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David Barnett

British Council

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What subjects do you think you should be taught at school nowadays?

I think a basic knowledge of plumbing and house and car maintenance would be essential, as well as lessons in the cost of living.

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      Sep 8 2011: Sounds like a jolly lesson!
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      Sep 8 2011: So true. Being able to deal with death and come to terms with it is the only way to not get beaten down life.
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      Sep 8 2011: You always come up with great insights. :) May be that can help to overcome one's fear of this event!
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      Sep 11 2011: Yes Ms. Chan the observable characteristic or definition of death is cessation of life. However can anyone really say that they know what life is? A samurai warrior who feared death once asked a Zen Master what death was. The Master said "why do ask me?" Well said the warrior"you are a Zen Master!" "Yes" answered the Master, "but not a dead one". I agree that coming to terms with our mortality one way or another can have value and that blind belief in religious platitudes is lazy if not mostly useless. The Buddha 2,500 yrs ago and the Dalai Lama today both stress that personal investigation and experience should be our guide not dogma. You apparently find it offensive that some believers try to pressure others into accepting their assumptions, so do I. However I find your pronouncement of your perception as a fact a bit overbearing. You do not know what others may have experienced. I will not try to dictate to you what you should believe, please return the favor if you wish to pose as a scientific person. We all of course can always say scientifically that all the evidence you are aware of leads you to believe any thing we wish. I will state that my own experience and investigation lead me to believe that visible birth and death are only the easiest phenomena to observe, the mystical end of the spectrum has shown me that they are neither the beginning nor the end. I will not ask you to accept my mostly subjective experience as proof. Still even subjective evidence beats an attempt to PROVE a negative, yes? Perhaps we could compromise and agree that a balanced approach to accepting our mortality would be beneficial in an ideal school. Initially each person can take the position that this is the only life we know (until or unless our personal investigation shows otherwise) Much like the usefulness of living each day as though it were our last. Carpe Diem
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          Sep 11 2011: Ms.Chan a source of your strong feelings is clear now. That crime committed by some religious fanatics has reasonably tended to make Muslims and to some extent all religions suspect to many people. This is understandable and unfortunately very human but it is still prejudice. Your reaction is not so different than that of the terrorists. Their strong feelings of their coreligionists having been abused led them to justify their actions in their own minds. The Medieval religious motto "memento mori" (remember you will die) addresses your last statement. Those of us who attempt to emulate peacemakers like Gandhi or Willem the Silent (both of whom did call out to God as they died) try to preemptively forgive all possible offenses before they happen. We try to be prepared for death as the motto and you both teach, it will come for all of us and we don't know when. If you would read "the wisdom of forgiveness"(Dalai Lama) it might broaden your perspective. The "scientific atheism" of Stalin and Mao did not protect millions of people under their power from suffering and death. I did try to emphasize in my previous post that freedom of conscience is paramount both for believers and non believers. When I said that you do not KNOW what others have experienced I hoped that it was self evident that I include myself. Even though I believe differently than you I do not wish to impose my beliefs on anyone. As an aspiring scientist I acknowledge that I may be wrong in my logic or even deluded by my experiences, thus I admit that you MAY be right, please allow me the freedom to be wrong as long as I oppress no one else. Hatred and resentment are toxic like radiation, they spread. Love and forgiveness tend to heal all wounds even eventually intolerance. It may sound strange even oxymoronic but I call myself a mystical-existentialist, thus I really believe that an atheist can be just as good or moral as any saint and that some who have been designated saints did much evil.
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          Sep 12 2011: Chad, your comments and responses here sound simplistic to me. You come off as having the answer to the meaning of life, provided life doesn't actually get in the way.

          You may have put your finger on the problem with your thinking when you said, "I may be wrong in my logic or even deluded by my experiences".

          Athiest as saint? Saint as evil? To me, that just sounds like you like listening to yourself talk. No thought required.
        • Sep 14 2011: When it goes to death I like to see a flower growing, blooming dying becoming a seed once again. I don't believe in an afterlife but represents this the children which succeed the previous. This can be a way of accepting death as it merely a stream of conscious which must preveil at all costs. Each individual should feel interwoven into the web of life in order to fulfill whaterever they choose to be in the scheme of their own unique reality. All scales big in large from the highest magnatudes which can mar the individual I the end. Or the minutest sense of self which feeds bigger things which marginalize.
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      Sep 12 2011: i am responsible for my bodies death, how else can i be responsible for my life? with respect this is my perspective.
    • Sep 12 2011: My only question about this topic is why and how. Why would you teach children that were just thrust into a world of destruction, catastrophe, violence and other forms of evil, a lesson of death. There is no relief in the fear of death by learning about it. My next question is how. How do you teach about death. The only lesson you can learn can be taught by a child: "All body function stops. End of class. Go home." No one on this planet can teach you about death for they themselves are living.

      I am not questioning your morals Ms. Chan but why would you, or anyone for that matter, tell a child they are going to die.
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          Sep 12 2011: Nice article. Common sense to most people but there are still of lot of people out there who think they-re being kind by diluting the truth with euphemsims about granny falling asleep or how the angels came for little Johnny. Still, a valuable lesson...but not meaty enough for a subject in its own right.
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          Sep 13 2011: Although I agree that it does need discussing and might merit a few lectures throughout the school year, I don't think that it deserves to be a subject in its own right, like Mathematics. I mean, why not make Sex a subject in its own right? It's probably the most important driving force in the whole of nature. I think both could be covered in Biology or Psychology.

          Separately, it has been proven that when suicide is reported on the radio and news, suicide rates rise afterwards. Why this is, I don't know. But the more one comes into contact with something, the less it frightens you. This can be a good thing, of course. I just wish I could be sure what effect it would have on the young, being so open with the idea and not afraid of it.
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          Sep 13 2011: Enjoy.
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          Sep 14 2011: Have you read any Ernest Becker?
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          Sep 15 2011: Yes, and a mycologist too.
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          Sep 18 2011: Oh, well, I was referring to your post of John Cage, the musician and amateur mycologist. :-)
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          Sep 20 2011: When we say a subject should or would be studied at school are we trying to say everyone must do it? Is it a subversive way of indoctrination or are we just trying to have it offered within the corridor halls?
          There are dance programs obviously outside of school for those wanting it.

          John Cage is interesting. I am not a huge fan, but thank you for sending the video.
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          Sep 20 2011: I agree. Everything you said sounds great. However, I did not say that dance is in of itself a form of indoctrination. Offering something is different than require it. That is all I meant.
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          Sep 20 2011: Ha ha. It should be illegal for some. :-)
    • Sep 14 2011: I really like the idea of this.

      It has previously occurred to me that all religion is concerned with preparation for death, and while I am not religious, I think that perhaps it is of some value when discussing this subject. Maybe we should be restructuring religious education, and not pretend it's something it isn't, but placing it in the context of this sort of teaching? It could be accompanied by a much broader coverage of culture and history, and into philosophy and biology. It could actually be truly fascinating.
    • Sep 14 2011: Agreed. Death is the sole motivation of humanity: I need to do this before I die, I have to get out of bed before I run out of time and die.

      If humans could live forver, nothing would ever be accomplished; nothing would stop us from staying in bed all day and saying, "Well I have time, I can finish that tomorrow." Death gives us our due date, the time when we have to have our projects finished.

      Now, how that can be taught in school besides in a psychology class is beyond me.
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      Sep 16 2011: you can't teach death. It is an experience that can only be prepared for with analogies and definitions.
    • Sep 21 2011: Death is not a good topic as a subject for young students for those above 30 or so.
      You must see that being educated and experience is a very different matter to every person. (I'm not good at being educated).
      Take two identical students in every way except for a period of one year. Where one of the students father's died, their mother became depressed and neglected that child, eventually committing suicide due to depression. How do you think these two students would view depression? Ok, now expand this example to a class of 25, each with various experiences.
      Even just asking some question that shouldn't be attempted to be answered early. Children have curious minds and would look for answers (ask the wrong people).
      If death was taught it would be on a very personal level, that is the reason we have guidance counsellors and therapist.
      Death is a part of life, but teaching it is another matter.

      A good subject would be just plain common sense(if it can be taught).
    • Sep 21 2011: Oh! Death? Haha! Lovely! Are they going to have exams with grades about death too?

      I disagree here. As many others have said, we can't teach death simply because nobody has really figured it out yet.

      I guess we could discuss it in classrooms as an open debate, but I feel that it should be done rather with the parents first. Each child is going to react differently and is going to be affected differently by death in his life, and the parents know him better (hopefully...)

      I think that presenting it in classrooms is way too blunt.

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