My 17 year-old son sent me a link to a fascinating TED talk. (If TED talks are new to you please see the * below for brief explanation.) In his TED talk, Dr. Peter Benson, author and president of the Search Institute shares his compelling perspective about American culture, child development and social change.
Benson believes that as a society our vision for Americas kids focuses mostly on simply keeping children safe and out of trouble and that our tactics revolve around management and control. He cynically claims that our highest aspirations for our youth are acing ACTs and make America more competitive in marketplace.
Benson’s vision is different. His focus is on raising students that thrive which he defines as “kids who experience joy, feel connected and engaged, kids who are kind, happy and compassionate and generous and kids who fall in life with their life”. Sadly through his research Benson believes that 3/4 American kids are not on the path to thriving.
Using metaphors to make his point Benson believes that youth are not vessels to be filled but fires to be lit. He believes that deep inside each child is a spark that ought to be nurtured and fanned into fire. For Benson that spark represents joy, energy, hope, direction and purpose. Benson challenges us to ask kids to name their spark and to ask them what helps them nourish their spark. Kids say they know what a spark is and easily can point to the kids with and without spark. Through his interview with kids Benson has identified 220 spark categories that include service, leading, learning, the creative life. He is careful to point out that is not the same as the work you want to do but rather is it an orientation to life—one in which life is the fullest.
TED is a nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual TED Conference in each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference each summer -- TED includes the TEDTalks video site, and TED Conversations, the TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.