Our educational system needs rebooting according to Seth Godin’s new e-book, Stop Stealing Dreams. This is a manifesto which suggests that our system of schooling, once predicated on scarcity of access to information, has been destroyed by the connection economy. The skills, attitudes, and needs of our graduates have changed dramatically. Our society and the way we prepare our next generation is being fundamentally changed by the impact of the internet.
“The goal of this manifesto is to create a new set of questions and demands that parents, taxpayers, and kids can bring to the people they’ve chosen, the institution we’ve built and invested our time and money into. The goal is to change what we get when we send citizens to school.”
This book is not a prescription but a series of provocations. It is written as a series of blog posts or essays in hopes that they will be shared or rewritten. I’ve decided that there are far too many ideas here to share in one post. Here are 3 sections from Stop Stealing Dreams.
Section 11 – To efficiently run a school, amplify fear
School’s industrial, scaled-up, measurable structure means that fear must be used to keep the masses in line. There’s no other way to get hundreds or thousands of kids to comply, to process that many bodies, en masse, without simultaneous coordination.
And the flip side of this fear and conformity must be that passion will be destroyed. There’s no room for someone who wants to go faster, or someone who wants to do something else, or someone who cares about a particular issue. Move on. Write it in your notes; there will be a test later. A multiple-choice test.
Section 29 – The other side of fear is passion
There really are only two tools available to the educator. The easy one is fear. Fear is easy to awake, easy to maintain, but ultimately toxic.
The other tool is passion. A kid in love with dinosaurs or baseball or earth science is going to learn it on her own. She’s going to push hard for ever more information, and better still, master the thinking behind it.
Passion can overcome fear – the fear of losing, of failing, of being ridiculed.
The problem is that individual passion is hard to scale – hard to fit into the industrial model. It’s not reliably ignited. It’s certainly harder to create for large masses of people. Sure, it’s easy to get a convention center filled with delegates to chant for a candidate, and easier still to engage the masses at Wembly Stadium, but the passion that fuels dreams and creates change must come from the individual.
Section 52 – The race to the top (and the alternative)
The real debate if you’re a worker is: do you want a job where they’ll miss you if you’re gone, a job where only you can do it, a job where you get paid to bring yourself (your true self) to work? Because those jobs are available. In fact, there’s no unemployment in that area.
OR do you want a job where you’re racing to the bottom – where your job is to do your job, do as you’re told, and wait for the boss to pick you?
School is clearly organized around the second race. And the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win. Being the best of the compliant masses is a safe place (for now). But the rest? Not so much.
I read this book in the context of medical education and the way we train physicians. Of course, not all of it applies to our world of medicine but it’s interesting to think that the process of training doctors isn’t much different. More and more I believe we’re headed for a dramatic overturn in the way we prepare young people to be doctors. It’s interesting to think that this book was not written by an educational professional. It was written by someone who thinks clearly about problems. Perhaps we need more folks outside of ‘education’ to consider solutions for a floundering system.
It’s amazing that within the course of two weeks I interviewed Cathy Davidson, author of Now You See It, read this manifesto by Seth Godin, and listened to Don Tapscott at SXSW. All have begun to influence the way I see medicine’s future. It’s funny how these messages all appeared in my space at the same time. It’s like I need to do something more with them.
I recommend that everyone read Stop Stealing Dreams. And it’s free.