environment they can.

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So despite the provocative title, this presentation is really about safety

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and about some simple things that we can do

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to raise our kids to be creative, confident

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and in control of the environment around them.

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And what I now present to you is an excerpt from a book in progress.

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The book is called "50 Dangerous Things."

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This is five dangerous things.

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Thing number one -- play with fire.

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Learning to control one of the most elemental forces in nature

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is a pivotal moment in any child's personal history.

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Whether we remember it or not,

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it's a -- it's the first time we really get

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control of one of these mysterious things.

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These mysteries are only revealed

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to those who get the opportunity to play with it.

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So, playing with fire.

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This is like one of the great things we ever discovered, fire.

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From playing with it, they learn some basic principles about fire,

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about intake, about combustion, about exhaust.

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These are the three working elements of fire

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that you have to have to have a good controlled fire.

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And you can think of the open-pit fire as a laboratory.

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You don't know what they're going to learn from playing with it.

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You know, let them fool around with it on their own terms and trust me,

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they're going to learn things

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that you can't get out of playing with Dora the Explorer toys.

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Number two -- own a pocketknife.

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Pocketknives are kind of drifting out of our cultural consciousness,

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which I think is a terrible thing.

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(Laughter)

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Your first -- your first pocketknife is like the first universal tool that you're given.

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You know, it's a spatula, it's a pry bar,

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it's a screwdriver and it's a blade.

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And it's a -- it's a powerful and empowering tool.

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And in a lot of cultures they give knives --

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like, as soon as they're toddlers they have knives.

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These are Inuit children cutting whale blubber.

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I first saw this in a Canadian Film Board film when I was 10,

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and it left a lasting impression, to see babies playing with knives.

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And it shows that kids can develop an extended sense of self

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through a tool at a very young age.

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You lay down a couple of very simple rules --

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always cut away from your body, keep the blade sharp, never force it

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-- and these are things kids can understand and practice with.

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And yeah, they're going to cut themselves.

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I have some terrible scars on my legs from where I stabbed myself.

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But you know, they're young. They heal fast.

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(Laughter)

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Number three -- throw a spear.

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It turns out that our brains are actually wired for throwing things

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and, like muscles, if you don't use parts of your brain,

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they tend to atrophy over time.

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But when you exercise them,

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any given muscle adds strength to the whole system

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and that applies to your brain too.

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So practicing throwing things has been shown to

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stimulate the frontal and parietal lobes,

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which have to do with visual acuity, 3D understanding,

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and structural problem solving, so it gives a sense --

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it helps develop their visualization skills and their predictive ability.

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And throwing is a combination of analytical and physical skill,

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so it's very good for that kind of whole-body training.

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These kinds of target-based practice also

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helps kids develop attention and concentration skills.

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So those are great.

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Number four -- deconstruct appliances.

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There is a world of interesting things inside your dishwasher.

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Next time you're about to throw out an appliance, don't throw it out.

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Take it apart with your kid, or send him to my school

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and we'll take it apart with them.

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Even if you don't know what the parts are,

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puzzling out what they might be for

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is a really good practice for the kids

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to get sort of the sense that they can take things apart,

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and no matter how complex they are,

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they can understand parts of them and that means that eventually,

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they can understand all of them.

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It's a sense of knowability, that something is knowable.

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So these black boxes that we live with and take for granted

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are actually complex things made by other people

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and you can understand them.

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Number five -- two-parter.

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Break the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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(Laughter)

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There are laws beyond safety regulations

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that attempt to limit how we can interact with the things

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that we own -- in this case, digital media.

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It's a very simple exercise -- buy a song on ITunes, write it to a CD,

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then rip the CD to an MP3 and play it on your very same computer.

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You've just broken a law.

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Technically the RIAA can come and persecute you.

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It's an important lesson for kids to understand --

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that some of these laws get broken by accident

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and that laws have to be interpreted.

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And it's something we often talk about with the kids

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when we're fooling around with things and breaking them open

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and taking them apart and using them for other things --

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and also when we go out and drive a car.

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Driving a car is a -- is a really empowering act for a young child,

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so this is the ultimate.

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(Laughter)

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For those of you who aren't comfortable actually breaking the law,

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you can drive a car with your child.

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This is -- this is a great stage for a kid.

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This happens about the same time

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that they get latched onto things like dinosaurs,

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these big things in the outside world

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that they're trying to get a grip on.

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A car is a similar object, and they can get in a car and drive it.

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And that's a really, like -- it gives them a handle on a world

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in a way that they wouldn't -- that they don't often have access to.

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So -- and it's perfectly legal.

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Find a big empty lot, make sure there's nothing in it

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and it's on private property, and let them drive your car.

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It's very safe actually.

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And it's fun for the whole family.

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(Laughter)

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So, let's see.

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I think that's it. That's number five and a half. OK.