New View EDU Episode 1: The Purpose of School

Available August 10

Find New View EDU on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other podcast apps.

Imagine that we have been given the opportunity to completely redesign the concept of school. Where would we go?
Donna Orem and Michael HornDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have been forced to reimagine almost every aspect of school, changing our ideas about what’s truly essential. As we rest, recover, and reflect on the past year, we can also refine our vision for the future. NAIS President Donna Orem and Michael B. Horn, celebrated author and speaker on the future of education, join us to talk about redesigning the purpose and future of schools, collaborations between K-12 and higher education, and creating a culture of well-being in school communities.

In this episode, hosts Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon dig into a number of big ideas, starting with a full examination of the purpose of schools. Donna brings up the historical purpose of education, but one relevant theme that surfaces throughout the episode is that purpose is also the future of schools. But how do school leaders and parents understand the purpose of school? Are they on the same page? And where does higher ed fit in?

Building on questions about the way parents and educators view student achievement, Michael points out areas of disconnect between K-12 schools and higher education. He shares his views on what needs to change in terms of creating a stronger culture of collaboration between colleges and K-12, as well as how the current dynamic feeds a culture of fear among parents. Donna also wonders how that culture of fear holds schools back from creating a more purpose-driven educational environment, and how parents and schools could become better partners in helping students pursue their passions.

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim and Lisa explore in this interview about the purpose of schools include:
  • We need to increase collaboration between K-12 and higher ed. What could that look like? 
  • Independent schools should become centers of well-being. How might that be the defining value proposition for many of our schools? 
  • Purpose-driven education is the future. How do we design schools and universities to develop passion, purpose, and well-being? 
  • How do we move from a narrative of fear to one of hope?

Episode Highlights

  • “When I was thinking about the purpose of education, I went back a few years ago and found the historical purpose—which is to bring people to as full a realization as possible of what it is to be human. Isn’t that the greatest purpose to think about? What does it mean to be human today?” (6:36)
  • "Hope is your super power. Don't let anybody or anything make you hopeless. Hope is the enemy of injustice. Hope is what will get you to stand up when people tell you to sit down." (11:59)
  • “I do think that the walls between higher ed and K-12 need to come down in more concerted ways. And you think about how we have divisions between those two institutions. That is a function of history, not perhaps what we need in the current moment.” (19:22)
  • “So I think if K-12 and higher ed can get together to really figure out how to open up these pathways, how to help students really explore their purpose, and to really meet that potential head on. It's going to create a different society for us, that's my hope. That's how I want to use my super power, in creating the world that looks like that." (26:29)
  • “We need to blow past the zero sum game to get to a positive sum world.” (27:30)

Episode Transcript

Key Takeaways

Resource List

About Our Guests

Donna OremDonna Orem is the president of the National Association of Independent Schools. Prior to joining NAIS, she was the vice president for products and services development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). She speaks frequently about leadership, governance, innovation, trends in independent education, workforce development, and student health and well-being. She is co-author of the NAIS Trustee Handbook and contributes regularly to Independent School magazine, the Independent Ideas blog, the NAIS Trendbook, and Looking Ahead Michael HornMichael Horn speaks and writes about the future of education and works with a portfolio of education organizations to create a world in which all individuals can build their passions and fulfill their potential. He is the author of many books, including Choosing College and Goodnight Box, a children’s story. He is also a senior strategist at Guild Education, which partners with leading employers and organizations to help offer education and upskilling opportunities to America’s workforce. He is also the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonprofit think tank.