TED Conversations

Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute


This conversation is closed.

In your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?

Education is a prominent cultural institution used to perpetuate the prevailing values of a society.

Our modern education system has a sordid past largely rooted in industrialism. It's aim is to produce economically viable products--employable citizens. Nearly all our tweaks to the system in the last 100+ years are simply attempts to ensure that the products (graduates) are prepared for the work force.

I want to hear from YOU as I believe this conversation is crucial to lay a foundation to create significant and meaningful change.

Here is my answer:

I believe that education should be an empowering process that allows and guides children to develop their passions, critical thinking, compassion, and orientation towards wisdom for timely action.

In other words, self-cultivation should be the purpose of education. Understanding self-cultivation in terms of being a part of a unified field of relationships is key to the growth of a mature culture of peace. When the natural web of our relationships is used to strengthen our depth of knowledge, the feedback from the environment supports timely adjustments and refinements in our emotional and technical developments.

For this conversation, please focus on the question "in your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?"

We'll talk about the "how" in another conversation.


Closing Statement from Adam Burk

Thank you all for joining this conversation. There are beautiful aspirations here of bringing for the best of humanity through the development of individuals, married with tensions to ensure that society is served and supported and that the basics are not overlooked.

There are currently 365 comments and 365 distinct articulations of "what the purpose of education should be." The process to develop a consensus on this is beyond the scope and purpose of this conversation. However, I do hope that it is understood that this question and its answer are the shapers of education systems and in turn cultures.

And so I invite you to ponder the question Thomas Brucia raised earlier, "Who should decide what the purpose of education is? http://www.ted.com/conversations/8190/who_should_decide_what_the_pur.html

Once we decide who should be making that decision then we can return to my original question and ultimately re-inventing education.

Thank you all again for sharing of your selves.

In peace,

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  • Steve G

    • +1
    Dec 7 2011: I think the most important thing that needs to be fixed IMMEDIATELY in the current system is the indoctrination (used negatively). Whether or not the curriculum should be broader, narrower, career-oriented - these are things that come far second to actually learning how to learn. The naturally occurring impetus for learning is human curiosity. I feel like I did well in school because my curiosity was never shut down. I was one of those students that never had to study and did well on tests - Why? Because I had a genuine interest in the world around me. If I was taught something I learned it because I cared to know it - it was a piece of the puzzle of what exactly this thing was that I was born into. Unfortunately (for the people in charge of school curricula), I fear that this process is often shut down by parents before their children even get to school (Please, tell your kids "why"), but even in school it usually starts to go downhill, as soon as "knowledge" is replaced by "this is the answer to a later test question". That said, foster creativity and curiosity in the early years, then let the student choose what they WANT TO LEARN (in order to know more about what they are interested in, or what they need to know to follow a prospective future career path) in later years. For all the wiseacres out there I mean pre-college school. It would also to be an improvement to change the way college education is sold to young adults like a con. I'm not generally dumb but at 18 I actually thought that "figure out what you need to learn for a career, oh, and also CHOOSE said career in mid-college education" was the way it just worked sometimes, because ultimately it is the piece of paper that matters. Yeahright! (facepalm)

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