Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

This is a collection of blog posts that Godin wrote on a single theme--school, and what’s wrong with it. The underlying message--that our current model of industrialized schooling, created for the 19th and early 20th centuries, is failing us in the early 21st century--speaks strongly to me. Here’s an example:

43. How not to teach someone to be a baseball fan

Teach the history of baseball, beginning with Abner Doubleday and the impact of cricket and imperialism. Have a test.

Starting with the Negro leagues and the early barnstorming teams, assign students to memorize facts and figures about each player. Have a test.

Rank the class on who did well on the first two tests, and allow these students to memorize even more statistics about baseball players. Make sure to give equal time to players in Japan and the Dominican Republic. Send the students who didn’t do as well to spend time with a lesser teacher, but assign them similar work, just over a longer time frame. Have a test.

Sometime in the future, do a field trip and go to a baseball game. Make sure no one has a good time.

If there’s time, let kids throw a baseball around during recess.

Obviously, there are plenty of kids (and adults) who know far more about baseball than anyone could imagine knowing. And none of them learned it this way.

The industrialized, scalable, testable solution is almost never the best way to generate exceptional learning.

And another:

80. American anti-intellectualism

Getting called an egghead is no prize. My bully can beat up your nerd. Real men don’t read literature.

We live in a culture where a politician who says “it’s simple” will almost always defeat one who says “it’s complicated,” even if it is. It’s a place where middle school football coaches have their players do push-ups until they faint, but math teachers are scolded for giving too much homework.

Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were legendary intellectuals. Bill Gates and Michael Dell are nerds. But still, the prevailing winds of pop culture reward the follower, the jock, and the get-along guy almost every time.

Which is fine when you nation’s economy depends on obeisance to the foreman, on heavy lifting, and on sucking it up for the long haul.

Now, though, our future lies with the artist and the dreamer and yes, the person who took the time and energy to be passionate about math.

Most of the manuscript is like this. Bracing. Like a bucket of cold water thrown in the face. But as much as his points hit home, there is one thing that this manifesto is lacking.

A prescription for what to do about it.

This is about as close as he gets:

84. The two pillars of a future-proof education:

Teach kids how to lead.

Help them learn how to solve interesting problems.

Leadership is the most important trait for players in the connected revolution. Leadership involves initiative, and in the connected world, nothing happens until you step up and begin, until you start driving without a clear map.

And as the world changes ever faster, we don’t reward people who can slavishly follow yesterday’s instructions. All of the value to the individual (and to the society she belongs to) goes to the individual who can draw a new map, who can solve a problem that didn’t even exist yesterday.

Hence the question I ask to every teacher who reads from her notes, to every teacher who demands rote memorization, and to every teacher who comes at schooling from a posture of power: Are you delivering these two precious gifts to our children? Will the next generation know more facts than we do, or will it be equipped to connect with data, and to turn that data into information and leadership and progress?

Here, here. I’ve long said that entrepreneurship is the one thing schools should be teaching that they’re currently not. I’ve even said that every high school freshman should start a business and run it during the next four years--perhaps selling it for college money upon graduation. Learning to understand what a market needs, and finding ways to source and deliver it is one of the skills I wish I had been taught in high school.

But be it leadership, problem solving, or entrepreneurship--how do we change the system so that these subjects can be taught? Godin’s text is pretty nearly silent on that point, probably because he recognizes that education is local, and that any success on these scales will have to come from the bottom-up and not the top-down.

+ + +

This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

No comments:

Post a Comment