Archive for the ‘TED’ Category

             Awhile ago I saw a video on the TED conference website. Here is the video if you would like to watch it:


             It is a speech by Sir Ken Robinon entitled: “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” The talk really struck me, and I had to sit down for a minute and ponder just what Robinson was pointing out. The more I thought about it, the more I began to agree with what he was saying, and the more I realized just how big of a problem this is, and the massive potential that lies in correcting it.

             Although may seem hard to grasp for some people, schools in contemporary times dismiss creativity and instead foster speed and standardization. The stringent guidelines, automated teachers, bland worksheets and standard curriculum enforce an idea of a “common” routine. Instead of focusing on each child’s unique gift and potential to influence the world, schools emphasize what a child does not do well. The focus is put on strengthening children’s skills in all areas and in ways that many will never use in their life. We are training students for jobs that may not even exist by the time they grow up, all the while placing personal creativity and expression last in line.

             For years the school system has fallen into a truly dreadful cycle. Math, English and History have always been at the top of the foodchain. No matter what country, culture or language, the hierarchy of school subjects remains the same. Japan, Russia, China, India and any other large nation all follow nearly the same ranking system, while foolishly placing the arts dead last. At the very end of line in importance and value rests the arts: dance, drama, music and theatre. Always deemed less important to the educational experience, they are cast aside, and instead everyone is told to do their math and be quiet. The paradox here is that education has been failing to put enough importance in fostering creativity within the children of our future. instead of building children’s unique gifts, they are scolded and given a tutor to help them in other subjects that are higher on the scale of “life potential.”

           Creativity forms the basis of everything our society constantly revolves around. Every new idea, concept and brilliant breakthrough began with a glimpse into the world of creativity. It is easy to overlook where revolutionary ideas come from, where discoveries are fostered and where the changes in our world are generated.

           Robinson mentions that by the time the average person is an adult, they are afraid of being wrong. As a child it comes effortless, no matter what the situation children take a shot. But as the world has progressed, something truly vital has been lost inbetween. As adults the worst possible scenario is making a mistake, a blunder; something that goes against standards and the norm. This is how creativity has been effectively surpressed, as we continue to fear the chance of being different. As Robinson points out, our education system has been the main culprit of this phenomenon for many years.

          If anything, this talk really points out the loss of potential. The loss of individual cultivation of talents. The loss of human ingenuity and the fostering of genius in the making. The loss of some of the world’s brightest gifts.

          Education can help prepare future generations to face the world, but only creativity can change it.


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               Dan Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, recently gave a talk at the most recent Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference. I had the chance to see the video in which Gilbert dissects the concept of synthetic happiness, or happiness made by the mind. I found the talk extremely interesting, and a very poignant view on the idea of true happiness. The idea of synthesizing one’s own “false” happiness seems to contradict what humans generally percieve as real satisfaction. Gilbert’s point comes from asking the question: why is self-generated happiness deemed less fulfilling than “natural” happiness, that is, attaining happiness by getting what we desire. The argument is quite compelling to contemplate.

               The key is to understand the boundaries and natural desires that arise in everyday life. Humans are obviously constantly in search of fulfillment, meaning, purpose and ultimately happiness. success_and_happiness1.jpgThe desire to get what we wish for, attain what we aspire to be, and live up to our own expectations has always been the assumed route to being happy in life. But, as Gilbert emphasizes, if we look deeper, research has shown that when given fewer options that what we initially want, we end up more satisfied. If that just flew over your head, let me simplify the equation. Person A is offered one free ipod case from a group of 3 different ones, and cannot change his mind once he picks the one he wants to take home. Person B is offered the same group of cases, but has 3 days to change his mind if he does not like the case he originally chose. Nearly 70% of the time, person A ends up more satisifed with their decision, but why? The answer is the deliberation factor, or as Gilbert calls it, the factor of boundaries. If we are offered the chance to change our decision, our brains tend to put too much importance on the different possible outcomes. When there is no turning back, and we are forced to stick with it, we inevitably end up more satisfied in the end.

                 This concept of placing too much importance on the different possible outcomes of our decisions is the foundation of synthetic happiness. The ability to be subconsiously more fulfilled with something based on the simple fact that there was “no turning back,” or no way to reverse our decision. Many times the irreversible desires prove much more fulfilling, despite the average assuption that being able to “fall back” on other options invites happiness. When we get what we originally want, we may end up regretting it.

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