This is the question that Seth Godin asks in Stop Stealing Dreams. Godin, an American entrepreneur and author, describes what school was for (mostly what we learn in Curry’s “Issues in Education” class) and what school should be for in this 125-page manifesto. Best of all, he’s made it free to read and share in whatever format you choose.
The basic gist of his manifesto is that school was an assembly line created to churn out factory workers and office drones. However, these jobs are disappearing. What our businesses and our economy needs are cooperative, inventive thinkers who can function without a manager breathing down their necks in a job that may not have a clear description. For the first time in history, we don’t need people telling us how to do things, because we have the internet that puts information at our fingertips. Thus, there is no longer any value to rote memorization. What we need are flexible schools that cater education to the student, and teachers who act as guides by helping students access information. School should be a place where students are encouraged to discover information based on their interests and at their own pace. School work should encourage collaboration and cooperation, instead of the individual, because that’s exactly what we ask employees to do in the real world. Thus instead of measuring test scores and checking off multiple choice questions, schools need to start measuring experience as an indication of student success.
Perhaps the idea that I connected with the most is the myth that great performance in school leads to happiness and success. I experienced this myself on making the transition from high school to college. I played by the rules, I graduated 4th or 5th in my class, but I didn’t get a free ride to college like I’d imagined. Not only that, but after doing well in college and paying my way through by waitressing, there was no job just waiting for me at the other end. This may have been true a generation ago, but it’s no longer the case today.
I believe that we as a society and as educators set up some very unreal expectations for our students, and I see the harm it causes everyday in my students. Just last week I spent 45 minutes explaining to a student why he didn’t get an A on his first paper of the term. He was very distraught, so I asked him, “Why do you want to be a better writer?” He responded that he wanted to get good grades. Frustrated, I asked, “What I’m getting at is: What do you want to do when you grow up?” He told me that he wanted to retire when he was 55 and have a family. When I pressed him further, he replied, “I want to do something worthwhile.” When I asked what, he had no answer. I found this encounter very disheartening. Our students are so trained to get the good grade, that they miss what it’s all for. And that’s the underlying message that our schools are sending them.
In the words of Seth Godin, ”Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?”
- 5/5 stars
- Highly recommended for any teacher, administrator, parent, student, or high school dropout (i.e., everyone)
- Plus, it’s short and free (which is ideal for busy teachers).