TED Conversations

Dominic Randolph

Head of School, Riverdale Country School


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How can we teach young people the mindset and skills to be effective social innovators, and therefore, change schools for the good?

If we want students to be better thinkers, better ethicists, better scientists and better historians? To what ends?

It would seem that having students understand the ways that change can happen and be managed in order to improve the place they live in or the broader global community must be an essential element of a good education.

I wonder if we can better define the mindset (a la Dweck) of the mindset of great social innovators, assess those capacities in formative ways and construct educational experiences in schools that will lead to the development of these mindsets in ALL children.

Having students understand that they can be changemakers as Ashoka Youth Venturers do and the students at Kiran Sethi's Riverside School in India understand would be an amazing goal for all schools and universities? How can we get this to happen more comprehensively and force change on the educational system?


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  • Mar 2 2011: Dom, great questions. I'm answering down your list.

    If we want students to be better... To what ends? As an educator, I don't know that's what I want. I want my kids to have curiosity, passion, interest in their lives. I hope that it will drive them to great heights because it fulfills them - they want to achieve. And I think their contributions will be decided afterward. But at the end of the day, I just want them to be happy - does it matter that they're the best? Not to me, no.

    Understanding change in the community or global context is an essential element of a good education: agreed. And I would add that it's not just understanding (I think that makes for a good planner), but it more begins with empathy - relating. Showing them how this affects them, how some situation across the world is just like home. How we constantly change, but are not so different.

    Definition of the mindset of great social innovators: for sure. And as mentioned above, I believe it starts with curiosity, an interest in one's personal life, before finding others are interesting as well. It's finding passion. It's the feeling of fear, but knowing you can overcome it. Students I think need to learn attitudes that will let them succeed, and the experience of emotions and how to gain meaning from them. And of course, after that, they also need the skills to analyze, and the knowledge just as general background.

    Changemakers as a goal: I believe in this 100%. Hong Kong has "MaD": Making a Difference. It's basically a TED format for youth, and with tons of gov. funding it works. There is so much energy, so much passion, optimism. It's inspiring. Yes, I think the educational systems need overhauls - but before that happens, let's bypass the system and create spaces for youth to explore, ask questions, connect, and get fired up. And it's amazing where they'll take it.

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