I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.
Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping.
The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer.
We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious.
We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live?
We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.
May 6-10 is Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States (and education week at TED — with TED’s first-ever television special, TED Talks Education premiering on PBS this week.) However, the TEDx program, with its global reach, is privileged to have a unique perspective on education across the world — and we’d like to celebrate teachers and schools the world over. Below, 5 TEDx Talks that explore some of the social, economic and political implications of guaranteeing good schools.
The impact desegregation had on schools: Rucker Johnson at TEDxMiamiUniversity
As schools were desegregated in the 1950s and 1960s, opponents feared that embracing students from low-performing, all-black schools would lower standards and unfairly disrupt white students’ performances. It’s been 60 years — were they right? No. As Rucker Johnson shows with his extensive research, desegregation had virtually no effect on white students, but propelled minority students to unprecedented levels of success.
No more easy answers: Adrián Paenza at TEDxJoven@RiodelaPlata
All too often, school lessons set concrete problems with clean answers. Which, suggests Adrián Paenza, can limit students’ creative problem-solving abilities. But perhaps more importantly, it can engender arrogance — setting classist expectations for the answers everyone ought to know. With humor and a few touching stories, he looks at some of the effects that unequal educational opportunities have on society. (In Spanish with English subtitles.)
Don’t mistake a dialect for a disorder: Sade Wilson at TEDxEMU
African American Vernacular English is a common dialect in the US. It’s not bad English, yet kids who grow up speaking it at home are too often misdiagnosed with speech and learning disabilities by teachers who either don’t recognize the dialect or give tests in their own dialect of English. At TEDxEMU, speech pathologist Sade Wilson sheds light on the issue and makes six recommendations to improve how teachers work with students who speak a dialect.
Where’s the R&D for better schools? Jim Shelton at TEDxMidAtlantic
If education is an essential social good, shouldn’t we make a bigger effort to figure out what’s worth investing in and what’s not? Governments invest in education, and governments invest in research, but according to Jim Shelton, many countries don’t invest much in education research. In this talk from TEDxMidAtlantic, he calls for expanding public investment into the research and development of new education practices and platforms.
A girl who demanded school: Kakenya Ntaiya at TEDxMidAtlantic
Kakenya Ntaiya made an unusual deal with her father in order to go to high school – something unheard-of for girls in her Maasai village. After continuing on to college in the US., Ntaiya returned to her village and set up a school for girls. In this talk, she shows how the school is changing the local culture by creating an alternative path for girls uninterested in marriage in their early teens.