3 Must-Watch Ted Talks for Every College Student

If you have time between classes and are in the mood for something life-changing, give one of these videos a try.
September 28, 2017
8 mins read

College students are apt to find themselves stuck in boring lectures, vigorously taking notes and worrying more about writing every single thing the professor is saying, rather than fully understanding and appreciating what they are supposed to be learning.

Paulo Freire coined the term “banking model of education” to critique the flawed education system that many students are conditioned to learn and know. This model of education reinforces the notion that students have no autonomy, but instead act as robots who are supplied with certain knowledge and information based off of what their teacher believes is important and worthy of knowing. This process hinders critical thinking and creativity that should blossom out of a classroom, which is where TED comes in.

TED is a nonprofit organization that is passionately devoted to maintaining a creative community in America. Working against the banking model of education that Freire criticized so harshly, TED offers talks online for free and emphasizes their slogan “ideas worth spreading” with each video they circulate.

There are many important aspects to watching any TED talk; however, there are three TED talks that every college student should take time out of their day to watch. These three videos instigate feelings of pride, happiness and a general willingness to want to do better and be better.

1. “The Danger of a Single Story” By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It wasn’t until after I read her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, did I discover this TED talk. After watching, it will officially go down as one of the most captivating, honest speeches I have heard. In her talk, Adichie warns about the danger of listening, understanding and reiterating a single story.

She argues that the best story to tell is the human story; however, if human beings are reduced to a single homogenous story, they are stripped of their humanity. Using the story of Africans for example, Adichie meditates on the catastrophe of looking at Africans solely as pitiable starving victims. As people are often subjected to hear different versions of a single story, Adichie warns us to be wary of this western colonial gaze we place on others.

2. “The Surprising Science of Happiness” By: Dan Gilbert

As college students are constantly consumed by copious amounts of readings and deadlines, they often forget to make time in their daily schedules for themselves to benefit their personal happiness. Gilbert thus offers us with a speech that helps us understand the necessity and ease of finding happiness.

In this talk, Gilbert explains that we believe happiness is a thing that needs to be found, which subconsciously makes us believe that we are not happy even if we synthesize happiness. As Gilbert talks about the two basic components of happiness, he explains that there is the happiness that we come upon accidentally and the happiness that we create ourselves. The problem with most people is that they do not believe these two kinds of happiness are equal to one another, and they inherently rank the kinds of happiness in their lives.

By the end of his talk, it becomes clear that Gilbert surmises that the real risk in happiness is when individuals constantly search for another kind of happiness that might appear to be more naturally delightful. This leaves college students with an understanding that while some things in life are justly better than others, we cannot be led on to believe that synthetic happiness is an inferior kind of happiness. Gilbert’s talk reinforces the notion that college students should learn to accept some things that they cannot change because some of these things can lead to total happiness.

3. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are” By: Amy Cuddy

Many people probably recall their childhood as a time when their parents were constantly worried about them sitting up straight, setting their shoulders back and having exemplary posture. As we grew up, the importance of body language in every social setting was echoed to an annoying extent.

In this TED talk, Cuddy reaffirms the importance of body language both in terms of how other people look at you and your expressions and how you view yourself. Cuddy argues that while we are constantly aware and worried about how we present ourselves to others, we sometimes forget how our presentation and body language can affect the way we think of ourselves.

She talks about the mantra “fake it, ‘till you make it” and helps viewers understand that occupying space relates to concepts of power and dominance, even if some people do not feel powerful or dominant. In contorting your body to a more powerful position, your brain is convinced that you are actually more powerful and commanding than you may actually believe to be. This relates to hormonal changes configuring your brain to be less stress reactive and confident.

Nonverbal cues, in turn, affect the way we react to social-threat situations. Cuddy’s idea to power pose for a brief moment can help with feelings of insecurity or inferiority. College students prepare for a wide range of stressful situations, varying from meetings with professors during office hours or going to internship and job interviews. This talk can better prepare students for these moments when they feel as though they might not be good enough in these moments.

Thus, you must not be satisfied with faking it until you make it, but rather fake it until you become it.

Each of these TED talks reaffirm the notion that human beings everywhere sometimes need an additional source of inspiration to feel as though they have all the information they need to become the best version of themselves. It is sometimes easy for college students to become complacent in their education, for as we are at impressionable ages believing the things our professors tell us is simple, but can be harmfully passive. Therefore, it is necessary to find another outlet to learn from and allow our ever-changing minds to follow paths of creativity and genius.

Natalie Washuta, Colgate University 

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Natalie Washuta

Colgate University
English & Educational Studies

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