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,

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.