29th September 2017

2.9 Ted Talk

Prepare Our Kids for Life, Not Standardized Tests

Ted Dintersmith

Ted Talk (Speech)


I watched the Ted Talk presentation “Prepare our kids for life, not standardized tests” by Ted Dintersmith. He speaks about the issue of our schools focusing on teaching students un-necessary information and not the skills and traits they need to live life after school. Being a parent himself, he speaks about personal experiences of being frustrated by the failure of systems that schools have to try and teach these skills or a complete lack of them. He believes that schools should be encouraging traits such as creativity, engagement and innovation for the future generations and in doing so prepare them to succeed in life outside the education system.

I agree with the main message in Dintersmith’s speech: that schools do not completely prepare us for life. Along with Dintermsith, I think that at school we should be “learning how to learn” and that they should be encouraging creativity and innovation. America, for example, is among the most innovative countries in the world, meaning that structured jobs are slowly disappearing. What we are currently being taught at school is to just follow instructions and so with structured positions disappearing, it makes it very hard for our generation to find careers in the new innovative world we have. Dintersmith expresses how important he thinks this is: “Every structured job in the economy, if it hasn’t disappeared already, will disappear and so kids coming through the education system that are simply trained to follow instructions and jump through hoops are kids that are going to be marginalised or chronically unemployed.” I agree with this part of his argument but as the speech goes on it is evident that he holds the belief that this is all the schools responsibility and not the parents. This is where I begin to disagree with him because although, yes, schools should be doing more to prepare us for life, it is their job to ‘educate’ us which technically they are doing. Dintersmith states that he was invited to his sons school to attend a meeting where they told the parents how to teach their kids various life skills. This  indicates that currently, parents are being expected to teach their children these skills while schools are taking no responsibility in it. I think that the way Dintersmith spoke, his intention was to imply that he thinks it should be the sole responsibility of schools to prepare kids for life which currently, they are failing at although personally I do not agree with him. I believe that schools and parents should both play an equal role in this job. After all, it is a parents job to bring up a child so they are ready to live their life without them. I think the way Ted Dintersmith structured this aspect of his speech was very brave and would have caused a lot of conflict between school systems and parents about this issue. I do think however that Dintersmith’s intention for the speech of showing people how our school system is currently failing was important because it shows us that not everything is perfect in our world yet but that people can see this and are trying to make changes to this, like him.   

In Ted Dintersmith’s speech, the whole time he was speaking in a negative light regarding the school system and only talking about the things that schools are failing at or not doing. He says how there are some things that schools teach that “jeopardize our kids prospects and lives.” I partly agree with him on this point however, the fact that schools are trying to set up more creative programmes with more freedom and trying to address the issue of not preparing children for life, shows that they do know that a problem exists and are trying to solve it however it cannot happen overnight. Like the example Dintersmith gave in his speech of 45 minute classes once a month on a chosen life skill, schools are trying to rethink they way they are educating us and what they are teaching us. I think that Dintersmith was a bit harsh on the school system because of the fact that you can never please everybody. If schools taught more life skills and lessons then maybe people would complain that their kids aren’t learning enough knowledge and things that will get them into universities. I do however think that schools do need to continue to try and incorporate more life skills such as budgeting, communication skills and problem solving into their system to accommodate for the changing world that we will end up living in and running. I think Dintersmith made a successful speech and achieved his goal of communicating his ideas and concern for the current education system however I think that he needs to take a step away from being a parent and look at it from the schools and possibly even student’s perspective to see that things are beginning to be done to fix this problem.

Although I may not agree with Dintersmith regarding the method used to teach life skills to students, I do believe that we need to be taught them some way or another. Ted lists skills that students need for the future such as “inventive problem solving, communication, teamwork, figuring out complex situations, determination, perseverance, resourcefulness, being able to stand up to failure or appreciating the wonder in nature and human achievement”. Being a student myself I can confidently say that most of these things plus more that are vital to our future we are not being taught. I think Dintersmith’s title for his speech “Prepare our kids for life, not standardized tests” is very accurate because I am in my second last year of school and I do not feel any where near to knowing enough skills or knowledge of the real world to go out and live it by myself and take on all the responsibilities that come with it. An example Dintersmith gives is budgeting and communication skills. I think that these are two of the most important skills that he mentions. I was surprised that he did not go more into depth about this because for budgeting and money especially the stats show that clearly we are currently doing something wrong. In New Zealand at the moment, the average student will have approximately $21,000 of debt and a large portion of these will not be able to pay it off before they die. I thought Dintersmith would have emphasised this point more as it adds a very strong point to his argument.

I enjoyed listening to Ted Dintersmith’s speech on how school doesn’t prepare students for life. I found it interesting the strongly negative viewpoint he held on schools current system and his reasonings as solutions to fix this. I think he communicated his ideas well and it was clear how he felt on the issue. I think because he is a father himself and has had his children go through this system and see how it has not prepared them for life, it makes his argument stronger as he is personally invested in it. Through this speech I realised the importance of a proper education and how learning about things that may seem insignificant or oblivious such as communication are truly important to helping us be successful in our life. It showed me how much we need to know and understand to live outside of school that I never would have previously thought of and this highlights that these need to be taught more to our generation, whether it is in schools like Dintersmith suggests or from parents.

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