Amanda Ripley

Speech Topics

How did other countries manage to make their public schools fairer and smarter than ours while spending dramatically less than we do? To find out, Amanda spent a year following three American high school students temporarily embedded in schools in Finland, Poland and South Korea. Through the students’ stories and new research into education outcomes worldwide, Amanda helps unravel a mystery at the center of our global competitiveness. Her reporting led to the New York Times bestseller, The Smartest Kids in the World. In the end, Amanda returned home more optimistic than when she’d left–convinced that the U.S. can outperform the rest of the world, if we can sustain the political and public will.

What are the signs of a world-class education? After traveling to classrooms around the world, Amanda Ripley realized that the usual things parents and reporters notice in schools have almost nothing to do with actual learning. It’s easy to miss the most revealing clues. Through stories and data from her global research, Amanda isolates the three most important signs that kids are learning to think for themselves.

Amanda Ripley draws on years of disaster reporting to explain the three phases most people go through in life-or-death experiences—and how we can learn to do better. She tells detailed stories of specific survivors from recent news-making calamities and combines their wisdom with the latest science into how the brain functions under extreme stress.

Presentation features: Case studies from the evacuation of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the 2004 tsunami and the 2009 crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.

Disasters happen to groups of people: to offices, neighborhoods and families. The health of the group before a disaster directly shapes its ability to survive and recover afterwards. On 9/11, the culture and management style of each company in the World Trade Center dramatically influenced the behavior of the employees in those offices.

Presentation Features: The case study of Morgan Stanley—and the lessons learned for how to build a survival culture in your company


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Amanda Ripley is an investigative journalist for Time, The Atlantic and other magazines. She is the author, most recently, ofThe Smartest Kids in the World–and How They Got That Way, a New York Times bestseller. Her first book,The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why, was published in 15 countries and turned into a PBS documentary. Amanda is a Senior Fellow at the Emerson Collective.

In her books and magazine writing, Amanda explores the gap between public policy and human behavior. How does the brain learn–and how does that compare to what children do in school all day? How do people behave under extreme stress, and how can we do better?

For Time and The Atlantic, she has chronicled the stories of kids, parents and teachers, writing cover stories onthe college of the future, thepolitics of education reform and the science of motivating children. She has visited schools on four continents and interviewed hundreds of students, teachers and parents. By telling stories that people remember, Amanda brings life to complex research that can change the way we think about the world.

The Smartest Kids in the World was cited as one of the most notable books of the year by the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post and’s writing has also appeared in Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and the Times of London. Her work has helped Time win two National Magazine Awards. To discuss her writing, Amanda has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX News and NPR. She has spoken at the Pentagon, the Senate, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as conferences on leadership, public policy and education.

Before joining Time as a writer in 2000, Amanda covered the D.C. courts for Washington City Paper and Capitol Hill for Congressional Quarterly. She graduated from Cornell University. Amanda currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is an Emerson Senior Fellow at the Emerson Collective.

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