Universities are teeming with brilliant minds. Students are often young and optimistic, and have the academic intelligence to challenge and improve the way we live. Equally, TEDx brings together people who question, challenge, and rethink the world we live in.
The TED website recognises universities as ‘centres of knowledge and incubators for great ideas’, and calls them the ‘perfect match for TEDx events’.
In my mind, there are great differences between the average student and the average TEDx goer or speaker. However, this difference has the potential to make the combination of TEDx and university even more powerful than either is alone.
In my experience, most students don’t learn for the knowledge to be gained by learning; they learn to further their careers. During my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t particularly excited about learning the ins and outs of the French subjunctive or understanding how the GDR was portrayed in German films; I mostly just wanted the certificate to say that I had more or less mastered French and German, so that I could become a translator.
Though many students are passionate about their subjects before they arrive at university, there often comes a point (probably during a two hour lecture or a mammoth revision session) when that loves dies, and is replaced by the simple desire for a 2.1 or even that absolute minimum of 40%.
Whilst universities are full of the best brains around, many of these brains are not doing what they’re best at – learning, questioning, and creating -, because there is, of course, a difference between learning and studying. They’re simply going through the motions of being students, and preparing for life in the world of work.
Of course this isn’t true of every student. Each campus has its share of passionate doers, go getters and world changers. These are the students, I suspect, who have already heard of TEDx. Maybe they’ve already been to an event or helped to organise one. But this post isn’t about those students.
The particular power of the presence of TEDx events at universities lies in the potential to wake up those students who are plodding through university life, not questioning, and not really learning.
Bringing TEDx to universities is an opportunity to reach those students, and to reintroduce them to the power and fun of learning for knowledge and for personal gain, and to show them that learning and ideas can be relevant, exciting, and useful in their everyday lives. It’s an opportunity to join together great ideas and great minds.
And, if just one idea worth sharing resonates with one student on 8th December, TEDx UoN will have succeeded in sowing the seeds for more ideas worth sharing in the future, from that student.
Note: the opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, not TEDxUoN.