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This week’s best questions, ideas and debates from TED Conversations

TED-Conversation-generic-imageTED Conversations is a unique space where any member of this community can get feedback on an idea, ask a question that they just can’t get out of their mind, or start a respectful debate on an issue they hold near and dear to their heart. This week on TED Conversations:  a debate on innovation, questioning the line between Science and State, and adding an ‘A’ to STEM education.

Jason Pontin, who will be speaking from the TED U stage later this month, started a fascinating debate: Why can’t we solve big problems?

I think that blithe optimism about technology’s powers has evaporated as big problems that people had imagined technology would solve — such as hunger, poverty, malaria, climate change, cancer, and the diseases of old age — have come to seem intractably hard. I’d love to know what the TED Community thinks our difficulties are — or, even if the idea is true at all.

With 46 comments and one month remaining, this should be a lively debate.

Next, why should college students have all the fun?  Nina Tandon‘s class at Cooper Union is hosting a series of fun and thought-provoking conversations from their studies, and you are welcome to join in:

Will humankind ever achieve an end to science history?  

Would a separation of Science and State help or hinder innovation and scientific discovery?

Is science just “imagination in a straightjacket”?

And finally, from yesterday’s live chat with Ainissa Ramirez, author of the TED Book Save Our Science: How we can make science, technology, engineering, and math education more fun for kids?

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt asked:

Why is it so important to get kids going to with STEM in pre-school?

To which Ainissa replied:

STEM from a business case is important, since most of the jobs of the 21st century will have some math or scientific skill needs. But, STEM is much more than that. I would say that it is important for human development. Being curious and learning by trial and error is what we do as children to discover and learn. But, the way that we teach does not allow children to learn via these modes. STEM is inherently about using one’s curiosity to explore and exercises this muscle for human development.

Theodore Hoppe asked:

I think your book is a great statement. It’s the type of book I would like to see distributed to school board members. No Child Left Behind has forced teachers to focus on reading and less on science. My view is that encouraging a child’s natural curiosity is important. What are your thoughts on this?

Ainissa’s response:

I agree. STEM can be the means to teach reading and writing and all the other topics. It doesn’t have to be in a vacuum. And I think NCLB put a nail in the STEM coffin for two reasons: 1. Science isn’t on the test and 2. The testing also forces teachers to teach to them. So, STEM isn’t getting taught at all in some cases.

Abra Williams asked:

More recently, I’ve seen educators stress STEAM. What are your thoughts on making STEM more fun by incorporating the Arts?

To which Ainissa responded:

I am all for STEAM. In fact, I think they should call it TEAMS, since there is collaboration in it. To me, the path to making creative problem solvers does not matter. I only focus on STEM because it is what I know well. I have had discussions with artists about this, and we are all in the same boat.

Intrigued?  Join us for more big ideas, questions, and debates this week on TED Conversations»