Home » 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do: Gever Tulley at TEDxMidwest (Transcript)

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do: Gever Tulley at TEDxMidwest (Transcript)

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Gever Tulley

Full transcript of Gever Tulley’s TEDx Talk: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do at TEDxMidwest event.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do by Gever Tulley at TEDxMidwest


Gever Tulley – Founder, Tinkering School

I don’t have a lot of time. I prepared 18 minutes of presentation; we’re going to do in eight. So get ready.

First off, I want to talk about danger, and I’m going to need a volunteer.

Okay, I’m kidding. But…

Here’s the thing. My wife and I wrote this book, “50 Dangerous Things“. And if the slide guy backstage can get my speaker notes up here, because there are a couple of numbers that I need to refer to later and I’ve already forgotten them.

We wrote this book, and… A child psychologist in Australia said that the book was actively encouraging children to participate in activities that could scar, maim, and kill. And this is without ever having seeing the book — never read it — he completely missed the point that the book is actually about safety.

So, let’s look at topic number one in this book of scar, maiming, and killing.

Take something like: “Lick a 9V battery”. Now, raise your hand if you have licked a 9V battery. Okay, this is a good crowd.

Okay, raise your hands if you are going to lick one tonight. We chose this as the first topic in the book, because we thought that everybody would have done it. Wrong!

It turns out that ideas about the risk of licking a 9V battery include things like: death by electrocution, burn your tongue off, permanent loss of sense of taste. And the actual risk: it’s harmless.

Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control, who kind of track these kinds of household accidents, there has never been not one single recorded incidents of anyone being injured by licking a 9V battery.

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So where did these kinds of mythic false perceptions come from? And I think it’s pretty easy to see where they come from these days. I don’t have to tell you how much the media loves the story about a child in peril. People in Kazakhstan were watching this story unfold at 3AM their time. Is it any wonder that children in our society are over-protected?

This kind of inundation of stories about children in peril and danger creates the illusion that children are actually in danger. And our perceptions of risk are based more on hearsay — a news media confabulation, really — than any rational analysis. And to talk about this — and this is for you, Erin — I’ve coined a new term. Dangerism. I want you to remember this term. This is based on the word carnism, which was coined by Melanie Joy in her book, “Why We Eat Pigs, Ride Horses and… Pet Dogs“. [Actually the book is called Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism] I’ve screwed that up. Sorry, Melanie.

But it turns out that our family histories and our cultural context, and our personal experiences in childhood and so forth have more to do with how we perceive danger than the actual measurable risks involved. And like our phobias and our choices about which animals to eat, there may be no rational basis for this, and this has gotten to the point where our fears are so tainted by this exposure to the media, that the top five things parents are worried about in regards to their children — and you’ll notice ninjas aren’t on here — do not overlap at all with the five things that children in America are actually dying of.

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