Stop Stealing Dreams: On the future of education and what we can do about it.

In this TEDXYouth video, Seth Godin asks us to examine the way we (as a society and on an individual level) think about education. He traces the original purpose of school back to teaching obedience and respect. He says that the way the school system was designed reflected the mindset of the industrial age. He argues that as a result we also thought about through the lens  f productivity and industrialism. In the video he states that universal public education was to train people to be willing to be working in factories and not to teach the scholars of tomorrow. He takes it a step further by suggesting that the connection between the factory system and the school system was so strong that school trained us to be consumers and made us all want to fit in to some overarching social convention.

He lists several steps to move the school system in the right direction:

• Godin states that we do not need people to teach us skills anymore. The internet has made it so that we can learn on our own.
•  Goddin suggests that students do homework during the day and attend lectures on topics of their interests at night. The “homework” would entail exploring the issue at hand with teachers and interacting with other people in order to have a more hands-on experience on the topic whereas the evening lectures would stimulate interest.
• No more memorization. Godin believes that all tests should be open book. He doesn’t believe that memorizing facts is useful in any way considering how easy it is to access information these days. He argues that “anything worth memorizing is worth looking up.”
• He argues that we need precise, focused, education instead of “mixed-batch”.
• He asks that we start to measure experience instead of test scores. In the same vain he argues for “cooperation instead of isolation”. Why do we ask students to do so much work all by themselves if when they enter the “real world” the have to know how to work with other people?
• He says that the teacher needs to go from being an authority figure to being a coach that helps and motivates students to excel in their own areas of interest.
• He also suggests that we usher in an era of life-long learning with work happening earlier in life instead of sticking to the rigid structure we have adopted.
• Finally he says that we need to but an end to “famous colleges”. He says that we need to support and encourage good colleges but that we need to stop looking at rankings to decide what makes a school good or not. He considers these “brand name” schools to have no relevance on futures successes or happiness.

What resonates very profoundly throughout his talk is the idea that when students are given an option to do work they will naturally find ways to do less of it but if they are given an option to make art they will want to do more. So he asks that we rethink education and instead of asking that students memorize, behave and fall in line with what is “normal” we ask them to “go build something interesting and ask if you need help.” we have to understand what school actually does within the society and what it does for the individual. We all have a false notion that if you do well in school you will be successful and happy. We also have a notion that good parents have kids that do well. But Godin suggests that the way the current school-system works school is just a way to make us all conform and he argues that “fitting in is a short-term strategy that gets you nowhere [whereas] standing out is a long-term strategy and takes courage and produces results.” So what we really need to be asking ourselves is: “what is school for?”

We see the problems of schooling systems in both “developed” and “developing” countries. We need to agree on what school is for in order to get what we need from it. Whereas we can all agree that education is a crucial tool to success that doesn’t mean that the way we have shaped our schooling-systems actually work to the advantage to everyone who is involved. In regions that are struck by high levels of poverty we are faced with the question “education for what?” This is especially true when we consider that for many families there are other more pressing priorities like earning a living and that education has not always delivered on its promises of uplifting communities. So before we try to recreate these same systems all around the world we need to think about what school is meant to do and how that could be different things in different places.

Seth Godin is the author of 14 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. Permission Marketing was a New York Times bestseller, Unleashing the Ideavirus is the most popular ebook every published, and Purple Cow is the bestselling marketing book of the decade. His free ebook on what education is for is called STOP STEALING DREAMS and it’s been downloaded millions of times since it launched in January, 2012.

In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth is founder of squidoo.com, a fast growing, easy to use website. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world.

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