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Annotated captions of Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! in English

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tedtalks 00:01
00:03

I was here four years ago,

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00:05

and I remember, at the time,

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that the talks weren't put online.

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00:12

I think they were given to TEDsters in a box,

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a box set of DVDs,

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00:17

which they put on their shelves, where they are now.

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00:19

(Laughter)

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00:21

And actually, Chris called me

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a week after I'd given my talk

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00:25

and he said, "We're going to start putting them online.

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Can we put yours online?" And I said, "Sure."

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00:30

And four years later,

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as I said, it's been seen by four ...

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00:35

Well, it's been downloaded four million times.

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So I suppose you could multiply that by 20 or something

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to get the number of people who've seen it.

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00:44

And, as Chris says, there is a hunger

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for videos of me.

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00:49

(Laughter)

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00:52

(Applause)

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00:55

... don't you feel?

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00:58

(Laughter)

tedtalks 01:00
01:03

So, this whole event has been an elaborate build-up

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01:07

to me doing another one for you, so here it is.

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01:08

(Laughter)

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01:12

Al Gore spoke

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at the TED conference I spoke at four years ago

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and talked about the climate crisis.

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01:19

And I referenced that

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at the end of my last talk.

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01:23

So I want to pick up from there

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because I only had 18 minutes, frankly.

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01:28

So, as I was saying...

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01:33

(Laughter)

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You see, he's right.

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01:41

I mean, there is a major climate crisis, obviously,

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and I think if people don't believe it, they should get out more.

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01:47

(Laughter)

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But I believe there's a second climate crisis,

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which is as severe,

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which has the same origins,

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and that we have to deal with with the same urgency.

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02:01

And I mean by this --

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and you may say, by the way, "Look, I'm good.

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02:05

I have one climate crisis;

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I don't really need the second one."

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But this is a crisis of, not natural resources --

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though I believe that's true --

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but a crisis of human resources.

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02:17

I believe fundamentally,

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as many speakers have said during the past few days,

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that we make very poor use

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02:25

of our talents.

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02:27

Very many people go through their whole lives

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02:30

having no real sense of what their talents may be,

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or if they have any to speak of.

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02:34

I meet all kinds of people

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who don't think they're really good at anything.

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02:41

Actually, I kind of divide the world into two groups now.

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02:44

Jeremy Bentham, the great utilitarian philosopher,

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once spiked this argument.

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He said, "There are two types of people in this world:

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those who divide the world into two types

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and those who do not."

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02:55

(Laughter)

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Well, I do.

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03:01

(Laughter)

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I meet all kinds of people

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who don't enjoy what they do.

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They simply go through their lives

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03:13

getting on with it.

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03:15

They get no great pleasure from what they do.

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03:18

They endure it rather than enjoy it

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and wait for the weekend.

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03:23

But I also meet people

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03:25

who love what they do

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03:27

and couldn't imagine doing anything else.

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03:30

If you said to them, "Don't do this anymore," they'd wonder what you were talking about.

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Because it isn't what they do, it's who they are. They say,

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"But this is me, you know.

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It would be foolish for me to abandon this, because

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it speaks to my most authentic self."

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And it's not true of enough people.

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In fact, on the contrary, I think

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it's still true of a minority of people.

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03:48

I think there are many

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possible explanations for it.

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03:52

And high among them

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is education,

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because education, in a way,

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dislocates very many people

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04:00

from their natural talents.

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And human resources are like natural resources;

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they're often buried deep.

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04:07

You have to go looking for them,

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they're not just lying around on the surface.

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You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.

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And you might imagine

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education would be the way that happens,

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but too often it's not.

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04:20

Every education system in the world

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is being reformed at the moment

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and it's not enough.

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Reform is no use anymore,

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because that's simply improving a broken model.

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What we need --

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and the word's been used many times during the course of the past few days --

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is not evolution,

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but a revolution in education.

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This has to be transformed

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into something else.

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04:47

(Applause)

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One of the real challenges

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is to innovate fundamentally

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in education.

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Innovation is hard

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because it means doing something

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that people don't find very easy, for the most part.

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It means challenging what we take for granted,

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things that we think are obvious.

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The great problem for reform

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or transformation

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is the tyranny of common sense;

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things that people think,

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"Well, it can't be done any other way because that's the way it's done."

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05:19

I came across a great quote recently from Abraham Lincoln,

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who I thought you'd be pleased to have quoted at this point.

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05:24

(Laughter)

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05:27

He said this in December 1862

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to the second annual meeting of Congress.

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05:34

I ought to explain that I have no idea what was happening at the time.

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05:38

We don't teach American history in Britain.

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05:40

(Laughter)

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05:43

We suppress it. You know, this is our policy.

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(Laughter)

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So, no doubt, something fascinating was happening in December 1862,

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which the Americans among us

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will be aware of.

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05:55

But he said this:

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"The dogmas

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of the quiet past

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06:02

are inadequate to the stormy present.

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06:04

The occasion

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06:06

is piled high with difficulty,

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and we must rise with the occasion."

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06:11

I love that.

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Not rise to it, rise with it.

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06:17

"As our case is new,

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so we must think anew

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and act anew.

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06:26

We must disenthrall ourselves,

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06:29

and then we shall save our country."

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06:31

I love that word, "disenthrall."

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06:33

You know what it means?

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That there are ideas that all of us are enthralled to,

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which we simply take for granted

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as the natural order of things, the way things are.

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And many of our ideas

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have been formed, not to meet the circumstances of this century,

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but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries.

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But our minds are still hypnotized by them,

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and we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them.

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06:56

Now, doing this is easier said than done.

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06:59

It's very hard to know, by the way, what it is you take for granted. (Laughter)

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07:02

And the reason is that you take it for granted.

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07:05

So let me ask you something you may take for granted.

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07:08

How many of you here are over the age of 25?

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That's not what I think you take for granted,

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07:12

I'm sure you're familiar with that already.

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07:15

Are there any people here under the age of 25?

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Great. Now, those over 25,

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07:21

could you put your hands up if you're wearing your wristwatch?

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07:24

Now that's a great deal of us, isn't it?

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07:27

Ask a room full of teenagers the same thing.

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07:29

Teenagers do not wear wristwatches.

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07:31

I don't mean they can't or they're not allowed to,

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they just often choose not to.

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07:35

And the reason is, you see, that we were brought up

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in a pre-digital culture, those of us over 25.

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07:40

And so for us, if you want to know the time

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you have to wear something to tell it.

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Kids now live in a world which is digitized,

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and the time, for them, is everywhere.

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07:49

They see no reason to do this.

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And by the way, you don't need to do it either;

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it's just that you've always done it and you carry on doing it.

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07:57

My daughter never wears a watch, my daughter Kate, who's 20.

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07:59

She doesn't see the point.

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08:02

As she says, "It's a single function device."

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08:07

(Laughter)

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08:10

"Like, how lame is that?"

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And I say, "No, no, it tells the date as well."

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08:16

(Laughter)

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08:20

"It has multiple functions."

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08:23

But, you see, there are things we're enthralled to in education.

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08:25

Let me give you a couple of examples.

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08:28

One of them is the idea of linearity:

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that it starts here and you go through a track

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and if you do everything right, you will end up

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set for the rest of your life.

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Everybody who's spoken at TED has told us implicitly,

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or sometimes explicitly, a different story:

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that life is not linear; it's organic.

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We create our lives symbiotically

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as we explore our talents

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in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us.

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But, you know, we have become obsessed

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with this linear narrative.

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08:58

And probably the pinnacle for education

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09:00

is getting you to college.

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I think we are obsessed with getting people to college.

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Certain sorts of college.

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I don't mean you shouldn't go to college, but not everybody needs to go

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and not everybody needs to go now.

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Maybe they go later, not right away.

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And I was up in San Francisco a while ago

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doing a book signing.

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There was this guy buying a book, he was in his 30s.

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And I said, "What do you do?"

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And he said, "I'm a fireman."

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And I said, "How long have you been a fireman?"

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He said, "Always. I've always been a fireman."

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And I said, "Well, when did you decide?"

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09:31

He said, "As a kid." He said, "Actually, it was a problem for me at school,

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because at school, everybody wanted to be a fireman."

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He said, "But I wanted to be a fireman."

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And he said, "When I got to the senior year of school,

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my teachers didn't take it seriously.

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This one teacher didn't take it seriously.

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He said I was throwing my life away

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if that's all I chose to do with it;

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that I should go to college, I should become a professional person,

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that I had great potential

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and I was wasting my talent to do that."

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And he said, "It was humiliating because

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he said it in front of the whole class and I really felt dreadful.

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But it's what I wanted, and as soon as I left school,

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I applied to the fire service and I was accepted."

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10:07

And he said, "You know, I was thinking about that guy recently,

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just a few minutes ago when you were speaking, about this teacher,"

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he said, "because six months ago,

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I saved his life."

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(Laughter)

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He said, "He was in a car wreck,

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and I pulled him out, gave him CPR,

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and I saved his wife's life as well."

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He said, "I think he thinks better of me now."

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(Laughter)

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(Applause)

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You know, to me,

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human communities depend upon

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a diversity of talent,

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not a singular conception of ability.

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And at the heart of our challenges --

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(Applause)

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At the heart of the challenge

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is to reconstitute our sense of ability

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and of intelligence.

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10:55

This linearity thing is a problem.

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10:57

When I arrived in L.A.

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about nine years ago,

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11:02

I came across a policy statement --

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very well-intentioned --

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which said, "College begins in kindergarten."

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No, it doesn't.

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11:14

(Laughter)

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It doesn't.

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If we had time, I could go into this, but we don't.

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(Laughter)

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Kindergarten begins in kindergarten.

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11:25

(Laughter)

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A friend of mine once said,

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"You know, a three year-old is not half a six year-old."

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(Laughter)

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11:37

(Applause)

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They're three.

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But as we just heard in this last session,

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there's such competition now to get into kindergarten --

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to get to the right kindergarten --

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that people are being interviewed for it at three.

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Kids sitting in front of unimpressed panels,

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you know, with their resumes,

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11:58

(Laughter)

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12:00

flipping through and saying, "Well, this is it?"

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12:02

(Laughter)

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12:05

(Applause)

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12:08

"You've been around for 36 months, and this is it?"

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12:15

(Laughter)

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"You've achieved nothing -- commit.

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Spent the first six months breastfeeding, the way I can see it."

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12:24

(Laughter)

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12:29

See, it's outrageous as a conception, but it [unclear].

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12:31

The other big issue is conformity.

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We have built our education systems

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on the model of fast food.

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This is something Jamie Oliver talked about the other day.

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You know there are two models of quality assurance in catering.

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One is fast food,

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where everything is standardized.

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The other are things like Zagat and Michelin restaurants,

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where everything is not standardized,

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they're customized to local circumstances.

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And we have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education,

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and it's impoverishing our spirit and our energies

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as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.

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13:04

(Applause)

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13:07

I think we have to recognize a couple of things here.

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13:10

One is that human talent is tremendously diverse.

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13:12

People have very different aptitudes.

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13:14

I worked out recently that

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13:16

I was given a guitar as a kid

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at about the same time that Eric Clapton got his first guitar.

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13:23

You know, it worked out for Eric, that's all I'm saying.

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13:25

(Laughter)

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13:27

In a way, it did not for me.

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13:30

I could not get this thing to work

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no matter how often or how hard I blew into it.

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13:34

(Laughter) It just wouldn't work.

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But it's not only about that.

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It's about passion.

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Often, people are good at things they don't really care for.

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It's about passion,

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and what excites our spirit and our energy.

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13:51

And if you're doing the thing that you love to do, that you're good at,

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time takes a different course entirely.

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13:57

My wife's just finished writing a novel,

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and I think it's a great book,

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14:02

but she disappears for hours on end.

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14:04

You know this, if you're doing something you love,

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14:07

an hour feels like five minutes.

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14:09

If you're doing something that doesn't resonate with your spirit,

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14:11

five minutes feels like an hour.

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14:14

And the reason so many people are opting out of education

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14:16

is because it doesn't feed their spirit,

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14:19

it doesn't feed their energy or their passion.

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14:22

So I think we have to change metaphors.

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14:25

We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education,

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14:27

a manufacturing model,

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14:29

which is based on linearity

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14:32

and conformity and batching people.

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14:34

We have to move to a model

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14:37

that is based more on principles of agriculture.

tedtalks 14:37
14:40

We have to recognize that human flourishing

tedtalks 14:40
14:42

is not a mechanical process;

tedtalks 14:42
14:44

it's an organic process.

tedtalks 14:44
14:47

And you cannot predict the outcome of human development.

tedtalks 14:47
14:49

All you can do, like a farmer,

tedtalks 14:49
14:51

is create the conditions under which

tedtalks 14:51
14:53

they will begin to flourish.

tedtalks 14:53
14:56

So when we look at reforming education and transforming it,

tedtalks 14:56
14:59

it isn't like cloning a system.

tedtalks 14:59
15:01

There are great ones, like KIPP's; it's a great system.

tedtalks 15:01
15:03

There are many great models.

tedtalks 15:03
15:06

It's about customizing to your circumstances

tedtalks 15:06
15:08

and personalizing education

tedtalks 15:08
15:10

to the people you're actually teaching.

tedtalks 15:10
15:12

And doing that, I think,

tedtalks 15:12
15:14

is the answer to the future

tedtalks 15:14
15:17

because it's not about scaling a new solution;

tedtalks 15:17
15:19

it's about creating a movement in education

tedtalks 15:19
15:22

in which people develop their own solutions,

tedtalks 15:22
15:25

but with external support based on a personalized curriculum.

tedtalks 15:25
15:27

Now in this room,

tedtalks 15:27
15:29

there are people who represent

tedtalks 15:29
15:31

extraordinary resources in business,

tedtalks 15:31
15:33

in multimedia, in the Internet.

tedtalks 15:33
15:35

These technologies,

tedtalks 15:35
15:38

combined with the extraordinary talents of teachers,

tedtalks 15:38
15:41

provide an opportunity to revolutionize education.

tedtalks 15:41
15:43

And I urge you to get involved in it

tedtalks 15:43
15:45

because it's vital, not just to ourselves,

tedtalks 15:45
15:47

but to the future of our children.

tedtalks 15:47
15:49

But we have to change from the industrial model

tedtalks 15:49
15:51

to an agricultural model,

tedtalks 15:51
15:54

where each school can be flourishing tomorrow.

tedtalks 15:54
15:56

That's where children experience life.

tedtalks 15:56
15:58

Or at home, if that's where they choose to be educated

tedtalks 15:58
16:00

with their families or their friends.

tedtalks 16:00
16:02

There's been a lot of talk about dreams

tedtalks 16:02
16:05

over the course of this few days.

tedtalks 16:05
16:07

And I wanted to just very quickly ...

tedtalks 16:07
16:10

I was very struck by Natalie Merchant's songs last night,

tedtalks 16:10
16:12

recovering old poems.

tedtalks 16:12
16:14

I wanted to read you a quick, very short poem

tedtalks 16:14
16:17

from W. B. Yeats, who some of you may know.

tedtalks 16:17
16:19

He wrote this to his love,

tedtalks 16:19
16:21

Maud Gonne,

tedtalks 16:21
16:24

and he was bewailing the fact that

tedtalks 16:24
16:27

he couldn't really give her what he thought she wanted from him.

tedtalks 16:27
16:30

And he says, "I've got something else, but it may not be for you."

tedtalks 16:30
16:32

He says this:

tedtalks 16:32
16:35

"Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,

tedtalks 16:35
16:37

Enwrought with gold

tedtalks 16:37
16:39

and silver light,

tedtalks 16:39
16:41

The blue and the dim

tedtalks 16:41
16:43

and the dark cloths

tedtalks 16:43
16:46

Of night and light and the half-light,

tedtalks 16:46
16:49

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

tedtalks 16:49
16:52

But I, being poor,

tedtalks 16:52
16:55

have only my dreams;

tedtalks 16:55
16:58

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

tedtalks 16:58
17:00

Tread softly

tedtalks 17:00
17:03

because you tread on my dreams."

tedtalks 17:03
17:06

And every day, everywhere,

tedtalks 17:06
17:09

our children spread their dreams beneath our feet.

tedtalks 17:09
17:12

And we should tread softly.

tedtalks 17:12
17:14

Thank you.

tedtalks 17:14
17:31

(Applause)

tedtalks 17:31
17:33

Thank you very much.