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Having spent the vast majority of my life so far in some form of educational institution, either as a student, or as a teacher, I can say this with complete certainty:

The education system, for the most part, doesn’t know how to make learning exciting.

In fact, it often seems like the system works hard to achieve the complete opposite: disengaging and alienating every participant, and ensuring they find learning unpleasant for the rest of their lives.

Initially, most of us will probably respond with,

“Well, education isn’t meant to be exciting. Education is about sitting in a boring lecture theatre, listening to some monotonic, aloof ‘professor’ talk to himself for 2 hours. That’s just the way it is.”

In other words, learning isn’t meant to be fun. It’s meant to be “serious”.

But that’s bullshit.

Why do we allow this traditional belief to persist? Why do we tolerate it?

Why do we allow educational institutions to keep convincing us that education should be serious, and therefore, by extension, shouldn’t be entertaining?

Why is “entertainment” so frowned upon by educational elitists?

As far as I see it, entertainment is simply a form of presentation that arouses an emotional response from an audience – be it curiosity, laughter, sadness, anger, etc.

WHY would you NOT want to arouse those emotions in people when teaching?! These are the very emotions that motivate people to learn more about something!

So it amazes me that some people feel these two concepts (education and entertainment) should be kept FAR away from each other (because, you know, God-forbid people actually have “fun” while they’re learning!).

If we really think about it, education and entertainment are two sides of the same coin. By wrapping “education” into “entertainment”, we can make learning fun again. I like to call this approach:

“Education by Stealth” (TM)

The following two examples brilliantly illustrate my concept of “Education by Stealth”, and shows that it can be done.

MythBusters

MythBusters is quite possibly the best example of education by stealth.

This brilliant science program led by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage (both entertaining characters in themselves) has been screened on TV since 2003, and has made learning about science incredibly fun and entertaining (not to mention explosive!).

Even a casual viewer of this show is bound to pick up some “accidental” knowledge from watching the MythBusters team’s various myth-busting tests. Here’s one great example:

TED Talks

TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences with the goal of promoting “ideas worth spreading”. Since 2006, these talks have been released online through TED.com and have become immensely popular (as of July 2010, they had attracted over 290 million views).

TED Talks deal with an increasingly wide range of topics, and feature some of the brightest thinkers we have today, including Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.

Each presenter get 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. And most of them do it very successfully.

After spending only 18 minutes of your time watching a TED Talk, you are always entertained, and come away with knowledge that you probably didn’t have before you started watching.

Here’s one of the 700+ talks currently available online:

The above two examples prove that education and entertainment do not have to be separated. In fact, they should be combined together as often as possible.

After all, education is far too important to be taken “seriously”.