The Dad’s Top Ten Ted Talks

Written by The Dad

I love watching TED and TEDx talks so I thought I’d share some of my favorites. If you’ve talked to me in person for more than about two minutes chances are good that I’ve quoted something out of one of these talks, or have mentioned something I’ve read from one of the speakers since watching them.

This list is loosely tied together by each talk having something to do with education or including concepts I’d like to teach my kids during homeschooling. They’re listed in an order that is roughly topical, but they’re great individually. Even if you don’t care about education you might still appreciate some of these videos.


  • Simon Sinek – “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

“Start With Why”

Always start with “why”.  Ask “why” about everything you do.

This is good advice no matter your endeavor.

  • Rory Sutherland – “Life Lessons From An Ad Man”

“Once you reach a basic level of wealth in society, most problems are actually problems of perception.”

I stumbled across this talk a few years ago and I was immediately fascinated by Sutherland’s description of “subjective value.”

Value in education interests me a lot. I feel like traditional education values a lot of things that don’t matter in the real world. Traditional education also treats certain parts of school as though they have absolute value when the working world treats them as though the value is relative (if any at all). See: the GPA.

As such, the education itself has a relative value. As college degrees increase in price but decrease in market value it’s important for young students to learn what constitutes value in a market. I believe traditional schools do a poor job of teaching this because they aren’t affected by it and therefore don’t understand it.

I quote Sutherland often, and I refer avid readers to his book lists whenever I can. This book list has lead me to learning more about all of the authors, a few of whom have videos in this post.

If you like Sutherland’s angle watch his myriad other talks. He’s not involved in academia at all, but I find much of what he talks about interesting when applied to education. A lot of what he talks about feed into my own philosphy on learning and education.

  • Seth Godin – “Stop Stealing Dreams”

“Ask the question: What is school for?”

Being pro-homeschool often gets confused with anti-school, or worse, anti-teacher. In no way am I either of the latter. I try to always project the positives of alternative education as opposed to denigrating traditional education, because that’s how I feel. However, there are a lot of aspects of traditional education I dislike and it’s impossible to define one thing without defining the opposite.

Hence, this TED talk. Author Seth Godin describes the shortcomings of standard education, many of which are structural parts of the education system and can’t be avoided. If you’ve seriously considered homeschooling your kids this talk might push you over the edge.

If you don’t care about homeschooling at all I would still recommend Seth Godin’s other talks and books. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly is one of my favorites. I’m an engineer and tend to see and describe most things in life mathematically or graphically. Godin defines all of his topics artistically, referring even to the reader’s profession as “your art.” I think it’s beneficial to see life through both prisms.

  • Sir Ken Robinson – “How To Escape Education’s Death Valley”

“If you sit kids down, hour after hour, doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.”

If you’ve ever considered homeschooling you’ve no doubt heard of Sir Ken Robinson. He has numerous talks, all of which I imagine would be interesting to anyone in education or who intend to homeschool. His first TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  is one of the most-viewed TED talks ever.

I like “How To Escape Education’s Death Valley” because of the proactive message. Robinson uses the talk to outline three principles he feels human minds need in order to flourish in education.

  • Logan LaPlante – “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy”

“When I grow up, I want to be happy like I am now.”

I like this kid. Only 13 at the time he filmed this talk, LaPlante speaks with impressive thoughtfulness about his choice of unschooling technique and his big-picture reason behind it. His main point is that living a successful life should include living a happy and healthy life, but that those two ideas are treated separately by the school system. He’s finding his own way to a well-rounded education using what he calls “hackschooling”.

As my wife and I have talked about homeschooling our own kids we’ve both refered to this TED talk more than once. I think “hacking” your way through life is a skill in and of itself and I hope I can show this to my kids.

  • Malcolm Gladwell – Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce

“What is the great revolution in science in the last 10, 15 years? It is the movement from the search for universals the understanding of variability.”

Of course there’s a Gladwell one.  Gladwell’s always great for his storytelling, but I like this particular talk because it discusses the themes of how little we understand variability.

I’ve referenced this theme in almost all of my blog posts on this site so I won’t say more now. I’ll just say that I feel that traditional education, by definition, aims students toward finding the single right answer and treats students homogeneously in an effort to help them find that answer. Go read all my other posts to see what I think of that.

Then, go read Blink.

  • John Green – “Paper Towns”

“The world is changed by our maps of the world.”

This is one of my favorite videos, period.

John Green is the author of the novel Paper Towns, which lead to the movie by that name. Here he talks about his own educational experience (I’ve never read the book or seen the movie but I’ve heard they’re good). As he left formal education he searched for, and built, “communities of learners.”

I feel like this video touches on my philosophy that learning from learners is (increasingly) more valuable than learning solely from teachers and textbooks. There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of people who know a lot about a lot of things, and today it’s easier than ever to find it all.

  • Margaret Heffernen – “Dare To Disagree”

“If we aren’t going to be afraid of conflict we have to see it as thinking and then we have to get really good at it.”

You can learn more from constructive conflict than you can from an echo chamber. Learning how to handle disagreement isn’t just preferred, it’s essential to learning. Heffernen frames conflict as a type of thinking. I think learning how to use conflict as a tool for learning is beautiful, but it flies in the face of traditional methods of learning where students absorb what is taught and regurgitate it on tests. I hope to have more of the former and as little as possible of the latter in our homeschool environment.

Personal story: I once had a college instructor spend the first ten minutes of the first day of class explaining that his education level and credentials exceeded those of we, his students, so questioning anything he posed in class was not worth our time and was a complete waste of his. Thankfully, the students took that as a challenge. I’ve always wondered if he gave that introduction to subsequent classes or if he learned from the response he received in ours.

  • Jonathon Haidt – “The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives”

The previous talk on this list centered on learning to deal with conflict. This talk by Jonathon Haidt deals with one of the reasons there’s so much conflict to deal with.  These days, it seems like even the most basic information gets politicized, and conversations turn to virtual shouting matches in no time.  This talk is a great start for learning how to rise above the mayhem.

If you can learn to empathize and understand someone you disagree with, you’re much more likely to learn from them.  This isn’t limited to politics, it’s applicable to every part of life.

  • Scott Dinsmore – “How To Find And Do Work You Love”

“I wanted to find work I couldn’t not do.”

I don’t have a lot of goals in mind for my kids.  I have a few specific that I keep private, but for

The one goal I have for them which I hope to help nurture and facilitate through their schooling is the subject of this talk; I hope they can do something they love.  I hope they don’t have to work just to earn a money, I hope they can find work they work they’d do for free.  I hope they find something they can’t not do.

If I can sum up this whole list, as it pertains to homeschooling, it’s simply: I hope I can teach my kids to love the process.





One thought on “The Dad’s Top Ten Ted Talks

  1. Pingback: Book Report – The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin | these good old days

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