What is school for? Seth Godin wants the education system to Stop Stealing Dreams


This is a great manifesto on education by internet marketing guru Seth Godin. Seth is referring to the public school system in the US. However, I think what he says applies more generally everywhere across education.

Seth critiques the largely broken industrial model of education that we’re still trying to work with in the 21st century. Here’s a taste:

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage about seven-year-olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work— they said they couldn’t afford to hire adults. It wasn’t until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale used to sell this major transformation to industrialists was the idea that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence—it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child-labor wages for longer- term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

Large-scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system. Scale was more important than quality, just as it was for most industrialists.

Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?

Seth also looks at:

  1. What is school for?
  2. Some themes and ideas on how we could reinvent school.
  3. Life in the post-institutional future.
  4. The problems with mass produced schooling and creating compliant worker drones.
  5. Why the hacker attitude is good.
  6. The coming meltdown in higher education
  7. His take on homeschooling (it’s not for everyone – see point 121)
  8. The two pillars of a future-proof education

I’ll stop on that last one… to add that Seths’s two pillars of a future-proof are this:

  • Teach kids how to lead (including getting better at delivering presentations – check out point number 120)
  • Help them learn how to solve interesting problems

This 97 page manifesto is a great read. It’s the full fat version. But if you want the lite watery version, then there’s a TED talk here.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. That was freaking amazing! The question I need to be asking is: What is Online Learning for prisoners for? We need to be thinking about how to foster thinking and problem-solving in our classes.

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