Explore the following selection of TED Talks, each running under 20 minutes, chosen to launch conversations in the classroom. Please contact us if you would like to add a call to this list.

Video Topics

 

Race

Speaker Title TED Description
Jamila Lyiscott 3 ways to speak English Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”
Mellody Hobson Color blind or color brave? The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it's a "conversational third rail." But, she says, that's exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society.
Vernā Myers How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we've seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.
Nalini Nadkarni Life science in prison Nalini Nadkarni challenges our perspective on trees and prisons — she says both can be more dynamic than we think. Through a partnership with the state of Washington, she brings science classes and conservation programs to inmates, with unexpected results.
Dorothy Roberts The problem with race-based medicine Social justice advocate and law scholar Dorothy Roberts has a precise and powerful message: Race-based medicine is bad medicine. Even today, many doctors still use race as a medical shortcut; they make important decisions about things like pain tolerance based on a patient's skin color instead of medical observation and measurement. In this searing talk, Roberts lays out the lingering traces of race-based medicine — and invites us to be a part of ending it. "It is more urgent than ever to finally abandon this backward legacy," she says, "and to affirm our common humanity by ending the social inequalities that truly divide us."
Khadija Gbla My mother’s strange definition of empowerment Khadija Gbla grew up caught between two definitions of what it means to be an “empowered woman.” While her Sierra Leonean mother thought that circumsizing her — and thus stifling her sexual urges — was the ultimate form of empowerment, her culture as a teenager in Australia told her that she deserved pleasure and that what happened to her was called “female genital mutilation.” In a candid and funny talk, she shares what it was like to make her way in a “clitoris-centric society,” and how she works to make sure other women don’t have to figure this out. (Warning: This talk contains hard-to-hear details.)
Steven Levitt The freakonomics of crack dealing "Freakonomics" author Steven Levitt presents new data on the finances of drug dealing. Contrary to popular myth, he says, being a street-corner crack dealer isn't lucrative: It pays below minimum wage. And your boss can kill you.
Bryan Stevenson We need to talk about an injustice In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.
Aaron Huey America's native prisoners of war Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.
Anand Giridharadas A tale of two Americas. And the mini-mart where they collided Ten days after 9/11, a shocking attack at a Texas mini-mart shattered the lives of two men: the victim and the attacker. In this stunning talk, Anand Giridharadas, author of "The True American," tells the story of what happened next. It's a parable about the two paths an American life can take, and a powerful call for reconciliation.
Jedidah Isler The untapped genius that could change science for the better Jedidah Isler dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist since she was a young girl, but the odds were against her: At that time, only 18 black women in the United States had ever earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline. In this personal talk, she shares the story of how she became the first black woman to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Yale — and her deep belief in the value of diversity to science and other STEM fields. "Do not think for one minute that because you are who you are, you cannot be who you imagine yourself to be," she says. "Hold fast to those dreams and let them carry you into a world you can't even imagine."
Thelma Golden How art gives shape to cultural change Thelma Golden, curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, talks through three recent shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture. The "post-black" artists she works with are using their art to provoke a new dialogue about race and culture — and about the meaning of art itself.
Nina Jablonski Skin color is an illusion Nina Jablonski says that differing skin colors are simply our bodies' adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure. Charles Darwin disagreed with this theory, but she explains, that's because he did not have access to NASA.
Angélica Dass The beauty of human skin in every color Angélica Dass's photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. In this personal talk, hear about the inspiration behind her portrait project, Humanæ, and her pursuit to document humanity's true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race.
Sam Richards A radical experiment in empathy Can two countries at war dare to empathize with one another? Step by methodical step, sociologist Sam Richards gives his audience an extraordinary challenge: to allow a group of (mainly) Americans to understand — not approve of, but understand — the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent. A powerful talk.
Ron Eglash The fractals at the heart of African designs I am a mathematician, and I would like to stand on your roof.' That is how Ron Eglash greeted many African families he met while researching the fractal patterns he’d noticed in villages across the continent.
LaToya Ruby Frazier A visual history of inequality in industrial America For the last 12 years, LaToya Ruby Frazier has photographed friends, neighbors and family in Braddock, Pennsylvania. But though the steel town has lately been hailed as a posterchild of "rustbelt revitalization," Frazier's pictures tell a different story, of the real impact of inequality and environmental toxicity. In this short, powerful talk, the TED Fellow shares a deeply personal glimpse of an often-unseen world.
Freeman Hrabowski 4 pillars of college success in science At age 12, Freeman Hrabowski marched with Martin Luther King. Now he's president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where he works to create an environment that helps under-represented students — specifically African-American, Latino and low-income learners — get degrees in math and science. He shares the four pillars of UMBC's approach.
Timothy Graf We don't need immigration caps. We need minimums. Timothy Graf’s experiences moving from America to England sparked some fresh ideas about immigration. Our exacting border policies often ignore the significant benefits delivered by the new perspectives of immigrants, fresh ideas that are vital for future success. He argues that smart countries should be lowering roadblocks and setting both caps and minimums when it comes to immigration.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The danger of a single story Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Alice Goffman How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison In the United States, two institutions guide teenagers on the journey to adulthood: college and prison. Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in a troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and saw first-hand how teenagers of African-American and Latino backgrounds are funneled down the path to prison — sometimes starting with relatively minor infractions. In an impassioned talk she asks, “Why are we offering only handcuffs and jail time?”
Michael Gonchar 25 Mini-Films for Exploring, Race, Bias and Identity with Students   
Dena Simmons  How Students of Color Confront Imposter Syndrome  As a black woman from a tough part of the Bronx who grew up to attain all the markers of academic prestige, Dena Simmons knows that for students of color, success in school sometimes comes at the cost of living authentically. Now an educator herself, Simmons discusses how we might create a classroom that makes all students feel proud of who they are. "Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one's own skin," she says.

 

Class

Speaker Title TED Description
Mia Birdsong The story we tell about poverty isn't true As a global community, we all want to end poverty. Mia Birdsong suggests a great place to start: Let's honor the skills, drive and initiative that poor people bring to the struggle every day. She asks us to look again at people in poverty: They may be broke — but they're not broken.
Thomas Piketty New thoughts on capital in the twenty-first century French economist Thomas Piketty caused a sensation in early 2014 with his book on a simple, brutal formula explaining economic inequality: r > g (meaning that return on capital is generally higher than economic growth). Here, he talks through the massive data set that led him to conclude: Economic inequality is not new, but it is getting worse, with radical possible impacts.
Richard Wilkinson How economic inequality harms societies We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.
Esther Duflo Social experiments to fight poverty Alleviating poverty is more guesswork than science, and lack of data on aid's impact raises questions about how to provide it. But Clark Medal-winner Esther Duflo says it's possible to know which development efforts help and which hurt — by testing solutions with randomized trials.
Josette Sheeran Ending hunger now Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN's World Food Program, talks about why, in a world with enough food for everyone, people still go hungry, still die of starvation, still use food as a weapon of war. Her vision: "Food is one issue that cannot be solved person by person. We have to stand together."
Teddy Cruz How architectural innovations migrate across borders As the world's cities undergo explosive growth, inequality is intensifying. Wealthy neighborhoods and impoverished slums grow side by side, the gap between them widening. In this eye-opening talk, architect Teddy Cruz asks us to rethink urban development from the bottom up. Sharing lessons from the slums of Tijuana, Cruz explores the creative intelligence of the city's residents and offers a fresh perspective on what we can learn from places of scarcity.
Jon Gosier The problem with "trickle-down techonomics" Hooray for technology! It makes everything better for everyone!! Right? Well, no. When a new technology, like ebooks or health trackers, is only available to some people, it has unintended consequences for all of us. Jon Gosier, a TED Fellow and tech investor, calls out the idea of "trickle-down techonomics," and shares powerful examples of how new tech can make things actually worse if it's not equally distributed. As he says, "the real innovation is in finding ways to include everyone."
Alastair Parvin Architecture for the people by the people Designer Alastair Parvin presents a simple but provocative idea: what if, instead of architects creating buildings for those who can afford to commission them, regular citizens could design and build their own houses? The concept is at the heart of WikiHouse, an open source construction kit that means just about anyone can build a house, anywhere.
Nick Hanauer Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming Nick Hanauer is a rich guy, an unrepentant capitalist — and he has something to say to his fellow plutocrats: Wake up! Growing inequality is about to push our societies into conditions resembling pre-revolutionary France. Hear his argument about why a dramatic increase in minimum wage could grow the middle class, deliver economic prosperity ... and prevent a revolution.
Paul Piff Does money make you mean? It's amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there's good news too.
Kevin Bales How to combat modern slavery In this moving yet pragmatic talk, Kevin Bales explains the business of modern slavery, a multibillion-dollar economy that underpins some of the worst industries on earth. He shares stats and personal stories from his on-the-ground research — and names the price of freeing every slave on earth right now.
Seema Bansal  How to Fix a Broken Education System... without any more Money.  Seema Bansal forged a path to public education reform for 15,000 schools in Haryana, India, by setting an ambitious goal: by 2020, 80 percent of children should have grade-level knowledge. She's looking to meet this goal by seeking reforms that will work in every school without additional resources. Bansal and her team have found success using creative, straightforward techniques such as communicating with teachers using SMS group chats, and they have already measurably improved learning and engagement in Haryana's schools.

 

Gender

Speaker Title TED Description
Michael Kimmel Why gender equality is good for everyone — men included Yes, we all know it’s the right thing to do. But Michael Kimmel makes the surprising, funny, practical case for treating men and women equally in the workplace and at home. It’s not a zero-sum game, but a win-win that will result in more opportunity and more happiness for everybody.
Jimmy Carter Why I believe the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse With his signature resolve, former US President Jimmy Carter dives into three unexpected reasons why the mistreatment of women and girls continues in so many manifestations in so many parts of the world, both developed and developing. The final reason he gives? “In general, men don’t give a damn.”
Elizabeth Nyamayaro An invitation to men who want a better world for women Around the world, women still struggle for equality in basic matters like access to education, equal pay and the right to vote. But how to enlist everyone, men and women, as allies for change? Meet Elizabeth Nyamayaro, head of UN Women’s HeForShe initiative, which has created more than 2.4 billion social media conversations about a more equal world. She invites us all to join in as allies in our shared humanity.
Anne-Marie Slaughter Can we all "have it all"? Public policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter made waves with her 2012 article, "Why women still can't have it all." But really, is this only a question for women? Here Slaughter expands her ideas and explains why shifts in work culture, public policy and social mores can lead to more equality -- for men, women, all of us.
Ivan Coyote Why we need gender-neutral bathrooms There are a few things that we all need: fresh air, water, food, shelter, love ... and a safe place to pee. For trans people who don't fit neatly into the gender binary, public restrooms are a major source of anxiety and the place where they are most likely to be questioned or harassed. In this poetically rhythmic talk, Ivan Coyote grapples with complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity and highlights the need for gender-neutral bathrooms in all public places.
Lee Mokobe A powerful poem about what it feels like to be transgender "I was the mystery of an anatomy, a question asked but not answered," says poet Lee Mokobe, a TED Fellow, in this gripping and poetic exploration of identity and transition. It's a thoughtful reflection on bodies, and the meanings poured into them.
Alice Dreger Is anatomy destiny? Alice Dreger works with people at the edge of anatomy, such as conjoined twins and intersexed people. In her observation, it's often a fuzzy line between male and female, among other anatomical distinctions. Which brings up a huge question: Why do we let our anatomy determine our fate?
Yee Won Chong Beyond the gender binary Living as a sex other than the one you were assigned at birth has huge implications on how you function in society, says Yee Won Chong at TEDxRainier, whether that’s choosing a bathroom to use or trying to get a government ID. In his talk, he shares his experience living as a transgender person, and shares advice on how everyone can be allies to the transgender community.
Eman Mohammed The courage to tell a hidden story Eman Mohammed is one of the few female photojournalists in the Gaza Strip. Though openly shunned by many of her male colleagues, she is given unprecedented access to areas denied to men. In this short, visual talk, the TED Fellow critiques gender norms in her community by bringing light to hidden stories.
Sunitha Krishnan The fight against sex slavery Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories, as well as her own, and calls for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives.

 

Sexuality

 

Speaker Title TED Description
Al Vernacchio Sex needs a new metaphor. Here's one... For some reason, says educator Al Vernacchio, the metaphors for talking about sex in the US all come from baseball — scoring, getting to first base, etc. The problem is, this frames sex as a competition, with a winner and a loser. Instead, he suggests a new metaphor, one that's more about shared pleasure, discussion and agreement, fulfillment and enjoyment. Let's talk about … pizza.
Shereen El Feki A little-told tale of sex and sensuality “If you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms," says Shereen El Feki, who traveled through the Middle East for five years, talking to people about sex. While those conversations reflected rigid norms and deep repression, El Feki also discovered that sexual conservatism in the Arab world is a relatively new thing. She wonders: could a re-emergence of public dialogue lead to more satisfying, and safer, sex lives?
Christopher Ryan Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? An idea permeates our modern view of relationships: that men and women have always paired off in sexually exclusive relationships. But before the dawn of agriculture, humans may actually have been quite promiscuous. Author Christopher Ryan walks us through the controversial evidence that human beings are sexual omnivores by nature, in hopes that a more nuanced understanding may put an end to discrimination, shame and the kind of unrealistic expectations that kill relationships.
Elizabeth Pisani Sex, drugs and HIV  let's get rational Armed with bracing logic, wit and her "public-health nerd" glasses, Elizabeth Pisani reveals the myriad of inconsistencies in today's political systems that prevent our dollars from effectively fighting the spread of HIV. Her research with at-risk populations — from junkies in prison to sex workers on the street in Cambodia — demonstrates the sometimes counter-intuitive measures that could stall the spread of this devastating disease.
Yoruba Richen What the gay rights movement learned from the civil rights movement As a member of both the African American and LGBT communities, filmmaker Yoruba Richen is fascinated with the overlaps and tensions between the gay rights and the civil rights movements. She explores how the two struggles intertwine and propel each other forward — and, in an unmissable argument, she dispels a myth about their points of conflict. A powerful reminder that we all have a stake in equality.
iO Tillett Wrigh Fifty shades of gay Artist iO Tillett Wright has photographed 2,000 people who consider themselves somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum and asked many of them: Can you assign a percentage to how gay or straight you are? Most people, it turns out, consider themselves to exist in the gray areas of sexuality, not 100% gay or straight. Which presents a real problem when it comes to discrimination: Where do you draw the line?
LZ Granderson The myth of the gay agenda In a funny talk with an urgent message, LZ Granderson points out the absurdity in the idea that there's a "gay lifestyle," much less a "gay agenda." What's actually on his agenda? Being a good partner — and being a good parent.
Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols This is what LGBT life is like around the world As a gay couple in San Francisco, Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols had a relatively easy time living the way they wanted. But outside the bubble of the Bay Area, what was life like for people still lacking basic rights? They set off on a world tour in search of "Supergays," LGBT people who were doing something extraordinary in the world. In 15 countries across Africa, Asia and South America — from India, recently home to the world's first openly gay prince, to Argentina, the first country in Latin America to grant marriage equality — they found the inspiring stories and the courageous, resilient and proud Supergays they had been looking for.
Sarah Jones One woman, five characters, and a sex lesson from the future In this performance, Sarah Jones brings you to the front row of a classroom in the future, as a teacher plugs in different personas from the year 2016 to show their varied perspectives on sex work. As she changes props, Jones embodies an elderly homemaker, a “sex work studies” major, an escort, a nun-turned-prostitute and a guy at a strip club for his bachelor party. It’s an intriguing look at a taboo topic, that flips cultural norms around sex inside out.