TED Conversations

Arthur Zards

Founder, Experiential Fuse


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Is it time to change TEDs official response to the question, "Is TED elitist?"

TED’s official stance on the common question is yes (in a good way), but also no. (http://www.ted.com/pages/185)

The problem I have, is that every time the topic comes up I seem to be on the defensive where I shouldn’t have to be; spending a lot of energy on why TED is the good part of elitist rather than discussing the positive things that TED does and the changes it’s already helped bring to our global society. When I see public discussions on this, I see the same thing happening.

There two definitions of Elitist, in short, are “Perceived superiority”, and “Control/Rule”

I think it’s safe to say that many people not familiar with TED believe that the term elitist is defined by the definition “Perceived superiority…”, while most TED fans define it by the definition of “control/rule”. So person to person discussions and Internet comments and articles go back and forth debating who’s right, and countless posts go out with TED people defending all the good that comes out of TED. All this without anyone really making sure they are arguing over the correct definition!

What do people think when they hear the term “elitist”? I plugged the term into a thesaurus to get a better idea and this is what came up.

Snob, pompous ass, stuffed shirt, snoot, braggart, parvenu, stiff, uppish, high and mighty, snotting and on and on and on. Just to name a few, and the list goes on, and it doesn’t get better!

Is this what most people think of when they hear the term elitist? I really think so. When is the last time you heard the term elitist in a positive light?

So here is my idea worth spreading, is it time to officialy say no, we are NOT elitists?

Maybe we need a new dialogue. “No, TED is NOT elitist, we are ___________"


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    Feb 17 2011: I tend to be confounded by the idea that our entire life we extoll the virtues of obtaining the best education we can receive; and now to get one of the better jobs it is looking like you need not just a BA/BS, but perhaps an MBA as well. Yet, once one strives to receive said MBA or law degree from a prestigious university, political posturing typically brands that person as an elitist.

    Where is that line exactly anyway... where one receives enough of an education to be 'smart enough' to obtain a solid career and a become a thought leader, yet not too smart to have veiled insults hurled at them suggesting one is an elitist.

    Rather, was the term championed by those hoping to ratchet down others intelligence, as a result of their own inability to rise to a challenge... or even their self imposed perception that they already know everything they need to know.

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