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 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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