B1 Intermediate 9498 Folder Collection
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When I was fifteen I asked William Shatner,
who played Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek series,
to kiss 5000 people
at a Star Trek convention.
Now back then, Star Trek was probably
the most important thing in my life.
And like a lot of psychologists and sociologists at the time,
who were trying to understand the Star Trek phenomenon,
I wanted to understand it too.
I wanted to understand why this show
and why these characters were so profoundly important to me
that I would be willing to publicly humiliate myself as a 15 year old.
Well, I've given it a lot of thought and I've come to the conclusion
that the reason why Star Trek has so many millions of fans
is because of the future that it depicts.
A future in which we've solved our earthly problems.
Our nations are at peace,
our planet is alive and thriving,
we're no longer myopic, and mean spirited,
we're part of the United Federation of Planets, -
and we're actually explorers without being conquerors.
That vision has actually kept me going
when I felt my most despondent about the state of the world,
which is easy to do, in the face of global warming,
and escalating world wide slavery,
and alarming rates of species extinction,
and war, and poverty, and genocide,
and institutionalized forms of oppression and cruelty
towards both people and animals in a host of industries.
It is very hard to imagine that we can actually create that Star Trek future.
It seems so "pie in the sky".
And yet, I've spent my whole adult life working toward that future.
And I've discovered the solution,
and I'm going to share it with you today.
There's actually just one system that we just need to tweak a little bit,
and if we do that, we can solve every problem in the world.
And that key system is schooling.
Now, there's a deafening silence in the room.
Because I realize that the word schooling is probably
the most uninspiring word in the English language.
But that's because we have a very small perception
of what schooling can be.
If we ask people, "What's the purpose of schooling?",
most of them are going to say something like this,
"Well, it's to provide the basics of verbal, mathematical and scientific literacy,
so that our graduates can find jobs and compete in the global economy."
So let's do a thought experiment.
Let's imagine that every child graduates from high school,
and does so, having passed their "No Child Left Behind" test with flying colors.
And let's imagine further that every single one of them
is able to find a decent job, paying a livable wage,
or go to college and find such a job,
or go to college and graduate school and find such a job,
so that we have 100% employment.
Would we think that we have been successful in our goals for schooling?
I think that most of us would say, "Yes".
The problem is that many of those graduates,
would go on to perpetuate and perhaps even exacerbate
some of those problems that I just mentioned earlier.
The problem is that that purpose is too small,
and it's outmoded for today's world.
We need a bigger vision for the purpose of schooling.
And I believe that it should be this:
that we provide every student with the knowledge,
the tools and the motivation to be
conscientious choice makers and engaged change-makers
for a restored and healthy and humane world for all.
Or another way of putting it, I believe that we need to graduate
a generation of solutionaries.
Now, some people have asked, "Well, is this good for kids?
And is it really fair to them, to burden them with the responsibility
to fix all the problems that generations before them have created?"
Well, to answer those questions, I want to tell you
some stories about my experience as a humane educator,
somebody who teaches about the interconnected issues of human rights,
and environmental preservation,
and animal protection.
I became a humane educator back in 1987
when I was looking for a summer job.
And I found this program that was offering week-long courses
to middle school students in Philadelphia.
So that's were I taught my first humane education courses.
And I watch in amazement as these kids were transformed
over the course of a week.
In one case, over-night.
I taught about product testing on animals one day,
and I talked about how soaps and lotions and oven cleaners
are squeezed into the eyes of conscious rabbits,
and forced fed them in quantities that kill.
And a boy from the class went home that night
and he made his own homemade leaflets about product testing.
Well, he came into class the next morning
and he show them to me and he asked if he can hand them out.
I said, sure, I thought he wanted to hand them out to his fellow classmates.
He wanted to hand them out on the street.
So while the rest of us were having lunch,
he was on the Philadelphia street corner
handing out his leaflets.
He'd become an activist over-night.
Actually, several of the kids in that class, became activists.
Two of them formed a Philadelphia area wide student group
that went on to win awards for their great work.
Well, that was the summer I realized
that I'd found my life's work as a humane educator,
and I went on to form a humane education program
where I brought presentations and courses into schools.
And there was one school, a public high school,
where I did an after-school course.
And there was a boy in the class named Mike.
He was a senior. He always sat near the front.
He was really smart. He always played devil's advocate,
which I loved because I want my students
to be critical thinkers about all else.
In fact, I often begin presentations
by telling students, "Don't believe a word I say."
Well, I still worried about Mike.
I worried whether or not I was really reaching him.
Because he never had an emotional response
to any of the issues that we were discussing,
and there were some pretty intense issues.
Well, on the last day of class I decided to do
a rather unconventional activity
called the "council of all beings",
where I invited the students to become
through their imaginations, another being,
whether a part of nature or another animal or another person,
and then just speak as this being,
and talk about what's happening to them,
and talk about what they want to change,
and share their wisdom.
So I was really worried.
How is Mike is going to react to this kind of touchy-feely activity?
But my fears were totally unfounded.
Mike had become the ocean.
And when he spoke, poetry just poured out of his mouth.
I was stunned.
When the activity was over, that was the end of the course.
We were saying our goodbyes and Mike said,
"Thank you, Zoe. When I look back at high school,
this is what I'm gonna remember."
So yes, I believe this form of education is good for kids.
Is it fair to them?
Well, to answer that question I want to tell you another story.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to be the speaker
at the National Honor Society Induction at a local high school.
And I did an activity with the audience called "true price",
in which we look at an everyday object
like bottled water or a fast food cheese burger,
and ask what is the true price of this item
on ourselves as individuals,
on other people, on other species, and on the environment?
Well, that particular day I did "true price" with a T-shirt.
And I'm gonna do a little bit of this activity with you.
So, what are the effects both positive or negative
of this item on me as a consumer, on other people,
on animals and on the environment?
Well, questions like those could be somebody's dissertation.
So to answer them today I'm just going to scratch the surface.
Well, the first thing I need to do to answer those questions
is look to the item itself.
So I'm gonna look at the label and see what it has to tell me.
Well, I found out when I looked at this label that is a 100% cotton.
It's made in China.
And I learned how to launder it.
I also learned that it's dry cleanable,
in case I would like to spend 6 dollars to clean my T-shirt.
So, that doesn't tell me very much, I'm gonna have to dig a little bit deeper.
And if I do some research into cotton and cotton T-shirts,
I'm gonna find out that cotton is a crop
that is heavily sprayed with pesticides,
many of which are toxic and we know they're toxic
because of the incredibly cruel tests
that were done on animals to test them.
We also discover that many of those pesticides
end up polluting our soil and our waterways.
Now, if I find out a little bit more about cotton
I will come across some information
that it's estimated that a third of cotton is produced in Uzbekistan
where by another estimate,
there are 1 million children working in those fields as slaves.
Now that cotton, after it's grown,
has to be turned into cloth and then it has to be dyed
'cause it didn't get to be this red color out of the ground.
So if I do some research on the dye
I discover that many of those dyes are also toxic
and also wind up in our water stream
because about 30% of the dye doesn't adhere to the cotton,
and it winds up in the water.
Then, of course the cloth has to go somewhere to be turned into a T-shirt.
We know that it went to China,
so if we did a little research
on Chinese garment factories
we would discover that many of them
are essentially sweatshops,
where people are working exceedingly long hours
under terrible working conditions.
And then finally it's going to be transported using lots of fossil fuels
so that I can buy it.
So, those are just some of the effects and some of the negative effects.
The positive ones are a little bit easier to see.
We know that even if there was slave labor involved in this
it certainly did contribute to a lot of people having jobs,
and it's produced in a way that's inexpensive,
so that I can get lots of these
in all different colors and shapes and styles,
some of which might look cute on me
which might make me feel good about myself.
So there are some positive effects.
Now, we ask two other important questions in "true price".
We ask, "What alternatives would do
more good and less harm in this conventional product,
and what are the systems that would need to be transformed
in order to make those alternatives ubiquitous?"
Well, after the talk was over, a colleague of mine
asked one of the inductees
what she thought of it?
And she said that it made her really angry because,
this is a quote, "We should've been learning this since kindergarten".
I agree. So in answer to the question,
"Do I think that it's fair
to provide this form of education to our students?"
I actually think it's unfair not to provide the knowledge and the skills
to our students, to our children
so that they can be solutionaries for a better world.
Now, let's say we were to actually embrace this larger purpose for schooling.
What would our schools look like?
Well, first of all, any of these objects
could be a course in a school.
And would be a course that would be relevant
to our students lives and their future
and their health and the health of their planet.
And all of the basics would serve that course,
because in the process of answering those questions
we would be studying math and science,
and history and social studies, and economics, and politics,
and language arts and many other subjects.
We could have overarching themes for each year of school,
one year it might be food and water,
another year it could be energy and transportation,
another year it could be buildings and structures,
another year it could be protection and conflict resolution.
We can't live without all of those things.
So, what if the basics were in service
to figuring out how we could make all of those systems
as humane and sustainable and peaceful and just as possible?
Last year I was driving my car
and I was listening to NPR on the radio,
and there was a report about an Oxford style debate
that was being conducted at the New York University.
And the subject of the debate was this question,
"Is the United States responsible for Mexico's drug woes?"
I remember sitting in my car thinking,
"That's really a bizarre question.
Because how could anything as complicated as Mexico's drug woes
be reduced to an either-or question
about another nation's culpability?"
It seemed a bizarre question.
But it got me thinking about
all the debate teams in all the schools
where kids are arbitrarily asigned one side or another
of a fabricated either-or scenario,
and they are taught to research it,
and they're told to argue it and win.
To what end?
What if instead of having debate teams,
we had solutionary teams?
We had students tackling problems
and competing - we love to do that -
but we have them competing about
who could come up with the most viable,
cost effective, innovative solutions to those problems.
Those problems could be ones in their own school,
they could be ones on their community,
they could be ones that are global problems.
And those students could compete within their schools,
and then they could compete with other local schools,
and then they could go to states.
And then, the really brilliant ideas,
we could implement them.
Imagine what would happen.
Imagine what would happen if we embraced this vision of schooling.
What would our graduates go on to do?
Well, they would do the same that graduates do today.
They'd be business people,
and healthcare providers and plumbers
and engineers and architects,
and beauticians and politicians.
The difference would be, they would perceive themselves as solutionaries.
They would know that it was their responsibility to ensure
that the systems within their profession
were just and humane and peaceful.
Because that is what they would have learned in school.
And if we were to succeed in actually embracing this vision,
and if we were to succeed in educating a generation of solutionaries
then there is no doubt in my mind
that we could solve every single problem that we face,
and we would watch that happen rapidly and inexorably
by this generation of solutionaries.
And then, perhaps,
that Star Trek world
that I and so many millions of people long for,
could actually come to pass.
Thank you very much.
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【TEDx】Zoe Weil - The World Becomes What You Teach

9498 Folder Collection
Furong Lai published on December 16, 2012
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