The Summit began with a keynote address from Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, the Chief Program Officer at Grantmakers for Education and an internationally recognized expert on public education system design and transformation.
“How do we start answering questions about the purpose of education?” asked Dr. Joshi Hansen, author of the new book The Future of Smart, as she addressed Summit participants. “What are we trying to do for young people between zero and 25?”
Most are familiar with the conventional “factory model” of public education that is fundamentally focused on core academics and workforce preparation, and has often served to oppress and assimilate marginalized communities. This model is built on one-size-fits-all educational standards and pedagogies that cannot keep pace at a time when the world’s volume of knowledge is doubling every 12 hours, and skills like communication, collaboration, empathy, and adaptability are essential.
Instead, Dr. Joshi Hansen urged Summit participants to chart a path toward “human-centered liberatory” education systems. These systems—which have existed at least as long as conventional models, but remain largely counter-cultural in the United States—are geared toward developing young people who know how to learn, and how to access what they need to thrive. From classroom design to educator training, human-centered systems are structured to value neurodiversity and integrate every child’s unique lived experience. Rather than fragmenting support across disparate programs, this approach cohesively nurtures children’s academic learning; cognitive, social, and emotional development; and sense of identity, purpose, and belonging.
Beyond policy change, building a human-centered public education system where all children thrive will demand new ways of working together. “It's emergent and community-derived,” said Dr. Joshi Hansen. “It requires longer-term outlooks and collective accountability.” She closed with a call for pluralistic leadership, encouraging policymakers, system leaders, and communities to prioritize relationships, embrace difference, engage in healthy debate, and come together around shared vision and values.