TED Conversations

Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute


This conversation is closed.

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

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

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

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

Here is my answer:

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

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

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

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


Closing Statement from Adam Burk

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

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

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

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

Thank you all again for sharing of your selves.

In peace,

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  • 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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