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 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.

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