084 – Succeeding at Education with Ted Dintersmith

084 – Succeeding at Education with Ted Dintersmith

Succeeding at Education with Ted Dintersmith

“What if the purpose of education is purpose?…  Kids should leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Why would an entrepreneur and noted venture capitalist zoom in on education?

  • How serious are the educational challenges we face in the US?

  • Is there a simple path forward to creating a better education for every student?

My guest today is Ted Dintersmith, noted venture capitalist, author, and executive producer of the Sundance-acclaimed education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed.”  Ted believes that with the best of intentions, we’re ruining the futures of our kids, and our country. He says we stubbornly cling to an obsolete education model that prepares kids for assembly line jobs that no longer exist and that failed policies have turned school into a dreary regime of testing and accountability. Worse,  he believes that even our best students learn little, as so many lose curiosity, creativity, intrinsic motivation, and sense of purpose.  Ted is fresh off a 50-state tour of schools and communities with his film, throughout which he has also seen the very best of learning experiences which have provided for Ted an inspiring vision of how schools can launch kids into lives of competence and purpose. 

There are lots of opinions about how and why we should change the education in the US. If you only take one point away from today’s show, consider this. What would happen if suddenly tomorrow we told every teacher in the country, “We trust you to turn our kids into curious, thoughtful, productive humans”?

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Ted Dintersmith is a father of two young adults, and concerned about the world’s future. He is retired from his venture firm Charles River Ventures, a top-tier early-stage venture firm, and now focuses his time, energy, and money on high-potential education-related initiatives.  He spent the fall of 2012 in New York City, selected by the President to serve as part of the delegation representing the United States at the United Nations General Assembly, where he focused on education and entrepreneurship.  Now, he is traveling way more than he ever did when he was active in venture capital.

Some four years ago, he started working on several initiatives dealing with the collision of innovation with our education system.  

Here’s what he has accomplished so far.
Mr. Dintersmith organized and funded a feature-length documentary on education that was directed by Greg Whiteley and his amazing team —Most Likely to Succeed. The film premiered at Sundance in January and has had an amazing run since.  It’s been a featured selection at more than twenty major film festivals, has been the opening night film for a half-dozen top conferences on education, and was part of a reception in November, 2015, setting up the White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools. They have an innovative distribution model for the film, encouraging schools to show the film to their community. They get hundreds of requests each week. Here’s how you can bring it to your school.

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dintersmith04Mr. Dintersmith co-authored a book on education with Tony Wagner, which was released on August 18th to strong critical acclaim.  Check out this Chicago Tribune review and order a copy.

He recently gave a TEDx Talk in Fargo, North Dakota, to an audience of 1,700.

He has written several articles which have gotten lots of traction. Love the way social media can give an article real reach. The best include:

Mr. Dintersmith is active on Twitter (@dintersmith) and would love it if you followed him.

Currently his is off and running on a tour with the film, going to all fifty states. His goal is to bring together people in each state and encourage them to form their own modern “Committee of Ten” — and lay out the goals and objectives they have for their graduates, and support the innovations and changes needed in their schools to make these goals a reality for their students. The tour began on September 14 in Lexington, Kentucky, and will run throughout the 2015-2016 school year. Check out his blog for progress to date.

Mr. Dintersmith has had some defining experiences that have shaped his views on education. HIs career has been all about innovation and entrepreneurs, so he understands what our 21st Century economy will be like, and what types of capabilities will be required.  Along with his wife and two kids, Mr. Dintersmith took a remarkable year-long trip around the world in 2007-2008 (www.dintersmith.org), and home-schooled (or maybe world-schooled) their kids during that year. Their kids have been in several schools, with differing styles and in different parts of the country, and had some outstanding experiences as well as some clunkers.

What Mr. Dintersmith finds shocking is that schools aren’t preparing our kids for life in the 21st Century. Surrounded by innovation, he believes that our education system is stuck in the 19th Century. The skills and capabilities our kids need going forward are either ignored or outright trampled.  Here’s a talk presenting his views on education, and why our nation’s future depends on wholesale change in our priorities.  And here’s a much shorter talk he gave at William and Mary’s Convocation ceremony, welcoming the class of 2018 to the college.

Mr. Dintersmith is now on a mission — changing our education system so that it promotes, instead of vitiates, innovative kids. He is hoping to influence things nationally, but with four orders of magnitude fewer resources than the Gates Foundation. He is supporting initiatives he feels have high potential (see Portfolio) and bringing his film all over the nation in the fall. 

Mr. Dintersmith holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from the Stanford University, concentrating on Mathematical Modeling and Optimization Theory. He also holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary, where Mr. Dintersmith graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with high honors, in Physics and English.


Additional Notes

Connect with Ted

Additional Links:

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“What if the purpose of education is purpose?  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we said we should be using these precious years when children are in school to help them understand that they have skills and talents and passion and perseverance to making their world better in ways they define through vehicles they create.  Really what we should accomplish with our kids is they leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith

“What if the purpose of education is purpose?… Kids should leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith

“I have lived in startups that failed, and failure isn’t great. You learn from it, but if you told me that I could either succeed or fail, I’ll take success every time. What is really debilitating is the fear of failure. What you find with people who do really well in the world of innovation is that failure doesn’t worry them. They say, ‘if setbacks occur I’ll figure my way out of it.'” –Ted Dintersmith

 Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. –John W. Gardner

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