Education for free

My one take-away LSS from Avenue Q was Trekkie Monster’s mantra:  The internet is for porn.

While that may be true for most,  the internet has proven extremely useful for geeky SAHM moms like myself to keep up to date with the latest global issues and trends.   The internet has shrunk the world to the point where one need not travel thousands of miles to see Thomas Friedman expound on his theory that The World is Flat or learn from Kamal Meattle the exact number of plants needed to grow fresh air in an crowded office environment.

Thanks to the internet and the generosity of certain think-tanks and universities, lectures by global movers and shakers are now accessible to the public:  for FREE.

My favorite sites at the moment are the following:

1.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

TED is a small non-profit organization which hosts annual conferences in Long Beach and Oxford,  bringing together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers  who  are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).    Videos of these talks are available online at   I love their mission – to build a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.     Topics range from the environment to art to what makes us happy.

Must view video:  Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about “how we are educating our kids out of their creative capacities.

Hot on the heels of TED is whose mission is to “gather the web’s largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates going on all the time at the world’s top universities, think tanks and conferences.   We present this provocative, big-idea content for anyone to watch, interact with, and share –when, where, and how they want”  Be sure to catch George Kembel’s lecture on Awakening Creativity.

3.  Academic Earth

There is a revolution happening in campuses around the world and this is being led by the edupunks who espouse a do-it-yourself philosophy with regards to education.   MIT was the first to lead the pack — posting videotaped lectures on  Other Ivy League schools such as  UC Berkeley, Carnegie Melon and Yale have followed suit.

It was just a matter of time before someone had the brilliant idea of aggregating all these videos on to one website.  Academic Earth now allows you to audit classes from various universities in the comfort of your own home.

As Thomas Friedman said,  The World IS Flat.

Ted and Jose Antonio Abreu’s wish: El Sistema to Go Global

For the past few days,  whatever spare time I have has been spent surfing  Today’s uploads were especially thrilling as I finally got to hear from the founder of El Sistema:  Jose Antonio Abreu.

Mr. Abreu is a retired economist, trained musician, and social reformer who founded El Sistema (“the system”) in 1975 based on the conviction that what poor Venezuelan kids needed was classical music. After 30 years and 10 different political administrations, El Sistema is now a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras and 270 music centers.  This February,  he was announced as one of 3 winners of the 2009 TED Prize:  $100,000 + “One Wish to Change the World.”    

Comprised of close to 250,000 young musicians, El Sistema uses music education to help youth, most from impoverished circumstances, to achieve their full potential and acquire values that favor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society.    Several participants have gone on to major international careers, including Gustavo Dudamel, incoming music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and double bass player Edicson Ruiz, who at the age of 17 became the youngest musician ever to join the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Witness and be moved by the passion and joy of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra (composed of high-school musicians) led by the charismatic Gustavo Dudamel as they perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2.  I love the idea that these young kids are taught at a very early age to work as an ensemble – that in working together,  they may achieve something great.


What is Mr. Abreu’s wish? “I wish you would help create and document a special training program for at least 50 gifted young musicians, passionate for their art and for social justice, and dedicated to developing El Sistema in the US and in other countries.”

To help with this wish,  go to


Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Barry Schwartz on TEDtalks: The real crisis? We stopped being wise

This is one of best TED lectures I’ve seen:   You don’t need to be brilliant in order to be wise.  Without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.  A wise person knows when to improvise, like a jazz musician.   A wise person is made,  NOT born.  Wisdom depends on experience.  It takes a lot of experience to learn to care for people.

This has important implications for education and the workplace.


Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Lessons from our forefathers (and mothers): Greatness is never a given. It must be earned

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash
of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;
Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. ”

— Barack Obama, 19 January 2009

For complete transcript of Obama’s inaugural speech, go to

Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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The Obama Inauguration: Get a Piece of history

The excitement in the air is almost tangible.    On Jan 20,  2009,  Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.    For me, his presidential campaign was remarkable not just because he was making history as the first black president but because he generated a feeling which had been missing in American politics for a long long time.  Hope.  Belief in the Power of One.  The idea that we can bring about change.  

inaugural-pigObama mania shows no sign of abating.   It seems as if everyone wants to get a piece of history.   The Inaugural Collectibles Online Store is doing extremely well,  selling everything from fleece jackets and onesies to champagne glases and bronze medallions.   For me,  the best of the bunch is the cute transparent blue piggy bank with the 2009 Inaugural Seal.    Your kid will outgrow the clothes or might not appreciate the commemorative coins but this piggy bag will,  I am sure,  stand the test of time.  It is a great opportunity to remind the younger generation that on this day,  a man was sworn into the highest position of this land,  swept into office largely because of the grassroots support he and his supporters were able to generate.   The Obama campaign was an overwhelming success on all fronts:  from the numbers of new votes it was able to enlist to the number of small donors who enabled him to become the  first major-party candidate since the system was created to reject taxpayers’ money for the general election.   Yes,  one vote,  one dollar can make a difference.  

Let this be start of something new. 

Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Are schools educating our children out of their creativity?

We may differ in parenting styles and philosophies but one thing holds true for all parents:  we want our children to be the best that they can be.  For many,  this is achieved by investing in education – sending them to the best schools that money can buy, hiring private tutors etc.

So why is it that more and more people feel that the education system is in crisis?  I’ve talked with HR practitioners who decry the dearth of talent being churned out by the so-called top universities. I’m meeting more and more people (some of whom are educators) who have decided to homeschool their children because they strongly feel that the traditional schools are stifling their creativity and taking the fun out of learning.

Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative said it best during a June 2006 lecture at TEDtalks.  If you are a parent or an educator,  stop whatever you’re doing and watch this video:

Key takeaways:

  • “They’re [children] not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you never come up with anything original. And by the time most children get to be adults most children have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong”
  • We stigmatize mistakes.
  • Creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status.
  • The education systems around the world are educating people out of their creative capacities… “Truthfully what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.”
  • “the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”
  • The education system needs to be rethought and reengineered to help cultivate our children’s whole being (not just specific parts) to enable them to make something of their future.

The full transcript is available here.

Michael Wesch and the students of the Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class of Spring 2007 at Kansas State University made a very thought-provoking video spelling out the results of a survey on what it means to be a student in North America today.

Sigh.   This certainly isn’t making our school hunting any easier.


Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Warren Buffet Talks Business

Warren Buffett,  often called “The Oracle of Omaha”.  His letters to Berkshire Hathaway sharesholders have become the stuff of legends – compiled into business books and taught at business schools around the country.  If you want to become a better investor, and understand the market as a whole, do get the updated version of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America.   

Here’s a rare 56-minute video of a lecture made at the University of North Carolina.  Do watch it and learn more about his value investing philosophy.

Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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