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Arthur Zards

Founder, Experiential Fuse

TEDCRED 500+

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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: Note: I heavily edited my original post after further reflection

    I have never known elitist to have a positive connotation, so I was a little surprised by the response on the TED website. I understand the logic behind it but feel the "yes (but in a good way)" may be counter that message. I think the TEDx program is a good example of how TED is not elitist, it is now open to everyone given a little effort. In being a TEDx organizer I have actually felt a strong sense of equality within the TED community and not elitism. I am only a lowly undergraduate student but I have been able to talk to Nobel Laureates, Inventors, and past NASA scientists simply because I wanted to invite them to a conference. The thing that ties them all together is that they have done something interesting, which I guess you could call being elite in their field, but it feels like a poor choice of words. I think elitism connotates greatness in comparison to something else and not greatness in general. Accomplished may be a better word, or maybe exemplary. It sounds like a trivial semantic argument but I guess a lot of people feel offended by the idea of elitism because they perceive it as you saying "we are better than you," when you really want something more along the lines of "we are great." Does this make sense, or am I just talking in circles?
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        Feb 22 2011: I have read your other posts and I think I understand what you're trying to say, and to a degree am inclined to agree. However, I feel you misrepresented my statement and I'd like to clarify. What I meant by a sense of equality is that the elite really are not that elite, or elitist may be the better word. the primary method I used to contact all of the potential speakers for the TEDx event I am a part of organizing was googling their name and sending a message to the first e-mail address I found. My sense of equality comes from assuming that it wouldn't be that easy. I now have the deputy director of the Apollo program on my buddy list because he happens to use gmail and I think that is awesome. One thing I also tried to do as part of speaker selection was find people that no one had ever heard of before. I don't really consider them to be elite in their field, I consider them to have done something interesting that I want to hear them talk about. I don't really care who is on stage as long as they are talking about something I find interesting.

        As for the badge, I honestly don't know how I got 50 points, most other organizers have 30. But hey, its pixels on a screen representing an integer on a hard drive somewhere; not really something I care too much about.

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