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?

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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    Dec 27 2011: Great conversation and I am very happy for the opportunity to read though all the ideas here.

    I certainly agree that our modern education system derived from perpetuating the values of industrialism; the problem is that while basic literacy prepares workers for a position within the industry it does not concern itself with the special abilities that exist in each child allowing them to develop and contribute to society as is best for them.

    Although education and literacy are distinct, the emphasis must always be on education. The elements of literacy should be integrated throughout the day in a social manner through music, theatre, games and in the form of group discussions where the educators’ job is to assist students in transitioning from topic to topic and students learn how the various disciplines are tied into the whole picture of reality.

    The purpose of education should be to prepare children for life, nourishing the potential in every child so that each may connect and contribute his/her unique ideas and abilities to society.
    • E Pines

      • +22
      Dec 27 2011: Excellent points! We spend years teaching the math skills that could be taught as a model of approach in a few days as these will essentially done by computer and calculator anyway. In the meantime, the thinking/cooperative skills -- total integration -- necessary for true success in the new global world that has come upon us, are left to float.

      The industrial age has been passing to the information age, and now to the global/integral age.

      In the 13th century Leonardo of Pisa, "Fibonacci," widely introduced Italy and Europe to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and its wonderful arithmetic. It freed them of the hopeless entanglement and debilitation of commerce and engineering under Roman numerals and abacus.

      Who shall come forth for 21st century children so that they may have the tools to untangle the global systemic mess. That they may work as a single vast strategist and tactician with billions of eyes, where all individuals use their unique talents, creativity, and problem solving skills in mutual concern and guarantee that links into a whole truly greater than the sum of the parts. Who will teach them to map and implement the interactive/interdependent strategies of Nature, on the human level, to achieve a world never before known. Who will bring our children to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive -- to start that great new chapter of human history, to fly forth as the butterfly from the overspent, rapidly decaying cocoon?
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        Dec 28 2011: Who is a good question—we must first of all recognize who or what constitutes education. About the age of seven, a child becomes acutely susceptible to suggestion of the values and ideas implicit in society; therefore, we must rethink our programs and systems of education (including the media) in order to provide an appropriate quality education that will enable all children to fulfill their potential and contribute to building a sustainable and just global society.

        “Education must simultaneously provide maps of a complex world in constant turmoil and the compass that will enable people to find their way in it.” (Delors Report, Learning: the Treasure Within)
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      Dec 28 2011: Nourishing the potential, C. Medansky, is a most excellent purpose.

      I wonder whether you would accept that potential as the potential to love, potential to empathize, potential to play, create, to be happy, to spread happiness, to be sensitive to the needs of our planet. I'm speaking about things that occur to me as usually not associated with head thinking or knowledge learning per se, but rather strength of spirit and heart. Even when we include health and safety (and physical agility, strength and endurance) still--emotional power and well-being often seem at the end of the list so to speak.
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        Dec 28 2011: Thanks Mark! In answer to your question: YES, I positively accept that potential as the potential to love, potential to empathize, potential to play, create, to be happy, to spread happiness, to be sensitive to the needs of our planet, and agree with Jeremy Rifkin (The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis) that distributed and collaborative learning experiences that foster critical thinking skills and greater empathic engagement go hand-in-hand with curricula emphasizing the interconnectedness of life and geochemical processes, preparing our children to think and act as part of a global family in a shared biosphere.
  • Dec 29 2011: This is a beautiful thread with so many wonderful responses. Thank you for the question.

    There is nothing more important than education. Lifelong learning is a process we all participate in, knowingly or unknowingly, in each and every moment. We are all interconnected with each other and with nature's systems. This is why I feel that your question, "In your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?" is quintessential. The answer must come from a deep causal root of understanding from which all things stem and intertwine. That said, here is an attempt at an answer.

    The purpose of education, on all levels, is for each and every person—both within the collective whole of humanity and individually as a vitally necessary, and fully whole and contributing part—to ultimately reach the full realization of what it means to be human.

    By explaining and pointing to this foundational root of understanding, in each and every activity, subject, and direction, that the most basic, common law thread that runs through all of nature is the greatest Human Universal known as The Ethic of Reciprocity, also known as The Golden Rule, each person, and all people together have the best opportunity to fully realize their humanity, as empathic, compassionate humans that care for the needs of others in all areas of society.

    Human Universals bind us together as one great global human family. The Human Universal called "The Ethic of Reciprocity," also known as "The Golden Rule," expresses itself throughout the world in varying degrees, through phrases such as, "Do not do to others what you yourself hate," "Do to others what you would want done to you," "Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss," and "Love your neighbor as yourself," to name a few.

    If one generation of children were to be educated with this natural law of love and unity as the basis for all decisions, approaches, and mentalities, just imagine the impact.
  • Dec 15 2011: We Chinese ancestor has a saying教是为了不教 which means Education‘s purpose is just making everyone learn how to self-educate. I can't agree with this more ——in my opinion,I need education to make me understand my situation,understand others feeling,maintain interesting to this world,especially the nature.While even as a top-10 in my schoo llife,I can't get this from our current education system. I only got impatience and comparison,let myself adjust to the society,then lose myself
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      Dec 16 2011: Hello Zhiying,

      I have spent a lot of time with "The Great Learning" and this greatly informs my thinking and attitude. I agree that "how to self-educate" is a worthy purpose of education.

      • Dec 27 2011: woe,Adam,thanks for your confirm. Really appreciate your sincere attitude and careful consideration. My pleasure to share my view with u
  • Dec 11 2011: In my opinion, the ultimate purpose of education is to help people be the teacher of themselves. I've been working in educational field for three years, and I am always thinking about this question. This is what I found: Education should be the process of helping people realize what they have, what they want, and what they need to do!
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      Dec 15 2011: I agree
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      Dec 16 2011: Hi Steve,

      I sincerely agree with you. What age students are you working with? Are you finding ways to impart this purpose into your work?

  • Dec 2 2011: We each have differing talents, abilities and interests. If Mozart had gone to a public school today his teachers would have said, "Great kid, so you got an A in music, but you're failing P.E. and English. You can't just play the piano all day!" Well, you get the point. So the purpose of education would partly be to discover and develop the natural talents we each posses. To see each person as an individual, to help them discover their inner passions and to help them grow these inner passions as they develop greater skill in them.

    I also see education as a way to teach critical thinking skills and to open our minds to higher order thinking.
    • Dec 2 2011: Love the Mozart example! It reminded me of a video that conveys your point well!

      On the other hand, can their child be giving up too early? I did bottom of the class in math in 3&4th, in 6th I was top. I struggled again in 7th. By grad school no one could touch me. How does a parent "know" that their child is not a Mozart, or that the "It's just not my thing" is a cop-out?

      I agree that 'roundedness' is over-rated. Specialization is how we progress in almost all areas of human endeavor (and may be the principle reason that the one-size-fits-few public schools fail so many children and squander the skills of so many teachers.) After years of observation, I believe my daughter has no proclivity or ability in art; has minimal talent but deep interest in music; and has great interest and talent in science. That her current school forces equal measures of these three seems a mismatch.
  • Dec 2 2011: Because we live in a fast-paced world where that pace is accelerating. We cannot know what children will need to know in the future; we cannot even know HOW learning (or work) will be done because technology is transforming that very rapidly. Therefore, the primary purpose of education should be to learn how to learn.
    • Dec 3 2011: Technology pours forth on its own trajectory and if no major reckoning occurs to create some semblance of universal acknowledge that a unique technological phenomenon has happened which provides grounds for departures in which "ideals" rather than mere "improvements" are possible, it won't matter that technology will continue to spill forth in continuance of its "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary" procession. I have put all of my professional and motivational eggs in one basket I believe represents such a reckoning. I call it "socio-technological literacy"--a third literacy above the traditional literacy of the ability to read and write, and above "technological literacy" which we generalize to be the ability to "use a computer", a cell phone, a DVR or what have you. This socio-technological literacy above the other two is an understanding of the fact that digital technology from the personal computer forward are no longer "tools" in the sense that tools had been used since the beginning of civilization. These devices and their impact on dialogue cause unique adaptations in the human being. We are changed by such "tools" and it is absolutely imperative to begin formalizing a literacy around developmental dynamics and the facilitation of human potential through media devices which are "unspecific" AS tools.

      Through this reckoning--this realization that we are changing from tool operators to beings partially changed by our new tool use, begins to establish a direction for deliberation in technology design. What is it about ourselves that we can no address and enhance since our tools give us freedom from physical time and space? The answer is, we can address every aspect of reason and development and create unconventional progress synergies that make for micro-economies that fall outside of what has been addressed in Industrial age business. This is how we define the line between the Industrial Revolution and the Information Technology Revolution in earnest.
    • Dec 4 2011: The primary purpose of education should be to learn how to learn.

      This deserves deeper investigation. To learn how to learn is inherently dangerous and disruptive. The process spoils authority while raising the most "unworthy" into positions of power. And yet, it is our best hope.
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    Nov 30 2011: A "good" education--one that contributes to the positive development of a human being--is always rooted in relationships. In fact, the things we most value in a democracy--participation, community, contribution--are also about relationships. I believe the purpose of education should always be creating good citizens: people who will be productive, but also good family members and neighbors, informed and engaged community members, civic-minded participants in making the immediate world a better place. The skill set for good citizenship, and the curriculum to lead youth in those positive directions does not, of course, align with what we're actually teaching in schools.
    • Dec 3 2011: Well-put Nancy. We should remind ourselves what makes us smile in life, and educate towards that.
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    Dec 16 2011: The question is "what should the purpose of education be" (obviously any ideas in this regard would be the writer's opinion....).

    Shouldn't it be "Who should decide what the purpose of education should be"?

    Next: "Who should have the right to disagree with the person(s) who has decided what the purpose of education should be?"

    Finally: "What should the person who disagrees do about that fact?"
    • Dec 16 2011: however the question is what should the purpose of education be: it is rooted to challenge the educational systems that have been built for us by this who. A look into the history of education and what its relevance was back then is crucial to see what entailed this decision making process to set up a curriculum fit for the society.

      As the world is changing rapidly , so should the past reasoning behind the present educational systems be challenged. In a world that needs to be saved from historys´ effects like war, global warming, poverty, hyper consumption etc ...Todays´ education (both classroom and beyond the classroom) has to be able to shape concerned individuals who can learn from human history and be more innovative than the box allows them, to be. “Education is not to reform students…or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, U of Chicago president 1929-51.
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      Dec 16 2011: Thomas, this is an excellent set of questions that certainly do need to be asked. Thanks for raising them. We've heard some answers in this thread already such as parents should be the ones to decide.

      What are your thoughts?
      • Dec 19 2011: education connects people with societies/organizations. Each organization or society has a set of 'symmetries' that people need to possess in order to function within them. Education teaches people these symmetries. When schools fail to teach people the right symmetries to work with their target societies, people appear to drop out of school (because they are naturally attracted to educational systems that will provide them those required symmetries).
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    Dec 23 2011: To be precise, the purpose of education should be to become a good human being.We should not be educated just for the purpose of workforce but making all possible attempts to make this world a better place to live!!
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      Dec 28 2011: Hi Ridhima Manglani
      If the purpose of education is to guide humanity toward a better future (I'm paraphrasing your answer), what would this collection of good human beings look like? How would we live? What would be important to us? I know you answered on an individual basis, but I ask on the collective level.

      Thank you for your participation here.
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    V Raj

    • +3

    EDUCATION is the best way forward and I feel that one of the most important things Present Day Education needs to do is to teach People to Be Humble.... More Giving & Less Egoistic... More Understanding!

    Maybe then someday we would stop fighting over My Space - My Country - My Religion & would actually be in a position to achieve the Universal Goal of One World - One Famliy!
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    Dec 18 2011: The goal of education should be to challenge each person to maximize their own individual potential.
    A story: I used to tutor a high school girl who did poorly in the 3 R's, but she could draw a horse in 10 minutes in pencil that looked as if it would leap from the page. She drew my portrait and the likeness was stunning. This child felt like a failure and harbored a poor self esteem; why? Is there not a place in schools for recognition of talents other than those found on the standard achievement test?
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      Dec 21 2011: Deb, your story reminds me of those Sir Ken Robinson tells to highlight how we are damaging our children's creativity and esteem. My good friend, Kirsten Olson, wrote about this in detail in "Wounded By School."

      Through her research she really honors the experience so many have had like the girl you speak of and creates a space for us to begin having honest conversations about education and reclaiming it.

      Thanks for being here.

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    Dec 13 2011: I still remember the first day I went to school when I was four. I couldn't wait to go to school so I put on my schoolbag at five o'clock in the morning and wait for my grandpa to send me there.School is so exciting to me at first. But I don't remember since when I didn't dare to answer questions in class because I was afraid to be scolded by teachers when I made mistakes. I don't remember since when school was not exciting any more, but pressure of not getting into a good college, or not getting a good job. And I don’t know what I want to be, basically because what I want to be is not what I can be—wanting to be a musician but studying physics in school.

    So I guess education is about providing the resources to release people’s potential. Just here is enough. Teachers should not tell us what we need to be in the future. We need to find by ourselves. What make us tick? What do we love to do? What do we love to do even nobody pay me? They are the answers we need to explore by ourselves because we’ve been privileged to have education. So many people around the world barely have access to education. We cannot afford to abuse education as a tool to kill our intuitive aspiration for knowledge. When we say we hate school, it doesn’t mean we hate learning, but we hate it that the school kind of turn the situation into this.
    • Dec 23 2011: Give "Totto Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" a read. A little story about being expelled from the first grade ..... that incorporates the philosophy of Pestalozzi and Dewey.
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        Dec 24 2011: Thanks for reminding me of that book! Actually I know it's pretty popular here but I took it as a Children's book because of its name :-p
  • Dec 6 2011: 100 years ago, the industrial model of school worked, and it worked for a reason- the work that the average student could expect, ( if they pursued their schooling) was monotonous and, if not simple, at the least, consistent. In our modern world, life happens at a different pace, and what you do at work isn't necessarily going to be the same thing every day. Indeed, even the concept of reliable employment looks like a shaky prospect right now. That being said, what graduates need, is a broad based education which focuses on the individual. If you teach a man how to think rationally, how to understand the world around him, he has a much better chance to succeed than if you teach a man how to solve a particular set of problems- all conveniently broken into different classes, punctuated by the ringing of a school bell.
  • Nov 30 2011: In my opinion, you have captured the essence of what the purpose of education can be. It is here that we need to start. It's way too easy to get caught up in the details of the "how" and miss the "why" are we educate. The purpose and goal are foremost. Without a clear vision of what education means to us we will never achieve our goal.

    Let's all imagine what outcome we want to see. Bringing out the best in each individual. Learning from our past and other great minds, learning where we came from, where we could be going. Understanding how we humans think, feel, and act. Understanding our emotions, our physiology, our history.

    To me education is a lifelong pursuit, therefore it really never ends. And knowing that even embryos learn in the womb it's hard to say when it starts. We humans come into world ready and eager to learn. It's hard to stop them from it. (But somehow our current system does). I would like for everyone to know they are natural learners who can and do learn all the time.
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      Dec 2 2011: Darleen, thanks for joining the conversation. Obviously I am right with you. If we start talking about the how, without the why, we are simply not having the same conversation together. We must explore our values and articulate this "why" together before we start shouting about the how.

      "Bringing out the best in each individual" is something I am really interested in and look forward to talking more about.
  • Nov 30 2011: I think the fundamental change in education should be to make what has been previously neglected entirely, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, primary and knowledge development secondary to that. This can become the "horse" of motivation that pulls the "cart" of understanding and knowledge, whereas, centering only on knowledge is mostly motivation by "threat of consequence". "Competition" has been nearly a religion in America--"cooperation" seen as foreign or even socialistic or communistic. But cooperation and competition are not only not mutually exclusive, society gets no where without both. And by having a "competition-only" foundation, western education perpetuates the 1% and 99% split where the real purpose is to raise a few winners to manage or control the massive numbers of "losers" as just dumb units to boss.

    No one should be reduced to "loser" as a child and carry some social stigma around with them. Conversely, no one who manages to pull 100 on a test should get a life-time pass to see themselves as superior. There's a dynamic now understood called neuroplasticity in which we all grow the capacity we need to overcome the challenges we face. But it also atrophies when we don't face new challenges. This is what really governs differences in people over a life time, not what was "learned" in school.

    Traditionalists will say: " we've made class sizes smaller, put computers in the class room, what more IS THERE to do than we've already done?" The answer is in the students themselves--they become facilitators of the best in each other by working within a new social development model in which all act as learners, motivators, presenters, mentors. Nature and chemistry will out the ones who truly are exceptional both at the subject and leading others. Understanding of neuroplasticity makes for new remedies for others so that fundamentally we cease accepting failure as part of the process. The purpose of education? Development, not knowledge.
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      Dec 2 2011: James, thanks for joining the conversation. Elsewhere I have written that education should be for the development of profoundly sane personalities or sage human development. This, for me, encompasses social development, but also includes intra-personal, summed up in the idea of character development.

      We have applied our impressive knowledge within limited understanding such that we have now fundamentally altered the planet's primary life systems and are slowly (and more rapidly) destroying the planet.

      A focus on development over knowledge for knowledge's sake would be a safeguard against such human folly.
      • Dec 2 2011: Hi Adam, education reform can not come from within because all in power are products of the same system which governs their logic. Many reformers on the outside are also products of the same system and simply argue for "better" ways of producing similar objectives. The truth is that inside the industrialization of education has been a profound error which has made for an institutionalization of dysfunction. I urge that no reform proceed on any other ground than correcting this dysfunction first--the assumption that guides the very idea of "classes" and "testing" i.e. that human beings have relatively static levels of intellectual capacity determined by birth/genetics and that learning is a moral/ethical matter of discipline.

        The dynamic known as "neuroplasticity" means that each individual human being grows the capacity he or she needs to accommodate the challenges they face. "Grading" as it has been done is wrong and needs to be thrown out in favor of a "development matrix". Further, the herding of kids into classes by age/year ties millions of fates to the luck of the draw as to whom else shares that fate and what "teacher" they draw. This does more to limit and confine young intellects than facilitate and motivate. Education is part of the problem of social ills and no wonder society treats young people in education as untrustworthy of playing a functioning part of producing economy. We instead look at education as a sterile expense. That's a gross dysfunction that can be turned around with opportunity to positively impact economy.

        Educators are not qualified to judge "saneness" or "sageness"--perhaps some are better than the authoritarianism which has shaped them and can stretch themselves to help a few who "seem" to be exceptional. But generations are still being limited by errant "processing" which often "kills creativity" because it surely does nothing for identity except create false measurements of intellect.
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    Nov 30 2011: The purpose of education is to go where every child can start thinking critically, and not just being a dummy of the entire system. Where every student enjoys the process of learning.
    Where every person is not the slave of money, materialism and status, but focussed instead on value creation in the society.
    It seems to be idealistic, but as Viktor Frankl says in the following video, its only if we put humans above what they actually are, can we, in the long run, bring out what they potentially can be.
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    Dec 28 2011: The main purpose for education is increasing the degrees of freedom on various levels.

    Freedom of thought - Supplying cognitive instruments / tools, powerful metaphors, learning to master grammar and algorithmic thought

    Freedom of affect - Allowing to feel oneself, to develop an empathic theory of mind, to be able to "deeply" connect to the world: rather then just "think about it" - "feel a part of it". Feel freely about love, death, loneliness and meaninglesness (the 4 existential categories proposed by Yalom)

    Freedom of expression - Ability to learn languages: foreign languages, programming languages, mathematical descriptions of reality, Ability to use one's voice in speach and tone-shaping, Graphic and literary forms of expression

    Freedom of communion - Team skills, Problem solving and negociating skills, basic political and social concepts applied.

    - I think the whole concept of education should be about enabling children to do whatever they want to do - to make them understand that learning is not something they "have to" but something they want to in order to do whatever makes them happy. I don't think a reform in education will do it. Old forms of education have their merits and sometimes when dilluted with a bit of freedom concepts have shovn worse results than the original - which only goes to show that sometimes a full-hearted choice or the other is better than any compromise.
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    Dec 27 2011: This is a great theme, I think. To keep it simple, I believe that education should be about giving children the tools they need to make a positive change in the world. We should start being so much more creative when it comes to teaching and we should focus on showing kids around the world that everyone deserves to be happy and have the same human rights and opportunities. Education should focus on making better human beings. That's the only way we can have a better world. Let's help kids grow up to be knowledgeable people but also great inspiring courageous people that want to make a positive change in our world.
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    Dec 22 2011: In my humble opinion, education is for all. We all, whether as a young man or an old man, still need education as well. The purpose of education can be a tool to open our mind, our faith, our belief, our skills in everything that we haven't yet known into the things we know. And also to make our current knowledge sharpen. Education is not only practiced in school, but also in everywhere (home, ourselves).
  • Mary T

    • +2
    Dec 22 2011: To instill a life long love of self directed learning.
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    Dec 22 2011: Education is growth. The basic tenets of education are time-tested, but the tutoring process needs a change. Education should empower free will.
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      Dec 22 2011: We lost free will back in 53'.
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    Dec 18 2011: I'm currently a high school student, and in my experience, this is a vital question that students themselves often overlook because of the emphasis on grades and college. Education is supposed to prepare us for the future, but with the rapid acceleration of technology and our changing world, we can hardly expect to predict what the future holds or where it will take us. What education can and should do is teach us to learn, adapt, analyze, and ponder; the only way we can face the challenges of tomorrow is by developing a lifelong love of learning, so that, when the time comes, we can acquire whatever skills may be necessary to pursue whichever path we choose. Education must instill in us the desire and curiosity to explore these challenges. Education shouldn't be viewed as an isolated entity, but should instead open our eyes to learning as a lifelong pursuit.
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    Dec 16 2011: In short I think the purpose of education should be teaching people to learn and enjoy learning.
    • Dec 17 2011: Love you reply.Things are so simple. I don't know why people try to philosophize simple things
  • Dec 16 2011: I'd certainly place a far greater emphasis on creative based learning and customised learning methods that seek to understand where a child's interest and potential talents may lie and then putting them with students whose interests and skills are of a similar nature. Developing such a curriculum is not easy, but digital technology can be utilised to deliver learning structures and specific types and styles of curriculum that are geared to those students who show and shared common interests and responses to specific learning styles. Avoiding a one size fits all approach is necessary in our education system particularly when students are under the age of 12. Simple things like workshops/lessons beyond the school environment provide exposure to the 'real world', and an environment beyond the classroom. Multimedia is a great way to facilitate and track learning behaviours and interests as are group based activities and creative play/game activities where memory and strategy is involved. Identifying a student's strengths and interests and then following those interests and any new interests whilst attempting to utilise technology and activities and group interaction makes learning 'feel' both natural and rewarding. I'm a big believer is using computer/technology workshops with digital cameras/video cameras to encourage film/story telling. Plays and pantomimes also push news kinds of creative thinking with relevance to narrative, technical insight, perception, creative self assessment and the sense of accomplishment when something is conceptualised, developed, executed and then finally completed. The longer you can keep young students engaged in the learning process and to provide for their natural sense of curiosity by making each learning project something that is new, fresh, empowering and yet relevant to the real world and their own world, the easier it is to set different minds and personalities towards the path of self-orientated learning and self discovery.
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    Dec 14 2011: Independence and empowerment. Education should empower people to be explorers, and to be self-motivated, life-long learners, in all fields of knowledge.
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    Dec 13 2011: I believe education plays a critical part in our life. During the early education, we need develop our nature: curiosity, playfulness, emotional engagement, sympathy, empathy as well as love. However, when I grew up in China, the early education system would focus on competition of grades rather than individualism or teaming. As a result, when we grow up with single one child build-in mentality and lack of teaming virtue; we would choose a area we can get a better grades instead of following our heart. It has became the primary barrier to enter into professional life and personal life.

    When I came here to North America in Canada and Silicon Valley for advanced education, the different between the two countries are very different. Canada has a good and affordable public university system. In the contrast, most of top universities are private school in U.S. It is the first time I deeply felt what is meritocracy. U.S is a typical meritocracy country, it is revealed in universities and professional world or even in personal life. People are very proud of what they have accomplished or which school they went to. None of those achievement can tell who they are in a real life.
    Education is one dimension of you. Here is a example, we don't want to team up with someone looks good on resume, but unethical in real life. Can education help us to be more ethical?

    In my opinion, education should be one channel to help us to be a better person.
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      Dec 16 2011: Hi Betty,

      You speak to the many troubles in our current models. From divorcing ourselves from our passions in order to focus on obtaining rewards such as grades to the profound role privilege plays in education.

      Imagine if education helped us to be more ethical! In my opinion our major global ails can be traced back to ethical/moral failings of individuals.
  • Dec 12 2011: PS. It is worth noting the *current* (unintended) purpose of the education system; to teach the most amount of students the standard amount of knowledge for the least amount of money.

    Seen through this lense, the modern education system is remarkably successful.... !
  • Dec 12 2011: An education system must enable an individual to discover, develop and deploy their ability to create a better future for themselves, their loved ones and their community.

    The key point is to enable individuals to use their creative ability (in whatever shape it manifests itself) to create a better world. Taking that as a starting point, it rapidly becomes clear that one of the key things education should do is to enable people to discuss 'what is a better world' and 'how should we build this better world'. Developing people's ability to communicate and collaborate should lie at the heart of any 21st Century education system.

    However, it is NOT enough to merely stimulate critical thinking. One of the great challenges we face with the current education system is its fundamental failure to develop ethical reasoning and empathy. The linear, reductionist approach taking to education means that today most young people, myself included, are in the strange position of knowing everything but understanding very little!

    To conclude, I suggest education must (like all things!) return to its past to re-create itself in the future. We must return to the idea of a 'whole education', body, mind and heart. In a rapidly changing world, knowledge is quickly gained but also quickly becomes redundant. Surely wisdom (good judgement), a strong ethical capacity and good health in body and mind are at least as important as Pythagoras' theorem?....
  • Dec 10 2011: To further your answer, I believe education should also cultivate one's awareness on ethical behaviours and service to the community.

    I think my view is quite similar to the following quote:
    “The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem.”
    —Albert Einstein

    Just being able to think critically may not be enough. They should be responsible for their action and try their best to contribute to the community.
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    Dec 10 2011: The purpose of education in my opinion is to nurture, facilitate and develop critical thinking and intellectual curiosity in students. Both, seen as skills, can help them to pursue their own goals and interests, but the most important thing, to think by themselves.
  • Dec 6 2011: Simply, to promote curiosity, passion & life long learners in an organic educational environment
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    Dec 3 2011: I agree with Adam that the purpose of Education should be to empower and enable. I think most of the students today are smart enough to figure out what suits the best for themselves.They are self learners. Just like in 'use of technology' , no one teaches that as a part of curriculum , however they are able to figure it out and use it. And that is how they get common sense too. Its not taught as a subject.

    The educational institutions dont have exclusivity on knowledge anymore, it is available all over the internet. I think the schools instead of working out as factories for batch producing qualified people, should more or less emerge as an incubator or providing an ecosystem for self awareness, discovery and learning. The teachers in that respect may not view themselves as providers of knowledge and wisdom or whatever objective they believe the education system is for.However they may look upon themselves as mentors, guides and facilitators for fulfillment of that objective.
  • Mr Khan

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    Dec 2 2011: For awhile now, I've held the belief that our early education is an ideological indoctrination process and it must be altered. However, the truth is that some indoctrination will always be part of the system. May it be your choice of a philosopher/philosophy imposed on your child or your approach to education of preferring thought experiments over theorems. At the end of the day, these are all systems of evaluations. Tools we design which in turn will design us.

    So what should the purpose of education be?
    To me, education must be a way of expression, and should not become the expression itself. Creativity, to me, is a form of that expression. Its our different ways of expression that gave us cultures, languages, foods, and ideas. Take that out and we will all be eating McDonald.
  • Dec 2 2011: it shoul be to train children and young people in the art to survive living together with people with the goal to improve.
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    Dec 2 2011: First of all, thanks for the great question. It is often asked but not often enough. It should be asked everyday.

    In my opinion, the answer is quite basic.

    One purpose of education is to provide us with great tools. The tools include among others: 1) the ability to communicate ideas clearly. 2) The ability to problem solve 3) Acquiring a reasonable knowledge of various traditional school subjects such as reading, writing (forms of communication), science, art, economics, etc.

    Another is to show us various ways to use these tools all the while leaving open the possibility that there are many other modes not yet discovered.

    The above should be the purpose of Education.

    I agree with you question without limit and greatly appreciate your spirit. I disagree somewhat with your viewpoint and the space alloted herein is not great enough to dive in as deeply as I would like to.

    Our education system, still hugely modeled on a 200 year old English system in some perverted form, has its roots in the great Greek education system of antiquity. That system that spawned Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Euclid and many other great thinkers. It was reserved for the wealthy, young and old. It lay the foundation for the Roman Empire. The problem is that the English never got it right, for the masses anyhow. And over the years, we kept some of the mechanical elements such as pens and paper but lost the "why". The system is not well today

    I don't find it likely that the sordid past you describe is correct or important to your great question. Education is not rooted in industrialism per se. In fact just a small percentage of the world's population is so employed.

    Learning and knowledge should be used for the purpose of living a good life. Employment is a substantial part of this good life. Education should serve this part of life well as it should serve other areas as well.

    Education is not the domain of children although it seems many adults view it so.
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    Dec 2 2011: It seems there are crises everywhere! Crises in the environment, in the economy, in the way that our cities are organised. Not least, or indeed last, there are crises in education. In the UK we are at the cusp of a year when the biggest changes in the funding of our educational system has prompted a nationwide debate on the role of education & its value at the higher level. In 2012 graduate fees will hit £9,000 per annum in exchange for a system with its origins in a monastic tradition, methods familiar to a 19 century classroom and with absolutely no guarantee of employment at the end of this rite of passage. But is employment the 'reward' of education? In my view, education is a connector between people. It's the promise of a level playing field, the ability to explore (and master) previously unconquered territories and the skills to exchange ideas & dreams with others. Much education takes place informally outside the walls of our centres of education at home, in the community, in the workplace. However, the most timely issue is in reflection on the role & value of our institutions whose methods have prepared its the minds of graduates for service to industry, protect knowledge as a form of capital and create an elitist culture that ensures that privilege is preserved. These traditions do not connect, but separate us from each other. The widespread crises are a symptom of change - catalysed a generation ago by the advent of the internet - a great connector of people. Telecommunications have changed the way that we experience the world from being hierarchical, industrial and object centred to complex, fluid and engaged in systems. These changes are affecting everything that we do and education is no exception. Institutions need to seize this opportunity to connect us through new kinds of educational experiences and reach beyond the ivory towers to global audiences so we can address the Grand Challenges of this epoch together with mutual understanding & equality.
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      Dec 2 2011: Rachel, I agree with much of what you say here. We are in a time of great crises, yet education sorely lacks in being part of the solution. I recall talking with you about the loss of imagination in people today. What role do you think education plays in either strengthening or defeating out imaginations?

      And would you say that in at least part your belief of what the purpose of education should be, is to support a culture of equality and exploration? That's my condensation of some of what you wrote.
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    Dec 1 2011: Hi Adam (fellow mainer)

    To fully realize, fully emanate the unique gifts in in each individual ; to turn each individual outward to the world in serviice in collaboration where those unique gifts are needed and have a place.

    what makes each of us come alive is what the world most needs.

    that shoud be the work of education
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      Dec 2 2011: Glad we could have this conversation fellow Mainer! You live in a very special part of the state.

      You articulate a beautiful purpose of education. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you.
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    Nov 30 2011: To have an ever CURIOUS mind life long..............
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    Nov 29 2011: The purpose of education is best based on and driven by the Learner's Purpose. Most of the failures of current education start with the over-emphasis on teaching the "curriculum" to the neglect of the learner's purpose. The satisfaction and fulfillment of any human is the result of their personal search for and the finding and following of their own passion. In the process they also become an ideal citizen of the larger community.
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    Dec 28 2011: To impart wisdom as well as knowledge.
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    Dec 28 2011: 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?

    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,
  • Dec 28 2011: Well I believe education should be focused on bettering ourselves and our own interests. We should have more classes that focus on asking "What would you like to learn today?" rather than saying "Here is what we are learning today." As Ken Robinson said in his speech, our education system teaches us subjects like Mathematics, Science, etc because it assumes these are general necessities for everyday life but this is not necessarily the case. If an artist wants to learn about art, he/she should be able to learn art and if a dancer wants to learn more about dance, he/she should be able to learn dance. People don't really get the opportunity to learn what they REALLY want until maybe college -- in both middle school and high school you have requisite classes you MUST complete and high school has become more of a pass by in our lives that serves as, rather than an educational experience, our transcript for getting into a college we want -- and even college has its limitations with class sizes being too full, pre-requisite classes to take a certain class, etc.

    The main problem with this form of learning is that it is heavily dependent on the student. In our current education system, we simply feed people knowledge that society has deemed "important" or "necessary." In this idealistic world, the student will have to know what he/she wants to learn and in a lot of cases, people don't know what they want to learn or what they want to do. It requires a lot of self-motivation and self-discovery because people can and should be able to always change what they want to learn, what they want to be, etc. Of course, this skepticism should be saved for the "how" conversation you mentioned.
    • Dec 28 2011: From experience with many children, the kids are not as open minded as you'd think. They do need big pushes to do new things especially if they have problems with trust. once they see something in action a few times they will start to ask questions and interact. I think a better question would be "What would you like to learn more of?" I do like the idea you have. I agree about asking them. I, myself, wasn't interested ,and didn't strive until college when I got the option of what I was learning.
  • Dec 28 2011: The core "purpose of education" has remained unchanged and by definition it has rightfully focused on developing the individual with the right set of values, throwing in the right dose of knowledge, develop and hone skills with various tools and techniques needed to make a successful living and good human being. The definition can absorb any decent amount of interpretations on the various intricacies involved. It would be more intriguing to understand what needs to change in the process of education with time.Even sub four year olds are comfortable enough navigating through ipads finding their way to their favorite games..Very soon they will be in facebook, and would be making meaningful searches in youtube etc, being exposed to information through true multi media (touch ,sound and visuals)..There is a new way/thought process these little minds invent to find their way through..unguided by any schooling system..where the grandma wisdom has no more takers..
    The education system has more or less remained lethargic ,out of sync and unprepared with these fascinating and accessible changes happening around for these kids, which also bring a disturbing sense of apprehensions when it comes to the content they have access to as they swim through them freely, unguided and unchallenged.. The conventional education is sluggish owing to its "logistics". However a non transformation is reason to for worry.
    The transformation has to happen not only in the content but also in delivery and reach. There is large population of kids who does not have access these changes and rely on the conventional sources for their daily dose of information and connect. This is a huge divide and can make them just gape at the acts of their "advanced" counterparts with just wonder in their eyes as they grow up..not worthy of competition in a non level playground..
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    Dec 28 2011: the purpose of education should be developing the naturals skills and talents every human has in order to use them to build up a better world and society not only to teaching persons how to generate wealth.
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      Dec 28 2011: Hi Don
      Spooky that you posted your blog on my birthday, but that's besides the point: You make a very good point about age and wisdom. To follow my own rule, I HAVE to ask the rhetorical question. What if we imparted wisdom? I mean what if the very purpose of education was to impart wisdom? Dare we wish for this? I dare say we are not overly supplied with wisdom as it is, and the practice of getting the eldest and youngest members of our species together seems to be a very good one. Could the purpose of education be to build bridges? Bridges such as these?
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        Dec 28 2011: Hi Mark,

        The idea of imparting wisdom is at the core of my current (and likely lifelong) pursuits. How do we do that in a world where we are "not overly supplied" with it as you say? What are the environments (physical, social, and interpersonal) that are most conducive to doing so? Those are the questions that I am thinking about and experimenting with.

        Thanks for joining the conversation.
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    Dec 27 2011: One thing that worries me is how the education system in my country crushes most kids' creativity and causes them to become "numb"; and how that, I think, is the main reason why Portugal is out of the map in most areas of innovation. The way arround the economic crisis we face nowadays certainaly comes across a better education that arouses innovative thinking instead of spoon-feeding these kids with concepts.
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    Dec 27 2011: I could not have expressed my feelings any better than in your answer. I agree. Although the basic skills of reading and arithmetic must be taught, it most certainly can be intergraded with the rest. Much time is wasted in a "system" that could be made more efficient, interesting and positive. My children were failing in public school with the threat of being held back. I home schooled them for 2 years, the 6th & 7th grades. I integrated all the required subjects with every activity we did during the day to make a connection to the purpose, which inspired them to want to learn more. I put them back into public school. My daughter graduated on the honor roll from 8th grade my son's grades were above average. I myself never graduated high school but I am an avid reader. I have worked successfully as a bookkeeper and a secretary, I can repair almost anything from kids toys to computers ( I have repaired my own trucks and cars). I am a decent gardener and cook, I play the guitar and sing (not too badly) I am an eternal student. I am also an eternal teacher. All because I can read and write, add and subtract AND I am INSPIRED!
  • Dec 25 2011: Once primary education has imparted language and the basics of deductive reasoning IMO, education should all be about cultivating motivation and facilitating fulfillment of motivation. I do not mean make token gestures of trying to put people in "classes" "they like" as much as possible, I mean absolute commitment to abandoning assembly line education and bending the institution to facilitate the individual rather than bending the individual to perpetuate the institution. Technology makes this possible but unfortunately, it is still seen as a tool to automate the familiar processing of hapless units through an education machine. The encompassing reform which places individual motivation and facilitation of both knowledge and social development at the center of mission produces a person who gets the very-much better message that they are not a necessary evil or unit to be "processed" through an unyielding system that serves society but are instead the persons and the place in which we invest our highest hopes.

    Education needs to be a place here we start as soon as possible understanding that we do not simply uptake knowledge and use it to "compete" in some kind of letter-grade "lab war" contrived in centuries past but is a nourishment which changes our very capacity as we avail ourselves of it. If we are all "works in progress" experiencing different growth spurts in capacity, the entire model of "competition totality" becomes systematized dysfunction. There are other motivations than avoiding the threat of consequence for non-compliance that education has not yet explored but "motivation and facilitation" replacing "command and control" over time will make new and rich motivations self-evident a plenty. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that education as has been has tied the fates of millions of potential super-achievers to the lowest common denominator. And by releasing these folks to achieve, the time is made to help the "bottom" join when ready..
  • Dec 25 2011: We're a modern citizen we say but practically we're like animals at all. We've changed the system, laws, regulations, mind of people and as a whole the world but we could never change the nature and its laws. We should learn from it, we should learn nature. We should learn everything around us. Changing childrens mind to focus on perticular subject doesn't refer to the true education. The system should be changed to self oriented, every child should learn nature. Every child should be a scientist as a whole.
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    Dec 24 2011: Adam; what are human endeavors—surpassed?

    Education (from wherever) must enable a child to find their way through all life’s endeavors so they enjoy themselves and all of us. Teach/enable them to work, interact, determine, endure, and to think. They should leave formative years well on their way towards becoming…

    All endeavors are better tendered to the next generation by suitable education. A child is too young to choose its own ventures. So a wide base of knowledge must be laid and augmented with opportunities to test the edges to facilitate for its later particularization.
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    Dec 24 2011: I believe the purpose of education should be to provide opportunities and resources so each person can develop the skills, awareness, and capacity to discern his/her gifts and limitations to be able to work toward reaching his/her full potential and the health and sustainability of our planet and it's many populations.

    (Note that this statement makes no reference to age. I believe education needs to be part of life, not preparation for life)
  • Dec 23 2011: The purpose of education is contained in one word, learning, which encompasses all the the profound words you have used to describe what the outcomes of education should be.

    As a species we are capable of learning, know how to learn without any coaching or training yet our system of education produces a majority of individuals vacant the desire to continue learning.

    Many of the comments define desired outcomes, not a purpose.

    In the interim reading Seymour Sarason's "Skeptical Visionary" might be worthwhile. Be free to learn!
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    Dec 23 2011: This question is as interesting as complicated to answer.

    To be minimalist in my answer, I'd say that the purpose of education is : Prepare the children brain and spirit to face the world to come and the life they'll have to live through it.

    The topics (literature, mathematics, sciences, physics ...) are just alibis to open their mind and make them intellectually strong, independent and aware about life.
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    Dec 23 2011: The purpose of education? Well, it depends. On much. Namely, one's sociopolitical context. In the western world, there's some truth to John Adams' assertion: "I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." But for the son of the Afghan potter apprenticing with his father to learn an economically viable trade, craft is no luxury; it's an act of survival.
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    Dec 23 2011: To empower us so that we have confidence, vision and capability to maintain ourselves in a dignified manner.
  • Dec 23 2011: Education is for life and not just to earn living. The essence of education is to become steady. Not get affected by trials and tribulations and have wisdom to maintain clam in both good times and so called bad times.
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    Dec 23 2011: Education is such a crucial component of someone's intellectual development... It should be an enlightening experience, in which the students learn about the world (and not only their own country) and what keeps the wheels of the world turning! I am currently a high school student residing in Canada, and I think our system is efficient as it adapts to every student's abilities and interests.

    Evidently, one of the outcomes of education should be literacy. Far too many students are unable to write or express their opinions properly. Maybe our educational systems should put a stronger emphasis on developing a voice... creating our own opinions and use our critical thinking.

    My answer is quite all over the place and disorganized (English being my second language), but overall I'm still convinced students should be taught about the world they live in...
  • Dec 22 2011: Education should be geared towards the fulfillment of the individual's curiosity, intelligence, soul and interest. Education is extremely important in growing the individual in many different ways, but it is something that can come in many different ways. Many people have argued the importance of reading, writing, literacy and the importance of the information attainable in books. I do not denote their importance but I would put world experience above all. If one were to travel the world, experiencing many different cultures and interact with their environment, with the people, with everything they encounter, couldn't that educate someone more-so than books? (or at least an equally important method of education)
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    Dec 22 2011: In my view, education should be aimed at developing a sense of purpose and responsibility to civic society through critical and creative thinking. Education should inspire critical self reflection and openness to transformation. Education should allow us to recognize the value of seeing what it is we don't know and how we are dependent on others to grow and develop into people who can contribute to meaningful change.

    Skill development and the ability to market oneself, while important to individual success, impedes our vision and our sense of global responsibility. Education should be driven by the needs of our society rather than individual motivation toward social definitions of success.

    Schools have become a primary institution of socialization, and, as such, the skills taught and the values inculcated through these systems should be critically evaluated and considered in the context of a conversation like this. What exactly do we want our kids to learn? What exactly are we teaching them within the current structure of our educational system? Are the things we articulate in conversations like these about what we think education should be about reflected in the systems that we have in place? Is the system strategically aligned or are the structures impeding the values we say we want education to be about?
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    Dec 22 2011: Most people here are well educated and speak of college and careers. Education must meet the needs of the students at all levels. Not every child will or even should go to college. Let the system recognize that and devise a two path curriculum 1) College Prep; and 2) Manual trades

    There is a demand for technicians in all areas. A world without plumbers, beauticians, mechanics, welders, builders, etc.. is not a pleasant thought. The hope here is to expand our vision and delete preconcieved notions.

    I take offense to the term stupid. Was I stupid before I took algerba? Was I smart after I took the course? Perhaps it was a matter of exposure to the subject. "Smart" people make uninformed decisions, does that make them "stupid".
  • Dec 22 2011: The purpose of education is to help someone become the person they were born to be.
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    Dec 21 2011: I agree with your idea of cultivating a culture of peace. But I also feel that for many people the best they can hope to gain from education is the ability to function as a member of society and be able to find work both independently and as an employee. I see education now as a very long training period in which we learn to flex our self motivation and discipline muscles and we learn for real and for true why we want to rebel.
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      Dec 25 2011: Joy, thanks for joining the conversation. Why do you feel this way?

      QUOTE: "But I also feel that for many people the best they can hope to gain from education is the ability to function as a member of society and be able to find work both independently and as an employee."

      Why is that they best they can hope for?

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        Dec 26 2011: because public education in the US has little else to offer. It does not prepare you for academic life, family life, successful life. Even if you don't get the 3 RRR's they pass you along anyway. They don't teach work skills and they don't encourage your curiosity and desire to know more. Often they are not really interested in the contribution of parents. They allow really rotten teachers to continue just so they can get to retirement. Our education system is broken and has been for a long time.

        In the same breath I have to tell you that I had many great teachers all the way from kindergarten to college. My kids...not so much.
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    Dec 21 2011: Hello, just another teacher from Portland, Maine here! I believe the purpose of education should be for families to be able to raise their children, with collaboration from other families and students, in a diverse environment, to help children develop skills, knowledge and understanding of everything possible. We need to move more quickly into 21st century learning.

    When my daughter was younger, I very much disliked our school and educational set-up...where I would drop her off for a whole day at one school, and then have to go to another school to spend time with other students who were dropped off by their parents.

    Now, my daughter is only 12, but she would love to work part time at one of the local businesses, but she still has to stay in the same building from 7:30 to 2:50, so I can stay in a different building from 7:30 to 2:50.
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      Dec 25 2011: Awesome, welcome Thomas! Love my Portland people!

      The perspective of what schools do to families, particularly teacher's families is most interesting. Unfortunately, the story of how schools is restricting your daughter rather than supporting her to explore her interests is all too common.

      Thanks for joining the conversation.
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    Dec 21 2011: Education should be the support system for ones overall growth.
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    Dec 20 2011: Education should be aimed at creating better citizens and increasing student's knowledge of the world around them. While primary skills are important, other skills such as critical thinking should be taught from a very young age. The humanities should be stressed and material shouldn't be taught for the purpose of regurgitation on tests, it should be discussed and analyzed so that it is truly absorbed and processed. I think that the Socratic Method should not be limited to law schools. Questioning and open discussion is something that seems to be missing from all classrooms even at the college level.
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      Dec 22 2011: Well said! I recently graduated for a four year program and the thing I kept asking myself throughout was, "where is the free expression of ideas? Where is the exchange?" Even in women's studies the norms are set in stone. If you deviate from them your ideas are not openly questioned, you are pulled aside like a first grader! And I'm fifty years old!
  • Dec 18 2011: I loved Deb Burks' definition below, that the goal of education is to challenge each learner to maximize individual potential.

    The world is rapidly changing, and it is not enough to equip students to use the tools that are out there now. For example, I know of ex-mill workers who had assumed the mill would provide a decent living for them, until the mill closed and they were left adrift. Many future citizens will need to be able to create their jobs, not just join someone else's company.

    So when it comes to core competencies, I would include the ability to communicate (arts and humanities), measure (math and sciences), analyze, plan, research, collaborate, and maintain health. And the seeds should be planted that learning is lifelong.
  • Dec 18 2011: Deb Burks, you are a genius. Thank you for inspiring me with this concept.

    Education should fit Skinner's concept of learning in schools. Fit the need for the individuals rather than the groups to provide maximum quality of education. The flaw was with this concept is that it only focuses on the cognitive concept of the individual and not the emotional or social concepts. We can easily apply interactive teaching software that can follow the cognitive ability of the individual. To focus on the emotional concept, we can create a blog software that would be combined with the interactive teaching software that would enable it to understand key words of emotion that would allow it to follow the actual emotions of the individual. For example, I can easily analyze the emotions in a Tweet or a Facebook status, so a super computer can analyze that better than I. Moreover, social development of the youth can be improved by using those blogs to suggest new friends that relate to the individual as well as suggesting appropriate social gatherings to him or her too. Of course, malfunctions can happen, but if we adapt data processors to prevent errors in the software ,then the system is safe. To sum up, education focuses on a coherent group and does not care for the individual's needs. but if we focus and care for the individual's needs then the being shall grow like a flower in spring.
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      Dec 18 2011: I agree with you in that education needs to include social and emotional growth, yet I believe that these skills are most likely to come from the teacher especially for young children, but not limited to early education alone.
      Which brings me to another pet peeve: There is no test for what makes a teacher awesome. How well a teacher does in algebra has no bearing on their ability to guide a room full of 8 year olds in listening, yearning to learn, understanding rules and fairness, being proud of themselves at their own achievements and also learning to be proud of their friends when the friends attain an objective. Create the computer model for the Bachelor of Education curriculum and the greater education system will contain these lessons.
      • Dec 18 2011: There is no teacher. There is no classroom. All of it is on a portable laptop that can fit the personal needs for any living human being while at the same time the software can improve the person social skills via suggestions. Imagine the wonders.
      • Dec 19 2011: I am just thinking of an idea that is all. I am subjected to criticism if you do not mind to list them.
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          Dec 19 2011: Social and emotional skills are learned through interaction with others. I agree that individual learning could be enhanced through computer programs where each child can learn at their own pace, but there needs to be a teacher to assist and encourage.
        • Dec 20 2011: I've personaly never had a teacher assist or encourage me. In fact they were more detrimental than not, so don't discount the idea just because it may not apply to the whole. Especially the way society is deteriorating. The increase in home schooling and bullying would support Zarad's idea.
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          Dec 21 2011: I'm a big fan of the Internet, social media and the idea of getting to learning in a variety of ways. I would not want to see the teacher removed from the equation, though. Teachers should act as facilitators, showing students how to learn on their own. This is a process that takes time and lots of facilitating.
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      Dec 19 2011: How about competent / non-competent studies where a course map is set and you must test out of each module to prove competency. This would allow the individual to progress academically at his/her rate of learning while staying with his/her peer group to develop socially. This could be administered in a library setting with a proctor to provide tests, grade tests, and document progress. This would also free up instructors to work with those in need of assistance.
      • Dec 19 2011: Sounds great. Any other suggestions to improve this idea?
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          Dec 19 2011: Off the top of my head ..... I would ideally like for all teachers at the high school level to be associated with a local college, at the expense of the high school. Students who progress through the course map and are taking college level courses should get college level credits. Our budding stars are now graduated at 14 or 15 and sent off to college. He has nothing in common physically or mentally with the college level students, with the exception of academics. In short he is a freak. By earning college credits in high school he is remaining with his peers and developing socially. He can play sports, band, be in plays, and date when the time comes. When the student arrives at the point of earning college credits enter him/her into an independent studies program with set rules and specific credits upon successful completion. If in an area where it is possible how about practicum with a local professional. In industry we found that inventions are around 24 thru 27 before we reach our Peter Principle limits when advanced out of our desired environment. Is there any studies that show the "best" years for a 14 year old high school graduate? The hard trick would be for the instructors to treat him as an intellectual peer while remembering he is a 13 year old who will do silly things after solving a physics problem. Thanks Zared. In time I could design a total program.
      • Dec 19 2011: This could be applied to any grade level to anyone that has minimum computer competence. The design itself of this program would have to keep in the mind, the state of mind. If we remove the concept of age-related intelligence and focus on the actual intelligence of the individual, then intellectual beings would not feel shameful of their capabilities. At the same time, regardless of their actual intelligence, this program would enable them to still be around their peer group without mockery for the fact there is no shining light above them stating their actual intelligence, hence this means it would make them feel normal in that peer group. Also, if anything, I will develop this program from scratch, but due to the fact that I lack the efficient computer skills, I will probably seek assistance to create this program from anyone. I do understand that you would want to format this program to better the educational system, but at last, I would be an incredibly lazy man if I let you do this all by yourself. Perhaps, something can be done, so we both could work together to make this work and get the potential credit that we both deserve. Any suggestions, Robert?
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          Dec 19 2011: This would be a long term project. As step one I would consider a course map to include all of the options in every discipline. Ideally this would be from K thru 12. Each module would have to have a test out component that would require success prior to allowing you into a module where it was a prerequisite. If you were non-competent the computer would direct you to a previous module to ensure you had sufficient comprehension to continue on. When you successfully complete a module the computer would record your progress on the course map. The ideal system would replicate in some fashion what the khanacademy has developed. A demonstration with audio. If the subject is pure science and has a definative answer then I would trust it to a computer. In most areas I would desire to have human interaction. I believe that application rather than regurgation is the key to measuring learning. Also in math I like to see the problem worked out so I can find the areas where the error was made. Therefore, the computer can take you from point A to point B, however, I would recommend a lab for every 10 modules where human intervention occurs as a safety check. If a problem exists it can be corrected and not much damage has occurred or time lost. Chemistry is a canidate, but again a lab under supervision is a requirement for safety. Again application, as in the lab, is the measuring stick for indications that learning has occured. Most of us need interaction to jump to the next level. When you and I read a book we have different thoughts based on our experiences. To gain all of our experiences from a computer woudl restrict creativity if not kill it altogether. I will re-read your messages and find better answers. Thank you. This is an injoyable exercise.
      • Dec 19 2011: I want to work with you on this to better it. As mention before, if we have a proctor or a group of proctors included in the setting, then we can remove even more flaws. What do you think, Robert?
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          Dec 19 2011: I would be happy to work with any group that would enhance learning for students. You would most likely set up a site specifically for this purpose. Thank you for the offer. Be aware that a project of the magnitude you speak of is labor intensive and cost prohibitative for the common man. I would suggest that you develop a prototype if you have the capabilities or even better a talking paper. This would allow you to see if there is an interest in the community without incurring great expenses.
      • Dec 20 2011: Perhaps, I should develop a PowerPoint for my idea and enter it in the City 2.0 contest. This will guarantee funding for the project and set up a simple prototype of the idea. What do you think?
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          Dec 20 2011: My first impulse is to say that is a good idea. Having said that, be sure that you are prepared to answer in depth questions, demonstrate sufficient background knowledge, show a cost model, projected success rate, and readily admit that this is not a educational panacea. The need for interaction and instructors still exist. This is at best a forey into posabilities. The basis is solid (the course map, competent / non-competent program, etc). If they do not like the teaching concept you are envisioning, fall back to the base program and await a better time to persue your dream.
      • Dec 20 2011: Thanks for the advice. I am surprise Adam Burk did not comment once in this conversation.
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          Dec 21 2011: Zared,

          I am not always to respond but I do tap into the conversation daily. I am very happy to see this interchange between you, Robert, Deb, and others, as this collaboration is very much the spirit of TED.

          Robert commented above about the spirit of this conversation was forged to focus on what people's beliefs of the purpose of education should be. He also noted that I intend to open another conversation about the "how and what" of education as this conversation concludes. For that reason, I have not been jumping in on conversations that discuss the "how and what" thus far. That doesn't mean I am not enjoying the conversation!

          Thanks again for sharing and being here.

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      Dec 21 2011: Hi Zared,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Can you summarize what you believe the purpose of education should be? Is it to fulfill the cognitive, emotional, and social needs of the individual? That is what I took from your comment.

      Also can you break down your interpretation of Skinner's concept of learning in schools?

      • Dec 21 2011: It is to fulfill the cognitive needs of the individual. The emotional and social needs fulfilled in education are just added bonuses. Skinner's concept is to give immediate attention to the individual's actions and reinforcement for desired behaviors.
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      Dec 21 2011: QUOTE: "education focuses on a coherent group and does not care for the individual's needs. but if we focus and care for the individual's needs then the being shall grow like a flower in spring."

      I agree with your sentiment but I disagree that we can learn social skills via computer. My son is a programmer. He literally spends about 80% of his waking life on computers; writing code, participating in computer chat rooms, taking on-line courses, etc. He is extremely skillful ... on-line.

      Off-line, he is a very nice young man but can not interact in any meaningful way with "others." He does not know how. (He's learning.)

      The only way to learn "social skills" is in social settings - interacting with other people - face-to-face.

      I am a pilot. I did a lot of my training on computers. I learned to fly in a plane.
      • Dec 21 2011: A little misconception, the settings of this system will be in a library setting or even a typical classroom setting managed by a teacher or proctor. Classes will be classes, the system is changed, and students will still interact with their respective peer groups.
  • Dec 17 2011: Education = to inspire.
    • Dec 19 2011: Education when learnt makes you literate and when put into practice makes you educated.
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    Dec 17 2011: Education should be able to give you the tools you need to develop a creative concept of ones SELF to produce a limitless scenario of possibilities to solve common everyday problems and to analize global issues in the same way.
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    Dec 17 2011: Great thoughts and opinions. In addition to the thoughts already presented I believe that the purpose of education is to create a safe place for students to learn and develop skills to help them later in life. This should be done through building a person’s confidence in an area unfamiliar to them so that they can effectively learn a new skill. Through this, the goal should be to find individuality, creative thought and passions. Students must feel ownership in what they are learning and how they learn to really develop the critical thinking skills required to succeed in any area. Much of what has already been said is very true and very powerful. To me the key words that need to be considered when looking at education are confidence, ownership, passion and creative thought as these are what lead towards strong individuals prepared to face the world.
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      Dec 17 2011: Well said! "This should be done through building a person’s confidence in an area unfamiliar to them so that they can effectively learn a new skill." This is what Lev Vygotsky calls the Zone of Proximal Development and the teacher should use "scaffolding" (communicational etc.) to create the situation where the student can perform a task he/she couldn't have managed to succeed in on their own. I like this idea very much and it's very effective in all learning situations in life! After all, school is only a few years of formal education but learning is a life-long journey. Basically we're scaffolding each other with these conversations, to come up with ideas and understanding that was right there but just needed a small push(:
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    Dec 17 2011: This is my first post on TED and I'm glad to join the interaction!

    Many of the important things, school should be have already been mentioned by many people in this conversation. It warms my heart to see that so many of you have realized we’re terribly failing in our request of trying to educate the new generations so that they could live happy lives, create new knowledge and most importantly make the world a better place. What we should be teaching in school is in my opinion environmental consciousness, understanding of human mind, creative and critical thinking, understanding of communication and most importantly the understanding of how everything is connected. It’s important to teach basic skills like mathematics, languages, history, biology, arts etc. but they’re just tools for learning and understanding, not the actual outcome of learning. We need to make the kids want to learn, want to discover and explore and make sure they never stop asking questions or wonder “why?”. We need to teach children the responsibilities and possibilities that come along with being a human on this particular planet, so they can figure out the rest of it themselves. We are to give them the toolbox and the raw material and wait for them to show us something brilliant we never would've thought of creating ourselves. I'm all about breaking the cycle of "that's how it's always been done" and I think knowledge is a socio-historically and culturally constructed complicated thing. There is no one solution or one good and effective school system, because the same thing would not work in different cultures or different times. Human beings are also very different from each other and something that works brilliantly for one doesn't work for someone else: temperament, learning orientation, self efficacy believes and interests plus socio-economical backgrounds of the learners also make a big difference.

    I'm hoping to see big changes in school systems all around the world in the near future!
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      Dec 21 2011: Hi Emma,

      Welcome to TED Conversations! So glad you posted!

      I agree with much of what you say, however, I do not think "we need to make kids want to learn, want to discover and explore..." isn't this innately what children want? Isn't part of the problem in today's world and school that we squash that?

      You go on to say "we need to make sure...make sure they never stop asking questions or wonder 'why?'" and that I agree with.

      I particularly like how you said this "We need to teach children the responsibilities and possibilities that come along with being a human on this particular planet, so they can figure out the rest of it themselves."

      Thanks again for joining the conversation, I look forward to more!

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    Dec 17 2011: Showing paths, showing life from as many perspectives as possible, teaching people that what they learn is useful and fun.
  • Dec 17 2011: education should be there to facilitate the development of groups of people to self-explore and unlock their own and collective potential as both an individual and a group.
    education should be there to facilitate the development of civilisation on a shared planet with finite resources; a civilisation that innovatively solves problems, and envisages future possibilities
    education to us, is a dream of hope for creating a future for the world that maintains and cherishes the values that we currently hold to be important, its purpose is to facilitate the creation of people with mind sets who can imagine solutions for humanity in the future but still maintain a seed of humanity(values) that can grow and cherish and share.
    education should be there to facilitate a greater understanding of human interaction on both macro and micro levels. increasingly the world is not the problem, we are the problem and how we interact with each other
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    Dec 16 2011: Education is the way wich open the world to the people, how could we survive in this world??? , what kind of desicion we shoul make in order to get the necesary things to live??, since its born a child must be educated in order to reach the enough ability to control its live.
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    Dec 16 2011: Education should work around kids' needs; what they like to do, what interests them, etc. People in charge of our education system need to realize that the No Child Left Behind Act has drastically changed the development of young kids and actually instills this idea that education is extremely hard. Work on their level and make them understand that there is a vast world of information to seize and use out there. The purpose of education should be on our children's interests and fueling their creativity, not programming kids for specific jobs.
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    Dec 15 2011: if you come from an underdeveloping country were education is still very ellusive, then there is a positive correlation between Education and success but even still, i think people in these countries should be motivated to pursue education for self fullfillment and success an added advantage. and yes, you are right in every way Louis
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    Dec 15 2011: Opportunity to improve life circumstance - self, community, planet.
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    Dec 15 2011: I think education should just explain to people our worl and what are the best and worst parts about it... In the modern world we have a lot of development still going on. Alongside that though, we are damaging the earth. Basically I think all that education should focus on is how to LIVE and how to make the world a better place to live in...
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    Dec 15 2011: what should the purpose of education be
    let ourselves to get basic knowlege of the world
    Cultivate ourselves to have the ability of self- study
    Teach ourselves to be smart and smarter:)
    I totally agree the opinions from Adam and Thomas.
  • Dec 15 2011: I met some young people from Slovenia shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They told me how controlling the Soviet system was in rewarding and punishing people according to their submission to the party, housing, food...everything was dependent on currying party favor. But, they then said that the communists educated them well. They didn't quite understand that because, as they put it: "They gave us the one thing they could never take away." They were completely unafraid of the future because they could now think freely using the knowledge they had acquired. They didn't seem to see education as trade preparation but as part of the process of becoming self-actualized human beings.
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    Dec 14 2011: May be we can think in a different way, what can we do or what can we become without education?For all i know, one can not live without the skills that the modern school teach us. and one will never be eager to seek knowledge if he never see the light of it.
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      Dec 16 2011: Julius,

      I like the reframing of the question. Can you travel down that path a little further and tell me more what you see?
  • Dec 14 2011: My answer may be biased towards religion, but I really think it can answer "Why go for education when you don't really need it?"

    God gave you life. It's your responsibility to know what you can about it, to keep it safe and make it better for others.

    From a non-theological viewpoint, the simple answer is: "just in case."
    Education is more valuable than insurance.
    Also education should not be for economic benefit although it does benefit you more than money.
    Right now when we have machines and other people containing and using the knowledge for us, it is pretty hard to appreciate how important it is.

    On a final note, education should not be as costly as it is with the available technology we have today.
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      Dec 15 2011: Salam Alikoum Mohammad,

      In my humble opinion, I think you should review how you define economy. Money is just a tool that is helping us to produce in the most efficient way. I think if you study the world sensibility to starvation or epidemics before and after the development of economy, you might change your opinion.

      Regarding the religious way to see the world, monotheist religious always put a great emphasize on free will, “libre arbitre”. To do so understanding the world is essential. How can you do so without constant eductation?
  • Dec 14 2011: Education should be a collaborative and expanding process -- one that allows people both to have access to existing, known information and to improvise, create, and connect with others to share new ideas -- one that brings "experts" and "novices" together to learn from each other. I think we all need information, tools, time, and encouragement or support to learn and do our best. Educational institutions should strive to provide information, tools, time, and encouragement to learners as they pursue their own interests, rather than, as they do now, striving to "standardize" instruction and measure how much people have absorbed of existing conventional wisdom according to arbitrary time scales. As a teacher, I struggle daily with the clash between this vision of what I think education should be and the demands and structure of my institution.
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      Dec 16 2011: Hi Laura,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. I appreciate the description of the "form" of education, but I am left wanting to know what you think the "essence" of it should be. What is the process leading towards?
      • Dec 16 2011: Hi, Adam,

        Thanks for the dialogue. The best way I can describe what I hope for is in terms related to musical education. An ideal music education, it seems to me, allows a musician to develop skills and background knowledge from listening to, engaging with, and absorbing "the best" of what others have done before, while also maintaining and honing an ability to improvise and create new things. I think this balance between "old" and "new" can be applied to other fields -- math, science, language, etc. An educated person should be aware of what is already known, and able to distinguish fact from fiction, or informed critical thinking from fantasy, but also able to view a problem or situation with a fresh eye and try a new approach or idea that may lead to new contributions to what is known. I agree with the idea others have expressed of becoming a "self-educator," but I don't think anyone can completely educate him or herself -- humans are social animals, the brain develops in connection with others, and dialogue with those who have already gained some experience and background knowledge is essential.
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          Dec 16 2011: Laura,

          Thanks for the response. The concept of "self-educator" does need to be unpacked to be really be useful. I haven't used it, nor do I think others have, in a way that implies self-education is devoid of interaction with others. You are completely right that connection is vital.
  • Dec 12 2011: To provide people, not just children the chance to learn new things, develop valuable skills for the future, it should be away to show people things that they wouldn't see otherwise, to develop more knowledge on their interests
  • Dec 12 2011: To provide students with the factual knowledge and critical thinking skills that will allow them to chart their own course and deal with life's challenges and interact reasonably with others in sharing information and solving problems. A consistent set of universally agreed upon meanings and processes are absolutely necessary for people to disagree constructively.
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    Dec 12 2011: Positive transformation.
  • Dec 11 2011: Education shouldn't be thought, it should be learnt. What is learnt shouldn't be intentional exposure, but natural exposure. The only education is what is learnt by the individual from their environment. Its the most natural form of teaching and learning. This non-regimented non-conformist education produces holistic development.
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  • Dec 9 2011: The purpose should be to make students world citizens, thinkers with common sense, and problem solvers. Education should not be purposed to teach fact, but the reality of the world. If we understand the mental background of those we don't understand, maybe we can understand.
  • Dec 9 2011: The purpose of education should be the facilitation of discovery - of the world, the universe, one's self, and one's passions.
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    Dec 9 2011: To inspire creation and imagination through awareness.
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    Dec 9 2011: Education should be an empowering, self-directed process to allow children and other individuals to try, explore, fail and learn in order to discover their passions. It should not be a limited, narrow process designed for the masses as individuals need to be treated as the unique and uniquely gifted people they are.
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    Dec 7 2011: In my opinion, the purpose of education should be to help awaken the greatness and the potential that lies inside each child. Wrapped around the uniqueness of each student, I believe we can design learning environments and learning projects that help them explore their connection to family, community and to self. I started a foundation called to start exploring what purpose our schools could have. Here's the TEDx talk on this subject called "Mattering', which looks at the idea of significance, relevance and connection as part of this purpose of becoming "educated",
    I agree with the posts so far that state that learning how to learn is important, and that curiosity and creativity should be fostered. Such a hard question to answer briefly, but thank you for inviting us to do so!
  • Dec 7 2011: The purpose of education should be to enliven and establish one's self. From this basis a variety of subjects should be introduced to the student and those skills gained should be used to solve actual problems. Education should not be hypothetical. Once general knowledge has been accumulated the application of that knowledge should be with the intention of bettering what is around us. Education should teach people how to contribute to the world. In order to enliven prospects such as problem solving, innovation, and creativity, each student must culture their individuality. If youth establishes individual being at a young age then the collective consciousness of the world will raise. Education should begin within the self and extend outward as opposed to the mundane reverse.
  • Steve G

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    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)
  • Dec 6 2011: The goal of education? This is subjective for everyone.. Ultimate decisions involving curriculum should be local-- at the family and community level. Eliminate wasted spending [i.e. Dept of Education at Federal and state levels] Let each school district Leadership including the teachers and parents guide for their own peeps. and reward passionate, critically thinking classroom teachers as they serve as the role model for their students. I was a master classroom teacher and mentor teacher for over 10 years and left the field of education completely--disgusted at idiotic programs that don't have the best interests of students in mind.
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    Dec 6 2011: Well put Adam. I believe education is our own inevitable journey through life. An education 'system' is there to help and empower each of us in developing the skills and faculties for being fully engaged, with ourselves, and in the world in which we live.
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    Dec 6 2011: In my humble opinion, education should not be objectified by putting a single purpose of its existence. I mean, in education itself there are thousands of branches such as medicine, archaeology, sport science, and so on. Each of those branches have their own individual purpose. For example, we study music to become a musician, we study medicine to become a doctor, and we study education to become a teacher. If you look at the examples i have given, it is fair to say that we study to get a job. In a way, that is correct. The purpose of formal education system is in fact to get better and more respectable jobs. But for me, education is too diverse to be given a single purpose. Not everyone study to get a job, some study because they are passionate about it. However, i would propose my thought on "what should the purpose of education be?", because if i don't, why would i comment here? haha. :)
    I think the purpose of education should be to fill our minds with useful knowledge and skills that will help us in our life. Aside from that, i don't think that education should be focused on students only, because i believe in lifelong learning in which the main principle is 'as long as i live, i learn.'
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    Dec 4 2011: I think the purpose of education should be two encourage two things: the self cultivation of rational thought and of individual creativity. In life and in academia people need to be able to look at an issue, a theory or a problem and break it down objectively, glean the root of it and deal with that. Cultivating rationality is the primary way to encourage objectivity in one's perception of life. Too often even in our relationships we allow our irrational emotional responses to cloud our judgement. A natural inclination towards rationality would help us to be fairer, more temperate people and thus be able to see situations as such. I also suggest nurturing creativity because I believe that understanding your own individual talents, desires and interests will allow you to better appreciate yourself and develop a sense of self-confidence and may even leave people better equipped to deal with some of the existential problems that tend to plague our lives. Insecurity and lack of self awareness are two things that can be very damaging to people long-term and taking the time to self-explore in a practical way is a good way to counter this as it leaves one with tangible evidence of their likes and dislikes, their individuality and a reason for being.
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    Dec 4 2011: Education is something that gets a social being, the human of course learn new things to be a social being.
    With new ideas and creativity a raw human gets incorporated with his/her aim of life and indeed gets useful for the world.
    I support education getting potential out rather than just degree or aggregates with graduate bundles..
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    Dec 4 2011: I believe Education is supposed to be an enlightenment, a sharpener to the brain. Although education is meant to be all that has been said by several other contributors, I just have one question, Dont you thing our kids have evolved faster than our educational systems to such an extend that education has lost what it meant a couple of years back?
  • Dec 4 2011: Hello from Argentina!
    I think as a student (15 years old), i the purpose of education must be guiding the person into the talent that he has or passion, and not to be so straight into what they teach people, meaning to not teach everyone the same, to consider the person opinion and thoughts. In addition, for example school, it should not be seen by children and adults as an infraestructure that everyone has to go, but a place were you express your self in many ways.
    Thats my opinion!
    Im glad that you made this conversation, is a place were i can express my self!
    Thank you!
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    Dec 4 2011: Public school in San Francisco has lost the purpose of education. When I graduated in 2008, I realized one think while I walked across the stage, "What exactly did I learn these past four years?" There were too many students in one classroom which overwhelmed teachers who trying to teach. There are three sperate group in my school while I observed. The first group were the students who are generally smart who take AP classes and have parents who enforce in better education so their children can go to a good college. The second group were the student like myself who willing to learn and want to put our skill to use, but never got the opportunity to explore or borden our skills. Than you have the last group of students who did care about school. Teachers who teaches regular classes had to literally tell trouble student to settle down for almost half an hour before classes start (notice all class was an hour). If high school was all about "developing our passion, critical thinking, compassion and orientation toward wisdom for timely action" I would have been a graphic designer by now and not in the Army. I think after middle school students should be send to a school where they have passion for. Therefore, we can develop our skill and learn to work with real life situations. School should also provide or send students to talk shows like the ones on TED, to accomodate other knowledges for students. This way students are informed about the world around them while generate their minds to help make the world a better place. I agreed with Thomas Suarez: A 12-year-old app developer, sometimes we understand more than our teachers do. Students have literally had to find informations on their own in the internet, than being inform by a teacher. To me personally, something is wrong with that picture. I wish I knew this back when I was in high school, l would have done things very differently.
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    Dec 3 2011: I have reflected on your question for quite a while now and the best I can come up with is that education should incrementally take us toward a better picture of the 'whole' of understanding our world and the people in it.

    Organized education should start with a level playing field for all kids and allow them to develop their unique skills and talents to their highest level for the benefit of themselves and for society as a whole.
  • Dec 3 2011: From this question I am assuming we are talking about scholar Education.
    Its complicated.
    Education is a process where a child learns for something so that he can sustain in this world. As the world develops things are getting complicated. For this amount of subjects has increased,
    I believe education must be moral, to make better person, to make better characters. If we are able to make better characters they will educate themselves and others too
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    Dec 3 2011: The purpose of education, should be of that, which gives enlightenment for knowledge, the desire to learn, not because you have to, but because you WANT to, to strengthen human abilities, to learn about what matters, what makes a difference, to be able to ask questions about yourself, and others, to be able to understand human emotion, and then to strengthen the bonds we share everyday, to spread the word of love for one and another. And strengthen the morality we have within.

    To help build a better and brighter future for everyone.

    In short, the educational system, should be of that, which strengthen human ability and capacity for love and knowledge. Philosophy should be high up there on that list.
    A system where everyone has a different way of learning, and that we are not all the same, and each has special desires for what knowledge is to them.
  • Dec 2 2011: The purpose of education should be two fold. One, to communicate the essential facts of what we call our reality. The maths, sciences, histories and so on. Second, we should teach critical think.
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    Dec 2 2011: In my humble opinion, purpose of education should be teaching kids that there is no use in wrong, but whole lot of opportunity in right, meaning that procrastination gets you nowhere, while creativity gets you places.
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    Dec 2 2011: What should the purpose of education be?

    - Teach ourselves to think.
    - Teach ourselves to learn.
    - Teach ourselves to be highly functional.
    - Teach ourselves to be highly functional within the current social system.
    - Have fun.

    That's it.
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    Dec 2 2011: Children education is developing their willingness to understand what is going on around them.

    In other words: It is common sense for an educated adult that tools such as reading words, a map or doing calculation is useful. However, we should take into consideration that it’s an idea that we should transmit to the children since their younger ages. As long as they understand that this tools concretely helps them to understand how complex the world is their willingness to learn will be great.
    I strongly believe that public education does not focus enough on explaining to the children why we give them the opportunity to learn. We should motivate them by explaining the purpose of their efforts. They will therefore set their own objectives

    In fewer words:
    Nobody works for free, even children!
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      Dec 2 2011: Hi Louis, thanks for joining the conversation. For you, what is the purpose of children's efforts? To understand what is going on around them? IS the problem that this is not explicitly said at the outset of school?
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        Dec 2 2011: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Conufcius.

        I mean that if they are passionate about learning they are selfrewarding themself of their efforts!
  • Dec 1 2011: Coming from the perspective of a well educated 20-something in America, I find that, at least within my peer group, a large problem is that people often cannot make a living doing what they love to do. I don't doubt that there are problems with the current education system, but it certainly still seems to have worked for many people out there. There seems to be a large number of people do well in standard public school and then they go to college and do well there also. In the end, they get a degree in a field that they really enjoy, but then find it incredibly difficult to find a job. Even if every child was able to find and nuture their passions and talents as proposed in this talk, how are they all supposed to function in an economy and society that does not value all chosen fields of expertise.

    In an ideal world where all talents are valued and anyone can make a fair living doing what they love, I would agree that education's purpose should be to develop each person's unique passions and talents. However my outlook is more broad and in this broad framework, its purpose is to increase the quality of life of humankind. Any education system that does not incorporate these idealistic concepts within the framework of real social and economic problems, will fail to increase the quality of life.

    I put a great deal of value in education for the sake of learning and self-exploration. I would never propose turning the education system into a job training program, but I don't see how one can honestly propose a education system that does not at least attempt to address the economic challenges. I am no expert in either education or economics, but what I would like to see more of are novel ways to bridge these idealistic and utilitarian viewpoints.
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      Dec 2 2011: Michael,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. I agree that it would be an ideal world if people were able to do what they loved. I was just speaking with a friend, who is in his 40's, who so clearly said that if he didn't have to make money at a level he is used to, he would spend his time working on social issues. That says a lot. We are monetarily rewarded to not focus on social and environmental problems, generally speaking!

      Question, what does it mean when you say "people do well" in standard public school and college? What does it mean to "do well?" Is that holistically true, meaning that the whole of that person does well, or does it mean that they do well as measured by the rules of those institutions?

      I also agree that a new vision of education has to be both idealistic and pragmatic at the same time. I plan to dig into the "what" and "how" of education in another conversation after this one.
      • Dec 2 2011: Hi Adam, thanks for the kind welcome. When I say that people do well in school I base that measurement on the standard measurements that schools use to judge student progress. There are students who get good grades, get into good colleges, and get degrees, but are unable to find work in their field of choice. I don't have specific data to back up my claim, I am just observing trends based on stories I hear and people I know. This phenomenon is probably worse than usual due to the recent economic problems in the US, but regardless it's a huge concern for students of my generation. We have intelligent and articulate people with liberal arts degrees unable to get good paying jobs because they lack specialized degrees and training. As children we are told if you do well in school, you will get into a good college, get a good job, and be successful, but reality can be pretty harsh.
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    Dec 1 2011: help people to help people.
  • Dec 1 2011: The purpose of education for my own child?
    To provide a framework for how the world works (universe, nature, people, trade, government, family, religion, relationships) and how she and her family can prosper in my guess of what that environment will be in 20 years.

    The purpose of education for other people's children?
    Whatever the parent believes is most important for their unique child to learn in order to succeed, however the parent defines "success", in the parent's guess about the unknowable future.

    Let parents, not elites, decide their own unique child’s education.
    Our child. Our money. --> Our decision!
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      Dec 1 2011: Dennis, I agree that parents should be part of the design of education. How do you think children should be involved in the process?
      • Dec 1 2011: Hi, Adam,

        I believe that the parents should be the primary designers. I am concerned when third parties, unfamiliar with the child or family, coercively intercede. But as the general contractor of their child's education, the parent may well consult, or even subcontract entirely, with anyone they want -- a particular school, an education guru, a political/social/religoius entity, or even their child.

        Thus, some parents might well trust their child's intuition, handing off many decisions to her, while other parents might choose a much more authoritarian approach.

        Our family prefers a collaborative approach. My daughter makes many of her own choices, including, for example, which school to attend, which caused a major upheaval this year! Once she addressed our concerns, her preference was honored.

        However, my personal education guru is more Gatto than Greenberg. I believe that children often need a mentor willing to provide a Jesuit kick-in-the-pants when insecurities start to let the child down. Perseverance, discipline, focus, and resilience are primary traits we hope will allow our daughter a better chance to survive in our guess about the future.

        But that's just our unique family's idiosyncratic preferences for our unique daughter.

        Other parents' mileage may vary.

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    Nov 29 2011: Today, you can be a doctor with many years spent in a university and still be religious, or a believer in quackery.
    How is this possible?

    It's that our education is still focused on testing memory performance of students. What a doctor should've been taught is the scientific method that allowed for the medical knowledge to come into being. Criticism and creativity.

    But the transition towards a rationnal society is slowly happening. Feels we're halfway there.
  • Nov 29 2011: Resolving the ongoing issues
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    Dec 29 2011: Thanks Adam. I returned to this conversation frequently to view all of the inputs. Answers came in many varieties from professional, emotional, and personnal. Each has contributed to my view of the purpose of education. I find it curious that not one mention of role modeling was addressed. You would think that easy instructors would get a vote but in my case a tough, but fair, grader opened my eyes to litertature. We now respect the teachers that developed our work ethic. She was not my favorite when she made me work and think. Perhaps I now see the need for more discipline, which breeds respect, in the classroom. I still think of her and thank her when I conduct research, read a great novel, go to the theater, or just enjoy the arts.
  • Dec 29 2011: Education is just a tool and not a final aim, achievement or destination. education helps you along in the journey of life where the ultimate goal i think should be KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM in understanding the meaning and purpose of this journey of life, in which all of us are students carrying our own backpacks towards the true destination! May peace be to you all my friends!!
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    Dec 28 2011: To learn the schema that is necessary to conduct life successfully. It is important to learn that one is loved
    and how to love others. AND to be a critical thinker not an accepting follower. To be authentic and compassionate is the short answer.
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    Dec 28 2011: Having received my PhD at 19 (no it is not a typo) and beginning my career as a University Teacher who later steered his way into Public School education I probably am very jaded with my opinion. I believe strongly that "Man is a son of his environment". I have two grown offspring raised under this philosophy and two parents who strongly believed that it was OUR job to educate our children and the Public Schools responsibility to expose them to different experiences. My wife and I believed that we would NOT teach our children to fail by allowing them to "try" boy/gjrl scouts, "try" soccer, or "try" other popular activities. We decided that our son would play the cello and that our daughter would study ballet. We enforced our decision, as parents running the family and not allowing our children any control of OUR chosen disciplines. We relied on our Public School system to expose them to other disciplines, ie. soccer, art, science, theatre, etc. and remained constant in our responsibility to TEACH our children the old Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.
    My point is simple. WE were responsible for the education of our children. The Schools, peers, and synagogue, were responsible for their "well rounded" personalities and education.
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    • W T

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      Dec 28 2011: Mr. Wesley let me just say that I admire your courage. Will you please let us know what are the top things that your parents taught you before 6? Also, I invite you to contribute to the question I posted on the following talk:

      It is always a pleasure to read your comment.
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        • W T

          • +1
          Dec 29 2011: Once again, thank you for your wonderful contribution and helping me get a glimpse of your life experience. You have helped me make a connection with those of your generation.

          Mr. Wesley, let me just add something for your reflection: If you, being an imperfect man, with limited knowledge of life and human affairs felt at the age of 19 a desire to fight passionately for those who were victims of evil, then how much more so must our Creator be anxious to rid evil from the earth. His patience is beyond my comprehension.....especially when I reflect on passages such as Second Peter chapter three and verses three through thirteen.

          May you continue to enrich the lives of those you come in contact with.


          **To bring my comment back to the discussion: The purpose of education....I think education should make you a better person. And, in my opinion, we can be educated by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. We therefore need to always have an open mind for learning. Mr. Wesley has just educated me...and I am so very thankful.
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    Dec 28 2011: The purpose of education should be to create a well rounded individual. Someone who adds to the diversity of society. As well as allowing this persons individualism to find a passion and express it whether it be science, the arts, or even religion. By definition education is receiving and giving information through a system. Which is exactly what it should do, but what we are teaching and learning is what matters. The purpose should be to learn basic information and then decide what they want to do with it.
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    Dec 28 2011: Thank You Mr. Adam Burk for igniting the debate and i am amazed by the ideas put forward by many. I shall say i learn plenty here than in a classroom and i am very glad. I think that we have plenty of ideas that is enough to change the world, in this context improve education. i also think education must enable children not only to think but to 'do', since they will inherit a world which is at stake;judging by the present scenario. For all of us ( including myself) i would like to end with a quote by Gandhi " Be the change you want to see". Happy New Year to All.
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    Dec 28 2011: Education should aim at the following three things in that order: -

    1. Develop an ability to simplify things.
    2. Develop a good sense of values.
    3. Develop civic sense.
  • Dec 28 2011: The education should also be of basic living and self reliance. How to interact by putting names to actions instead of throwing them in to learn it on a spelling test. It would be great if the kids could grow vegetables or learn from nature. There are more resources than a pencil and paper. Kids learn by being active and involved. Having them up and seeing, this is how there school work effects there life, could be a much bigger impact. It seems they only give small examples they can't really relate to.Most important, they should learn they are good at something if they find what they love doing and why they love doing it. Sometimes if you don't figure out why you love something you'll find out later it was just an activity. It's not easy to figure out what it is you NEED to do with your life. Those people who got half way threw college before they realized they didn't like what they were doing could probably give you more tips. This is a good example of how to learn from nature.
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    Dec 28 2011: Hey Adam Burk
    What is the purpose of education? Does it have a purpose? If so, how do we know when we have it right?

    In the context of the industrial revolution, there were many valuable lessons that we could have learned about the value of educating people in a systemized way. The problem, I think, is that we didn't learn these lessons because we deferred to experts and politicians.

    What is the purpose of a baby? Same question really, just a different context. Maybe we should ask what is the purpose, the why, in life itself? As in: What is the purpose of promoting well-being for everyone and strong thriving communities on the whole planet. What would that even look like?

    What if we developed the bonds of humanity so well that everyone was perpetually contagiously happy. This seems to be a choice between survive and thrive or between ceasefire and loving relations.

    What if we had a gift economy? What if we saw real and economic value in natural capital? What if we gave people opportunities to practice what they have a natural talent to do well? Wow. We might need lots of practice appreciating clumsy fumbling beginner efforts.

    What if it's too hard or we're not really up for it?

    From my experience in seeing the plots of our end-of-the-world movies, it seems we need to learn that we've already invaded our own planet. We are at war with our own long-term existence. Maybe we could kick off a really enlightening education revolution by producing a movie that shows we are already dooming our future survival. The trick is to be clearly understood without causing depression or panic.

    I think we should be asking ourselves lots and lots of "what if" questions to really open up the context and create new possibilities.

    What if...
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    Dec 27 2011: To educate is to cultivate for oneself at the same time for others the skills of living in a multi-cutural and globalize world and values of life (social, political, economic, moral etc) in relation to the environment or surrounding. In order to educate we must have the enabling conditions; for personal reasons we must have the right attitude and right mindset,( to paraphrase the Bible Proverb,'Wisdom begins on the day or moment you decide to get/have/acquire Wisdom') For everyone ( in relation to School) we must have the basic infrastructure, Quality rather than Quantity, Learning rather than on Teaching and most of all it must be fun, relevant, interesting and child-centred. I prefer an outdoor school, a field trips.. so that we can use all our senses to learn; learning through interaction or action. Learning must be rewarding children response to reward, so experiment in gardening, basic mechanics etc is a must.
  • Dec 27 2011: I don't know rules here much.While I got a +3 ,this seems a good response for my express。Thanks
  • Dec 27 2011: Since the question is as confusing as asking, 'what is life?' , i will be as vague as my education taught me :-)

    To me the purpose of education is about providing a viable and open platform where 'growth' of an individual is nurtured to its highest potential in confluence with their environment.
  • Dec 27 2011: A purpose that education serves is to allow us to understand our place in the universe and come to a conclusion about how we are going to live with each other in a mutually beneficial and peaceful manner.In order to accomplish a better standard of living faster, we need to be creative and break the mold of thinking about money as a means to an end. I saw Ken Robinson deliver a compelling argument about schools killing creativity By suppressing children's intuitive need to explore artistic ways of expressing themselves and nudging them into the world of thinking about careers as monetary rewards, I'm afraid that the struggle to properly educate people is in vein. For education, in my opinion, can and should be used as a tool to set free downtrodden societies that experience the drudgery of hard and tedious manual labor in the pursuit of time to do what they really want to do. Education is the driving force of peace and happiness and true freedom.
  • Dec 25 2011: To get the punchline.
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    E G

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    Dec 25 2011: Learn the people to think in terms of arguments , not just spelling some opinions when you ask them something, as the most of them do .
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    Dec 24 2011: The knowledge, it is make the purpose for things, but we educate our self to develop the humanity.
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    Dec 23 2011: Completely agree with you on the self-cultivation part. Education should barely promote the self-righteous, high headed egotism people develop through many of the current education systems around the world.
    I think the true purpose of education is developing a social-survival strategy for today's world.
  • Dec 23 2011: I entirely agree with you. Sure, some people think that the maths and sciences are fun (and I think so too), but who's to say that people NEED to take those?
    If a student wants to be a musician, let them practice and study music and not have a bunch of other stuff entirely bent on making them be employed into the work force.
    Thank you for bringing up this issue so it can be addressed.
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    Dec 23 2011: Sorry it might not be connected to this question but i think when we born we see people speaking from them we learn how to speak say words if there were no one speaking we didn't know that we can speak it takes about 2 years for us after we born to be able to control or use a bit correctly our senses.
    An example we humans has made a great discoveries time after time after time if Albert Einstein has not seen or read
    about Sir Isaac Newton he would not have those discoveries that he has he would have then first thought to make those
    discoveries/Laws that Newton has it was the education that told Einstein that we have discover till here we know this about this you have to see understand research from here not from beginning.
    I think we give our children's education that we already have so that they know what we know
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    Dec 23 2011: To supply a platform in which, all who desire can acquire the best and most appropriate education for them.
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    Dec 23 2011: in my opinion the main purpose should be the answer of social expectations. therefore we have to teach students why they are in earth. if we can teach to the students the aims of human life they will be covered by enough life skills are enough for social expectations. i want to give some examples.. in math lesson if student asks us why im learning these things we must able to tell them the reasons like you might be an engineer, math teacher, etc. in foreign language class, if they ask us why we are learning english, we could tell them the reasons like it is worldwide language that they ll need in future for many different jobs. aas long as we can do these all being teachers, we will be able to educate or train new generations.
  • Dec 23 2011: Primary Purpose is to realize that the world is too big for any one to understand, there by realizing, we are just a speck............
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    Dec 22 2011: Education systems must change, and start to focus on guiding and developing the passions of each student!
  • Dec 22 2011: Education should not stop on the day that you 'graduate'.
    Make it a goal to learn something new, every day of your life.
    The knowlege you accumulate, will make your life a more fulfilling journey.
    It opens up the world for you, and allows you to become a more capable and independent person.

    To quote the immortal John Wayne, "Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."
  • Dec 21 2011: To enlighten our children of our foibles and help them avoid their own. To appreciate the greatness of the world we live in and enjoy the greatness without destroying it. To accept possibility and discourage the impossible. To find self-worth in being selfless in helping others. I din't mean this to sound like a mantra-education should fit loosely around each person like comfortable clothes.
    My four year old is bored with public school. She is the only in kid in her class that speaks three languages fluently, she can't understand why she has to sit and repeat things she already knows. I can't either.
  • Dec 21 2011: The purpose of education should be applied knowledge that leads to the current and future benefit of humanity. Any other educational purpose is self-serving and a waste.
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    Dec 21 2011: I had not included culture in the statement above because I felt the same as you described. However, upon further thought that may be very limiting. Lets think of culture in three arenas.

    1. Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities.

    2. Integrated patterns of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.

    3. The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that charterizes an institution, organization, or group.

    I agree with your statement but find it restrictive in context with the current discussion. Further I live near a major reservation and the young are unable to speak the language and do not follow the traditional ways. There are fewer small farms as the young are opting for the city and banks and industry own the farm lands. In the 1950's a man who did not put his hand on his heart during the National Anthem would never have been allowed to run for office. But today one has been elected. Who would have thought the prayer would be banned from schools or that the flag would offend so many. Disrespect to the military was shown when I was spit on, throwen on, and called names upon return from Viet Nam. Jane Fonda gave documented aid and comfort to the enemy but was never charged as a traitor. I understand that change occurs in nations, states, families, and among the many diverse races. Education and the learning process can help us to understand and accept change. A professor friend of mine believes that within 50 to 100 years from now there will be a golden man as all races and cultures blend. The above examples are given to demonstrate social and cultural change not to envoke a political argument. No offense was intended.
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    Dec 21 2011: Perhaps we should expand our view. Has anyone reviewed the results of the PISA Exams. The 89 countriies that participated were divided into three areas based on grades. Excelent, Average, poor. The US was in the poor section. Shanghai blew everyone else out of the water. PISA results indicate that the top schools introduce high math
    and science earlier into the students agendas. Shanghai encourages student learning rather than an accumulation of knowledge. This supports my earlier question on confussion between education and learning. I will further discuss the changes made that jumped Shanghai into the leadership of educational approach when Adam introduces the next section the "cure".
  • Dec 21 2011: The purpose of education is for humans to live like humans. Without education, where is the limit? What is appropriate, and what is not? Education gives us a hint in this matter. It gives us a small border line between what is right and wrong. These days everyone's individuality is respected. However this 'indiviuality' is respected when we deem it proper. Education might not give everyone the exact same opinion to a situation, but it helps us find a way to agree.
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    Dec 21 2011: Adam Burk stated that this thread was to discuss, " In your opinion what should the purpose of education be." We have jumped to the follow on question that I am sure that he will ask, "Suggest changes to the educational process." My opinion is that Adam did observe the conversation but as we violated his instructions we got the comment we deserved for disobeying.

    Sorry Adam. I promise to follow the rules more closely.
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      Dec 21 2011: Hi Robert,

      No worries. It is expected that the conversation will naturally want to go to the next phase and I will create a new thread to hold that soon.

      I will comment below too, but while I am able to read comments every day I am not always able to respond right away, so my apologies for that!

  • Dec 20 2011: I feel that this conversation is beautiful and enlightening in many respects but I still feel a strong sense of vagueness about the answers. Rather, I feel like to pin down the whole issue further I'd like to tweak the question, if I may?

    In other words, in your opinion, what should the purpose of education not be?

    By this, I mean, what should the education not teach. Should it not teach morality? Should it not teach religion? Or perhaps, something I care about more deeply than the two previous questions, should it not teach how to pass exams designed by private for profit companies?

    This list is by no means exhaustive, but I just want to see if it is possible to list all the things one could trash from current education systems to just leave the essence of the teaching in the end.
    • Dec 23 2011: Maybe the thing that "education" should not do is teach!

      By way of example one of the ten principles that guide Essential Schools is student as worker, teacher as coach.

      For an extreme example visit, a school without a curriculum. Of watch the video about Mummified Chickens, Mutant Frogs and rockets to the Moon at
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        Dec 28 2011: Hey Chuck Fellows
        SVS school (from video link) is terrific. Maybe in answering the theme question, you might say that the purpose of education is to build tribes of collaborative self-suffucient learners.

        I don't know how you would say it, but stating the purpose in validating way might be very helpful. I mean instead of saying what it's not.
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    V Raj

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    Dec 20 2011: Education - Formal & Informal is imparted with only One Goal... Creating a Better Human beings for Tomorrow!
  • Dec 19 2011: Agree that education is important, and with your comments to start out this thread. I would add that the learning of past, and present technologies, is the basis of vocational learning as well as technology services for humans to live successfully-plumbers, carpenters, nurses, musicians, and many others. I will read and follow this important thread.
  • Dec 18 2011: Ideally, the ultimate purpose of education in a flat world like ours should be establishing a common ground and a common language for a global conversation among people of different ethnic, social, religious and cultural backgrounds, providing us with a better understanding of our life and purpose and making this world more mentally breathable.
  • Dec 18 2011: I sort of agree with julius sephiroth . Education at the very least should make sure that people are able to function in society. I'm talking about social skills and just being able to understand the things around you.

    As you continue studying the purpose of it should be about helping the student find what he/ she is good at and sharpening their skills in that area.
    If you achieve that, you spark major interest within that student (for whatever subject or topic).
    If they have interest, they show initiative, then they become innovative.
    The end result is someone who excels in their field, and is constantly looking for better and more efficient ways to do things.
    You build a diverse and strong community.
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      Dec 21 2011: I learned my social skills at church every Sunday and at other social events with my family. I learned to give up my seat on the bus to elderly riders. I learned how to take care of babies and little children. I learned how to sit and listen to adult conversation. I learned how to share and take turns and how to empathize. I don't think kids are learning these things in school today.
      • Dec 21 2011: That is true. A huge part of your social skills you gain through everyday life, how to care, manners etc.
        But for most kids, school is a huge part of that everyday life. You learn how to interact with others and divide tasks, for example through group projects, or just talking in the recess.
        I guess there's a part of the education you do get in school, but just not out of the books. A part that isn't directly taught, but is picked up by the students.
        And kids who learn social skills outside of school, i think would also show them off in the school,
        where other students can learn and pick them up.
        You've probably positively influenced/ taught more people in school than you know.
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    Dec 17 2011: Is it possible that there is some confusion between "learning" and "education"? Education is the formal process in which society deliberately transmits accumlated knowledge, skills, customs, and values from one generation to another. Whereas learning involves synthesizing different types of information such as knowledge, behaviors, skills, values or preferences. They share common elements but I feel that education is a subset of learning. Education is restrictive where learning is all encompassing. This woulkd lend support to Ken Robinsons' argument of schools killing creativity. Creativity would be a part of learning but not an element of education. Education occurs inside of a box with constraints of syllabus, objectives, goals, etc... Learning is all of lifes events seen, heard, or experienced.
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      Dec 21 2011: Great point Robert!
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      Dec 21 2011: I agree with you premise but I think the bulk of culture is transmitted my ones parents and family. It is my observation that every family is its own subset of culture containing multi-ethnic members, traditions, rituals, and norms old and new.
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    Dec 17 2011: to enlighten the minds of those who are willing and able to take the knowledge. I do think though, a lot of the education we are taught is pointless. I don't remember the last time I used trig, or geometry since high school.
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      Dec 17 2011: Erin, you have a very indivdualistic approach to education :) fun
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    Dec 17 2011: Formal education is a beginning part of an individual life which should teach an infant or a teen-ager good values,ethics,self-nurtured and be a better citizen in the society.It's the time when u have ample of opportunities for study,sports & extra curricular activities. Much effort should also be given to the holistic development of a student.

    Well the bottom-line is,

    Purpose of education should be : To Prepare & mould the student for most of the challenges they are going to face out of the uni gate & consolidate themselves as a better human being.
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    Dec 17 2011: I think Ken Robinson is right there needs to be a focus on identifying, encouraging and and feeding the students natural curiosity, and recognition that we all learn in different ways. bulding on a childs capacity to be creative and adapt will be a key coping mechanism that will enable our young kids to deal with the increasing pace of change.
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    Dec 17 2011: Education is important in life because it is the only way that human beings develop. I'm not saying that education is the "primary" form of the human being to develop: I say that is the only one.
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    Dec 16 2011: The primary desire from education is that my children should be capable of reading, writing, and have the capability to comprehend. Education is focused on the needs of the industrial complex. That needs to cease and as Liz Coleman presented return to the liberal Arts agenda. At the Primary level instill in them the joy of learning, the learning process, the ability to learn models such as the scientific approach, and provide the basic circculum to support the next level of learning. The concept of high stakes testing should be replaced with application models. It is only through application that the true measure of learning has been achieved. Instructors should be the catalysis through which a childs dreams can be lived and achieved. Education has become a tool for political propaganda and not to enhance the student.
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    Dec 16 2011: for my second view, "one will never be eager to seek knowledge if he never see the light of it. " i think people who attracted by the knowledge must be told how to learn it. that the what the education for. and that is what the education should do.
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    Dec 16 2011: well, i think from the acient era, the core aim of eduction is to keep the knowledge from losing. then alone with the develop of human, knowledge became a powerful tools to help us to deal with the problem we met. back to our modern age, the core aim of eduction i think still not change. we, as a human, must receive eduction to live in the world, so it is just a tool for our the way, the "living" means the human, not just for every individual.
  • Dan F

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    Dec 15 2011: First, may I describe an education:

    An education requires:

    A learning environment conducive to disciplined studies
    An effective means of imparting knowledge of basic classroom subjects from writing skills through fields
    of science
    Receptive students
    Grade recognition for student performance measured by appropriately frequent and professionally composed and conducted exams

    Benefits include:

    Gaining an edge in seeking certain job and employment opportunities due to educational achievement
    Being potentially more capable of thinking and expressing yourself more intelligently than those with less knowledge and discipline
    Being more vested in leading a fuller life than someone less educated

    Meeting those conditions -- the purpose and result of being educated is to be a better citizen.
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      Dec 16 2011: Hi Dan,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Are the conditions the only way education can result in becoming a better citizen? What are your qualifications for being a "good citizen?"

      • Dan F

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        Dec 17 2011: Hi Adam,

        The conditions are not absolute, but there is value in confining and defining education funded by the government. Is not the basic value of an education to develop a student's knowledge about the real world and improve his or her communication skills? To me, it is. These things are measurable, and the USA lags in world ranking and we should be close to the top. I say the purpose of education is to be a better citizen because I don't take my freedom and liberties for granted. I think an educated citizenry provide the best defense against governmental tyranny. The purpose of an education should be to produce a good citizen, but plenty will go astray. The base level of a good citizen is anyone who abides by the law and lives by the golden rule. I didn't mean to imply that an uneducated person cannot be a good citizen.
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          Dec 21 2011: Hi Dan,

          Thanks for the elaboration and further context of what is informing your thinking.

          You say, "an educated citizenry provide the best defense against governmental tyranny," and then go on to say "The base level of a good citizen is anyone who abides by the law..." What happens when the law is used to protect tyranny? What does a good citizen look like then?

      • Dan F

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        Dec 21 2011: Hi Adam - to your followup comment,

        Admittedly, this stuff can get a little messy, but here goes:

        Law breakers create their own tyranny in the form of anarchy. I've heard a quote, "We have the kind of government we deserve." That may not be it exactly, but imparts an insight that registers with me. It is why a more informed and better educated electorate is less likely to support and may well oppose laws or practices that are too self serving for those that rule and thereby tyrannical. Laws and practices are subject to debate and change in democracies. There is a process for citizens to contain government. We are a secular government with free speech, elections, ballot measures, provisions for demonstrations, protests, petitions, an entire bill or rights, etc. It's not perfect, but the system was designed to be accountable to the diverse citizens it serves. This may or may not apply to other countries. Obviously, even democratic regimes are not immune from tyranny some are theocracies.
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        Dec 21 2011: I think the most important qualification of citizenship is contribution. We need to have a goal to contribute something useful. Obviously, "useful" can be defined in many ways.
      • Dan F

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        Dec 23 2011: Hi Adam - is it okay if I expand/alter my answer to your question?

        Originally my answer was: .. a better citizen, by interpreting "...purpose of eduction," to mean the result of someone educated to "...purpose of education" in a more ongoing active sense to be:

        The purpose of education is a matter of introducing a student to established and recognized academic facts and discovery. Ideally done by a professional educator in an objective classroom manner which includes testing and grading the student on his or her comprehension of the material covered. The basic intent of the classroom process is to improve the students IQ on the subject taught. Importantly, the learning system and methods are not handicapped by defenseless teaching protections, benefits, etc., or limited or influence by conflicting personal and/or governmental beliefs with the corresponding restrictions on such subjects as biology, etc. Acquired knowledge via the educational curricula on real world studies and the development of disciplined thought and communication skills is what determines intelligence for many of us enlarging our world and should be the central goal and consequently the purpose of education.
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      Dec 17 2011: Hi Dan, Hi contributors,
      It’s almost impossible to disagree with you on the tools but one of the objectives is more questionable: making employable citizens.
      It’s true that most kids will become employees but it should be presented to children as only one of the options. We should value entrepreneurships as much, I believe. Risk taking; dream pursuit should be encourage in a rational way.
      Some kids may be creating thousands of jobs and improving living conditions if we let them envisage themselves as entrepreneurs. What do you think?
      • Dan F

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        Dec 17 2011: Hi Louis,

        Point taken. I didn't mean to exempt the opportunity of becoming an entrepreneur, or the pursuit of other self reliant challenges in life. In fact to be a successful entrepreneur may be the ultimate reward of an education. I started a company my daughter has taken over.

        Education likely causes most of us to be a bit more conservative. We are more apt to consider risks more carefully and accurately before entering a business venture. That has a value too. There is a cost for failure. I definately agree individual encouragement is important to help students excel in life and a reason why teachers, professors, mentors and parents are so important in education.

        But, my main point is the USA is better served by a more informed and intelligent electorate and is just as true for citizens of other countries as well.
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        Dec 21 2011: One-size-fits-all education has found its limits I believe. Traditional education only seems to serve educators and administrators.
        There should be a way for some kids to get to work doing whatever they want to do as soon as possible.
        We should all be educated on a basic level in how to manage our money, how to take care of our bodies, how to survive if we are lost in the woods, how governments operate, and how to successfully pursue the learning experience and occupation we desire.
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    Dec 15 2011: Educations primary purpose is the preservation and / or the betterment of the culture that created it. The culture is made up of the ideas which succeed the lifetimes of the individuals making up that culture. Therefore the purpose of education is to perpetuate the culture or a better version of that culture through the ideas and ideals of the individuals who populate it. As we now live in a global culture, the global society would need to be enhanced and perpetuated toward an infinity of potential longevity through the educational models and systems of our society. Therefore education has the primary role of fostering individuals with the greatest creative and / or imitative qualities which they were endowed or which could be developed into them. The goal would of course be the successful survival and evolution of the species
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      Dec 15 2011: QUOTE: "One purpose of education is learning grammatically correct language in order to clearly and succinctly communicate. Particularly with regard to written communication, one component of which is learning to differentiate between homophones."

      Another purpose of education is to learn social skills.

      Homophone or not, you understood the point. And the purpose of communication is to be understood and to understand.

      Many people on this forum are not writing in their native language.

      QUOTE: "Hence, literacy needs to be the primary purpose of [early] education, as it is an essential component of the foundation upon which critical thinking [and other cognitive] skills are built."

      Literacy is not necessary in every culture. In fact, we have been illiterate for most of our history ... and we did alright.
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      • Comment deleted

      • Dec 18 2011: This is just a conversation. I do think, however we should be literate. Literacy helps people by enabling them to read books, books enable them to understand knowledge at a much faster rate, and this knowledge can be apply to help themselves or others. Unlike Kathy, I will not argue with you what people have to do to improve their knowledge, but I shall insist that literacy enhances knowledge. The fact that you can post blogs on TED is because you can read, but the fact that you can analyze blogs on TED can be because of other influential education such as observational learning. Now, now I do not mean that you are correct, I am just trying to be realistic and to be sensitive to other cultures. Moreover, literacy enables you to communicate and learn at a much faster rate, hence it improves neural networks at a much faster rate too. This will make the individual to have a higher potential of achieving higher intelligence, but this is only an increase percentage not a definite chance. I am sure; however, compared to literate societies, non-literate societies do not have a greater or equal potential of achieving that intelligence. This does not mean I cannot find a genius in those societies, but I more likely to find a genius in a literate society. I hope these thoughts can provide to you why we should be literate.
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          Dec 19 2011: I agree that there's a lot of valuable information to be found if you can read and write, but I also question the idea that there are more intelligent, literate people than intelligent, illiterate ones. I think it depends on how we define "genius." I'm an intelligent person in the English department where I work, but my particular literacies and intelligence would not help me if someone dropped me into the Amazon rainforest from a helicopter. Different skill sets are valuable in different contexts. A lot of people who never learn to read or write are highly innovative and intelligent, just not in the ways we might typically think.
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          Dec 19 2011: Adam specified education as it relates to industrialized cultures and within this framework, literacy is invaluable.
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          Dec 21 2011: Hi Zared, Jen, and Nathan,

          I do think it is essential to teach literacy (and numeracy) in all modern and developing cultures.

          However, Adam's question is very specific: "in your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?"

          While he does mention modern education and industrialism, his question is more specific (or general, depending on your point of view) and it relates to the purpose of education.

          The purpose of education will be determined by many factors; most notably, culture.

          There are now cultures where it would be, in my opinion, inappropriate to teach "modern literacy." And who knows what the future holds? It may be unlikely, and even unpalatable to us now, but at some point in the future we may upload data directly to our brains and learning to read would be seen as "a waste of time."

          Which is why I qualified my earlier answer (that I have copied below.)


          [Posted December 2, 2011.]

          What should the purpose of education be?

          - Teach ourselves to think.
          - Teach ourselves to learn.
          - Teach ourselves to be highly functional.
          - Teach ourselves to be highly functional within the current social system.
          - Have fun.

          That's it.
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          Dec 21 2011: Hi Zared,

          You say the point I am making does not support the greater good. That may be true but it is also a value judgment and, it is a phrase I have always been a little uncomfortable with "the greater good."

          While we are likely in agreement that literacy is (almost) universally desirable, we may not reach agreement that there are exceptions.

          Frans mentioned an isolated culture that was still existing using stone-age technology; the anthropologists that studied it did so from afar so as not to alter their culture. Not too long ago there was a photograph making the rounds on the WWW, it was of a culture (in South America, I think) that had had no contact with the "modern world." The photo was taken from a helicopter. The people were aiming bows and arrows at the flying machine.

          I do not think it would be to the greater good to remove these people from their environment or teach them how to read (which, presumably, they cannot do.) Again, the "professionals" (the anthropologists) believe these people should not be "contacted" but, rather, left to live out their lives in the manner of their own choosing until such time their civilization comes to an end. Which it will, no doubt, do.

          I agree with them.

          You might not agree with me.
        • Dec 23 2011: Nathan "Adam specified education as it relates to industrialized cultures and within this framework, literacy is invaluable."

          Agreed, regarding industrialized cultures literacy is key! Looks like someone failed to notice that particular part of the question when giving his tedious responses about indiginous people..
      • Dec 19 2011: I understand your point, but I am not talking about displaying skills. I am trying to state that intelligence revolves around the adaptability to new skills. Illiterate people do in fact can be intelligent, but I am sure that literate people have the greater potential to be intelligent due to the increase neural networks created by the acquired knowledge of reading books or writing. Perhaps, genius is too strong of a word, but regardless of that concept, reading and writing highlights a greater potential to be intelligent. Keep in mind, reading and writing does not grant automatic intelligence, but they will definitely grant you to think harder and to analyze more.
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          Dec 22 2011: QUOTE: "Of course, reading and writing will damage their outlook to culture, but it will increase their potential for survival on the individual scale."

          Hi Zared,

          I think we will have to agree to disagree. I see no benefit to teaching members of functioning societies to learn to read if their is no need for them to do so.

          As I mentioned in another post, I know many people who do not know how to read and do not need to know. They function very well within their societies. But, as is obvious to all, these societies are vanishing.

          But just as a thought experiment: If we are going to "educate" the tribespeople in some remote section of the world, should we teach them to read in Spanish, English, Mandarin or some other language?

          In some respect, we are all "illiterate" ... I can read, write, and speak English; I am learning Mandarin. I can speak a little and understand a bit more. I can "read" about 100 characters. I am illiterate in China which is where I live. It will likely take me about 15 years to become fluent ... and literate.
        • Dec 22 2011: You both have very interesting points but I would like to point out that from my perspective, it seems as though you're caught looking at it from our cultural and social perspective.
          Zared - you mention that Literate people have more of a potential to be intelligent than not.. but what is intelligence? I would start with that as the root. Intelligence(in my opinion) is the ability to be highly functioning within your own cultural and societal parameters. If you're part of an indigenous tribe, intelligence may have nothing to do with literacy and everything to do with knowing how to survive in the wilderness, protect others and lead. There is a difference between learning something in a book an learning something via experience. In our society, literacy can gain us access to more knowledge about a specific subject, which can get us a job, which will feed us and help maintain our life. That is the reason you are coming to literacy as such an important piece.
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        Dec 21 2011: Thomas, you said: "Literacy is not necessary in every culture. In fact, we have been illiterate for most of our history ... and we did alright."

        I agree on the last part. We did alright then without reading or writing. Now we live different times and I think you know that cultures transgress into literate ones. Even Indian peoples in the rainforests in Amazonia that choose to live traditionally have a PC to communicate with the world.
        In our world those that can’t communicate outside their group are ultimately wiped out.

        If you look back into history you can distinguish enormous boosts in human development at a few moments in time. One as we started to speak, one as we started to write and again as we started to print. Maybe the internet and use of images give the next boost that we are now working on.

        So, to say that reading isn’t necessary within some cultures isn’t something I would say.
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          Dec 21 2011: Hi Frans,

          Of course I agree with you, generally speaking. However, as I mentioned, there are still (apparently) one or two cultures that have not had any contact with the outside world.

          Should we teach them how to read and write?

          Personally, I don't think we should.

          I think the purpose of their education should be to prepare them to live well within their cultures.

          And as I mentioned in an earlier post (that may have been deleted) there are still tribes within Africa that do not need "modern literacy" to flourish within their societies.

          Yes, these groups are small and vanishing but I contend their lifestyle is meaningful as long as they choose to maintain it. Teaching them to read and write would not only be detrimental to their way of life, it would very likely contribute to its accelerated destruction.

          Some of us might think this a good thing.

          Some of us might not.

          I think, not.
        • Dec 23 2011: I think we should stop quotes. They are kinda insulting. You are right, so what do you think the purpose of education is?
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        Dec 21 2011: As you put it that way Thomas I agree all the way.

        Once I saw a documentary about an island somewhere around India. People on that island lived in the stone age and anthropologists were studying them from afar from boats. They didn't want to make contact for by that they would change or influence their behavior.
        I never heard of it again and still am curious about it. Maybe someone heard of it
        • Dec 21 2011: Thomas,

          The point of which you are making is not supporting the greater good. Of course, reading and writing will damage their outlook to culture, but it will increase their potential for survival on the individual scale. These groups are dying off from many reasons rather than just becoming literate and if anything, it will help them to survive from harmful factors. Honestly, as long as we record their culture, then it will never disappear.
        • Dec 22 2011: Thomas.

          I am at a fault once again. I probably should of not used the phase,"greater good", but regardless of this point, my point and your point still has value. I respect preserving these ancient cultures, but eventually, they will all be effected by the modern world either in a good way or a bad way. We should not try to isolate these cultures from the fascinating modern world; instead, we should record their lifestyles.
      • Dec 22 2011: To be literate, all you have to do is be literate in at least one language. The tribe people should learn how to read and write in the language that is common in their geographical location. I respect that you are defending your point in the manner of your belief, but in the end logic triumphs. If they are going disappear over time no matter what, we might as well save them from the modern world by teaching them how to adapt to it.

        Deeply sorry, if my last or this comment came off rude, I am just trying to state a point. I respect your beliefs and the cultures around the world.
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          Dec 23 2011: Hi Zared,

          No, your comment did not come across as rude. Not in the least.

          As I say, we will likely simply have to agree to disagree.

          I do not think people in functioning societies should be taught to read if it is not already a part of their culture.

          You think they should.

          Both positions have merit. However, I do suspect you have never interacted with illiterate societies that are fully functional.

          I have. And in my opinion, it would be completely inappropriate to teach them to read (unless they wanted to learn.)

          Now, if an indigenous culture is being assimilated by another, then I agree, the young people especially, should learn to adapt the the new prevailing culture.
      • Dec 23 2011: I am not talking about forcing them to read or write. I am stating that it would benefit them. The purpose of education is to enable people to become adaptive to the environment. Learning and communication is faster through writing and reading, but illiteracy does not prevent learning or communication. It is just slower than the opposite. I am sure we can both agree that being literate is more beneficial than being illiterate and in that sense, we can establish that my point has more value to it, but I still respect your beliefs and those of the indigenous cultures.
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          Dec 27 2011: QUOTE: "I am sure we can both agree that being literate is more beneficial than being illiterate and in that sense, we can establish that my point has more value to it ..."

          Hi Zared,

          No, I would not concede your point has "more value." It excludes those rare, but significant, instances where it would be harmful to teach people to read and write.

          My point, as it relates to our conversation is: The purpose of education is to "teach ourselves to be highly functional within the current social system."

          If our current social system is pre-literate, and it is likely to remain so for our lifetime, their is no point in learning how to read.

          Shall we teach the Sentinelese to read and write? How about the 45 tribes (estimated) of uncontacted people in New Guinea?

          I don't think we should.

          My position, it appears to me, is more inclusive ... and, though it is not a term I would use, of "more value."

          We (the literate world) lose nothing by not teaching indigenous people to read; they lose a lot if we do.

          Perhaps it's because I am (probably) older and have had closer involvement with people who were "forced" to adapt to literate, or "differently" literate cultures (First Nation residential schools in North America, Nomadic tribes in Africa, etc) but I reject the idea that literacy is of universal value.

          Culturally appropriate skills - that, I support 100%.

          As I say, we may have to agree to disagree.
      • Dec 27 2011: Of course, literacy is not a universal value, I am talking about its beneficial values. I think we can both agree on that concept. Also, you should probably stop using quotes from me and other users because it can come off as mocking. I understand you are just using it to clarify your point, but I am sure that it is not clear to some people.
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          Dec 27 2011: Hi Zared,

          Thanks for the heads up on the quotes. I use them because the structure of TED conversations often separates a response from the comment that is being responded to. I'm pretty sure most TEDsters would not interpret that as mocking.

          I do not think literacy is always beneficial.

          I believe we understand one another's point of view.

      • Dec 27 2011: Agreed. By the way, check out this discussion. I think you can deliver something real to it.
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    Dec 14 2011: Education for the sake of knowledge, especially if you come from a country where a good education does not guarantee you an equally good job/pay in return.
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      Dec 15 2011: Education is not supposed to lead to better job, better incomes in my opinion. Education is only a base.

      Work, dedication, network, risktaking...Choices are much more imporant in regards to pro. life success, no?
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    Dec 11 2011: Adam - I like your definition very much. It reminds me of a story told by David Whyte, a poet and thinker, in his presentation, "A Teacher's Vocation". It is a story about a teacher's obligation to empower students and to facilitate a connection between what they are learning and the connection it has to their world.

    Thanks for all your insights and good work. I've been following your work ever since a conversation you started on the subject of health and nutrition and it's place in the educational system.
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    Dec 11 2011: Syed - Yes, it's an old question.... It needs to be asked every generation and in a more crucial way needs to be asked and figured out in order to advance from one era to the next.

    Education is in the midst of revolutionary changes yet I don't know if those who are in a position to make changes have in fact answered your question as a prerequisite to action.

    For me, education's primary purpose is to facilitate a person finding a connection to the world and to discover his/her place in it. Great teachers are needed to make that happen.
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    Dec 11 2011: To teach language skills, e.g., 'In your opinion, what should BE the purpose of education?' No?
  • Dec 11 2011: This is a very old topic. The "educational philosophy" was handled well by Greeks (probably in 8th or 6th centuries BC). In summary it was this:
    "Greek education focused heavily on training the entire person, which included education of the mind, body, and imagination."
    It is still relevant. The only problem is that the industrialisation does not allow the implementation of this philosophy. It only allows "mass produce" where one teacher focuses on the whole class. We need to go back to basics of education which are simple.
  • Dec 10 2011: The purpose of education is to fit us for our works in future.
  • Dec 9 2011: Education does not teach or show one his or her passion, that is something one feels besides the education one has had, now education can and will, when done right, allow one to achieve their desired goals more efficiently. Education is all about evolution, about passing the torch of knowledge down from one generation to another, but for this to work education cannot act as a strict enforcer of rules and laws, it must be liquid, in orderto blanket the right student to the right field of knowledge according to one's passion.
  • Dec 9 2011: Education is life... there for education should be all about facilitating one's need to live. It should mold the mind of the student so that one can see the world for what it really is, everything that is good and bad and help one to navigate through it, to create meaningful experiences and memories all towards a single goal, evolution. Education is a constant state and it shouldnt be a reality only seen in classrooms. School is but the beginning of education, for one discovers how little one knows and just how little one is prepared for life when leaving school and college.
  • Dec 9 2011: I believe education is a tool which will shape a personality from a raw material .So its upto one's self on how you shape your personality .
  • Dec 9 2011: i believe the purpose of education is to instil in us the belief that we can be better thus allowing us to continually improve ourselves as we strive to reach our full potential.
  • Dec 9 2011: I feel ideal education must let the student understand what their true passion is and how to achieve it.
  • Dec 9 2011: ideally it would guide a child to their preferred field of knowledge and provide additional explanations and understandings of subjects. the purpose would be unique to each student. dictating what he produces for society is unjust.
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    Dec 8 2011: teaching for People..
  • Dec 7 2011: Education has many purposes. Apart from the ones that have already been described, I believe that education must afford each and every student the chance to realize their fullest potential. That means needing educators to be open minded enough to understand that cultivate each child within and without social conventions and expectations. Education should definitely be empowering, and must surely afford each individual a critical awareness of his/her own being in a particular sociopolitical milieu.
  • Dec 7 2011: To review your difference and harmony with the environment.
  • Dec 6 2011: The purpose of education should be to build social capital.
  • Dec 5 2011: Fundamentally, I believe that the purpose of education is to increase personal and interpersonal well-being. This is ultimately the reason we choose to learn, teach and value knowledge. But the highest order of education, how we strive towards optimizing well-being, is by enhancing our understanding of the world through reason. Although extremely broad, being mindful of the core purpose and method of education will ground how we choose to construct our institutions. There are many dampening issues with all educational systems around the world today but by applying the knowledge (that we have right now) of how we learn, why we learn and what we should be learning to create an ever innovating, creative and well society we would easily have a bright future - a future that is prepared to rewrite how to educate ourselves again as we gain new knowledge. We need proper funding and planning to integrate new-found ideas about human nature and technologies to improve our educational systems and thus our well-being.
  • Dec 5 2011: As a teacher, I view education as the process of applying something that was not previously known.

    Questions that come from a frustrated urban educator.

    Given that almost all vocational training is leaving the high schools, how do you then make it important for those who are uninterested in their free education.

    How do we get those parents who had a terrible education experience excited to send their student to school?
  • Dec 5 2011: Yes, you're right. There are issues of when to keep at an endeavor and when to leave it as an interest. And what about the child who seemingly does not posses any particular talents or abilities at the early end of their life? Talents don't always present right away, so we want to be open in education to change in interests and/or abilities.

    I detested math and consequently had poor grades until high school where I flourished in higher concepts. Go figure. Why? My records were lost and they did not know my deficit so I was placed in gifted math because of my other abilities.

    Two of the reasons we currently have little latitude in each field is that we teach them in exclusivity and we teach them in to segregated age based groups. So I feel for your daughter. If our students were adults would we still separate them by age?
  • Dec 5 2011: To broad our hirizon.
  • Dec 4 2011: Simply put, the purpose of education should be to create a better world, and a brighter future
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      Dec 4 2011: I think there is a danger in phrases like 'better and brighter' as their definition can be contingent on the whims of the people in power and thus vary greatly from individual responses. Your brighter and better world may be different from mine -- how would the purpose of education be analysed then, according to that criteria?
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    Dec 4 2011: getting the kids out of my hair for a few hours so i can feel human and think straight to do damage controlw hen he gets home
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    Dec 4 2011: Education should create life long learners.
  • Dec 4 2011: Education should be about providing people with a framework from which to discern the truth for themselves.
  • Dec 4 2011: To hear the passions of the child and give them the tools to develop their place of interest. We created an Ability Center so they could do just that
  • Dec 3 2011: Education should provide opportunities for learners to explore issues, real-world experiences, ideas and their manifestations. In addition, education should provide time, space and resources for experimentation so that issues, ideas and fledgling and established theories can be tested, revised and discarded by learners. Education should be living and breathing and changing and alive.
  • Dec 3 2011: In my opinion, the purpose of education is to enable children to be a productive member of society. This involves building social skills, higher order thinking skills, and helping them build confidence within themselves.
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    Dec 3 2011: To me, education (in schools) has two main purposes:
    1) To inculcate in all of us a sense of civic-mindedness that separates us from animals. This means morals & social etiquette. Of course, we could let parents do the job. But schools should play a part as well, because it only makes sense that social contracts/moral codes are also spread by public institutions like schools. It should be toned down to avoid sounding preachy and cheesy.
    2) To educate us not just for pragmatic purposes, but also to broaden our thinking and creativity.
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    Dec 3 2011: The purpose of education needs to be decided by the student. Meaning that there will be many purposes.

    Too often it is dictated by incompetent (and inexperienced) bureaucrats whose motivation is to either cut funding or collect meaningless statistics because they are generally after simple "one glance" evaluations of education "as a whole".

    This is the fundamental change that the entire world is going through - a shift away from one-size-fits-all to a focus on individuals. Sadly, this won't happen until parents, teachers and students insist on politicians and Ministry folk keeping their noses out of every part of the education process.
  • Dec 3 2011: I am a teacher. When I enter my classroom I first ask myself, "am I helping to build dignity in someone?" I then ask my students the same question throughout the year: "Is the work in which you engage helping to build dignity in yourself or in others?"

    - High-stakes testing does not build dignity.
    - Inequity in school funding does not build dignity.
    - Unhealthy school lunches don't build dignity.
    - A school day without the arts, health, or civics education doesn't build dignity.
    - Professional disrespect for teachers doesn't build dignity.
    - Racism, ageism, able-ism, sexism, homophobia, and classism in our schools doesn't build dignity.

    Learning should be inspired by purpose, and that which inspires purpose must reflect the values and voices of a community. In the case of American education, the purpose must be preparation for democratic civic life. Most would translate this as, "I want want public schools to help create good neighbors."

    I reminded of the quote, "We were so interested to see if we 'could,' that we didn't stop to think if we 'should.'" The purposes that drive education today: economic and cultural domination sell ourselves and our children short of what we are truly capable.

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    Dec 2 2011: I would say, that I absolutely and totally agree with everything you said about education... but I would like to add "And it's an industrial wheat thresher"... I don't think we should totally give up on the Idea of trying to surround the 10,000, most brilliant and creative children on the planet, with the 10,000 most brilliant and creative children on the planet. There is a part of me that still has sympathy for the idea of getting the best and brightest to go to the "best" universities, where they are challenged by real peers... That may be an aging philosophy, and it may bear less fruit than it used to, but I still believe some kids really do have particularly more amazing minds than others, and surrounding them with each other can be a good thing for society as a whole.
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    Dec 2 2011: Adam, I'll respond very specifically to your question with regard to the role of higher education and universities as educators. Recently (with government led incentives) universities have regarded their role as being active participants in addressing world wide crises from a global platform ...Being an institution, there is significant inertia between the great ideas and intentions - that are led from the top down - so there is inertia between policy and an impact aimed at the practices of the body of educators and students they instruct. However, this top-down approach to precipitating change, could be the wrong approach! Perhaps the very act of resisting change and trying to 'solve' specific problems is fundamentally flawed. Are the converging crises of our times merely a set of un-adressed ‘problems’ that need specific technological or political ‘solutions’? Or is the change that we're experiencing an inevitable & irreversible shift in the way that the world works - because our practices are fundamentally unsustainable - in a systematic, global series of alterations that are uncomfortable but even the smartest, most influential body of experts is powerless to prevent. In this respect I'd like to see higher education break out of the current model of knowledge protection and facilitate rapid, world-wide conversations, story telling & nurture communities in the use of new tools, information and their application in enabling change - rather than preventing it. Inequalities are not going to go away but we can narrow the gaps of ignorance and obsolescence that we've created over the last 150 years or so. Telecommunications COULD play a huge role in helping us all access the collective wisdom that we possess so that we can weather these systemic adjustments, facilitate local economies reconnect, re-imagine and work with - not against - our world through an expansive form of education (of equality & exploration) for generations to come!
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    Dec 2 2011: Hi Adam!

    Trying to summarize: prepare/empower them to have the most amazing life they can live (according to their own desires and passions)

    My answer is the same as yours but with two additions:
    First: individual/self cultivation should also be accompanied with group learning and exploration, that should magnify the experience.
    Second: I would also put an emphasis on the body, mostly neglected. A persons deep and healthy relation with its body (emotions included of course) is a necessity for happiness and fulfillment, this is focused on the person’s body and on the other people’s bodies as well (including proper sexual education that goes far beyond contraception and disease prevention)



    PS great question! I have a 2 year old that will start school next year when she turns 3 and an 8 month old.
    I thought about this a lot and am frustrated with the common approach to education, which you described perfectly as producing an employable person.
  • Nov 30 2011: Education should lead a child or adult to discover those facts, values, and behaviors needed to be exemplary, within their self, their relationships, their jobs, or their communities. Education should make available to the student unbiased facts or theories that also reflect the best values and behaviors of society. Education should provide the student with freedom to explore and interpret the content, make mistakes, evaluate choices, understand consequences, reach good decisions, and form their own values and opinions. Education should fit within the framework of the learner's past, present, and future experiences beyond the educational setting. Education should prepare the student to be a positive influence in all they do in their life, even if the current content scope is narrow.