Christian Long

Mae Jeminson: Teaching Arts and Sciences Together

In TED Talks on April 14, 2010 at 7:56 am

Reflection by TREVOR A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Mae Jeminson:  Teaching Arts and Sciences Together

Mae Jemison’s video was made in 2002 to provoke the revitalization of the teaching of arts and sciences in our modern culture. She proposes that our society, for the next 25 years, will be based and building on the abstract ideas that we are able to come up with in our time, just as the things that we have in our time were derived from the abstract, creative ideas of the 1950s through the 1970s. Things like high definition television, the internet, and laser printers, were all creative ideas during that time period. Everything that is present is a result of creative, intuitive thinking in the past, and she stresses that we aren’t living up to what we are capable of and are lagging behind what we can achieve.

The main point of her talk is that she believes that the sciences and the arts aren’t to be thought of separately, and that they are actually branches off the same thought pattern. She says that if we continue to think that they are separate, then we are going to have problems.

Science is creative, and art is analytical, but if the thought exists that these two fields are separate, then talent would run from both of them and attempt to find something that is both idealistic and logical at the same time. She seems to think that we have no hope for our future since in her time there were always “wonderful, incredible ideas” and what we have today is really based on those concepts. After I heard her say that, I thought to myself, what about all of our modern-day technology, like Apple and Google? What about social networking? I believe that there is only a certain distance you can go before you hit a dead end.

To me, we are busy simply making improvements on and finding different uses for all of those things that were just creative ideas during her childhood that we now have today. For example, first there was the computer, long after that came the internet, but I can say with confidence that nobody in the year 1950 had the radical thought that there would be things like Skype and Facebook or even online shopping.

Mae Jemison has this sense that we can just keep on inventing things, but I ask, how far can we go before we are out of things to create?

Mae Jemison is an astronaut, doctor, art collector, dancer, and, in 1992, became the first African-American woman to go into outer space. She talks about some of the items that she brought with her on her journey such as an Alvin Ailey poster of Judith Jameson performing the dance “Cry”, a Bundu statue from the Women’s Society in Sierra Leone, and a certificate for the Chicago public school student to work to improve on their science and math. She chose to bring these items because they represented human creativity. She points out that the same creativity that was used to sculpt the Bundu statue is the same kind of creativity that led to the first space shuttle. She brings up a slide of Albert Einstein’s quote, “the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science”. She argues that the difference between art and science is not constructive versus deconstructive. She points out that both art and science are constructive, and both are deconstructive as well, and that both art and science are both manifestations of the same thing.

The sciences, to her, are manifestations of our understanding, our experience to influence the universe outside ourselves, and is not created by an individual, but is a shared collection of experience from everyone in our universe, where as the arts are our attempt to influence others through experiences that are significant to us as individuals.

In other words, both the arts and sciences are used to share experiences with others, but in different ways. Science explains universal experiences while art explains personal experiences. She explains how many people view art and science as intuitive versus analytical, as idealistic versus realistic, when actually they are very similar. She talks about how our understanding of the arts and sciences, along with the resources we have to work with on Earth, and our will to do whatever it may be is what results in our quality of life. Ideas are like potential energy, but they will do nothing until we put them into action.

I believe that we are capable of thinking and therefore are capable of being idealistic. Just because there aren’t big names out there that are thinking creatively and putting their ideas to the test doesn’t mean that there aren’t ingenious ideas out there for the world to see. Our modern society, to me, is based on wealth. If you don’t have money, your voice isn’t heard. There are probably so many people out there with great ideas for things that we could have in the future, but they can’t have their voice heard because they aren’t wealthy enough, and they couldn’t possibly have any good ideas.

I wish that our society would be more open to the ideas of all people, whether they be wealthy or not, and I think that the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will have a rebirth of a more artistic and scientific culture in our lives, and a brighter future.


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