Godin Dreams About Schools

Seth Godin’s new manifesto on schools – Stop Stealing Dreams

It’s nice when you can release a manifesto and reach hundreds of thousands of readers in a couple weeks – and that’s what a tribe will do for you;-)

I’m one of those readers, but I’m not counting myself in this camp yet. I can’t tell if it’s because of my natural reluctance to move with a crowd (any crowd;-), the flaws of his logic, or if there is more to it that I have yet to understand.

In any case, the manifesto is worthy of talking about.

Getting on board

It’s a 30,000 word document, and should cost you nothing to obtain and read.

He’s published it in formats for screen, print, e-readers, web – and you can find them all here: Stop Stealing Dreams.

My hearty recommendation is that you read it for yourself – and think about what he’s saying.

Mass education as the bad guy

And here’s the main summary – Godin believes our schooling system is ruining those that it educates (stealing their dreams). That it concentrates on learning facts while drumming out creativity and initiative. That the economy that wanted well heeled workers is gone, and that our schools are doing a disservice.


By that I mean I’m going to take exception to some parts;-)

Seth is not telling anyone what to do about it, he’s hoping to start a discussion. (And that’s an easy place to live – because when you get to the point of actually doing anything, you might see why we have what we have – because what we have may be a reasonable middle ground. This “better” thing is hard…)

He presents a consistent theme that the current school is meant to create compliant workers, and that we should have an uber-flexible system that works with the students’ interests and desires.

But if you’re giving up the “system”, what are you going to do about those that are unwilling to put in any effort, or those uninterested in any specific endeavor? Wouldn’t this plan be akin to setting them up with a project in the romper room and coming back hours later to find that they’ve sat there and watched cartoons?

Says you

Godin makes a lot of points – just by saying so.

And I happen to disagree.

He has as much evidence as I, and so it would seem we’ve got a war of “I say” “He says” going on.

Perhaps this is how manifestos go – one just puts the thought out there. But I’d like to see something behind it other than beliefs. (I’m logical that way…)

At parts I wondered if he had kids in the education system – because what he describes doesn’t match what I see – and I’m wrapping up four kids worth. (and yes, he has two children, but I am unable to determine what levels they might be at – perhaps his schools are different than my suburban public school experience)

Some details

So while I was reading the manifesto I took specific exception at certain points, and I ought to share – that’s why it was published. If you read the entire thing, you might check this portion afterwords. I’m going to include Godin’s header, summarize the section and then relate my comment – so you can see where I’m coming from.

  • “23. And yet we isolate students instead of connecting them” – Godin wants group versus individual work. My schools include a healthy portion of group work. But more significantly – don’t individuals have to get some level of competency before they can contribute to a group?
  • “27. The decision” – We don’t ask kids if they want to learn. Ok – but can you ask an ignorant individual what they want to learn? Call K-12 minimum table stakes, and then the individual gets greater choice. (and even in the high school kids can focus to some degree)
  • “45. Shouldn’t parents do the motivating?” – Get teachers to motivate students. This get’s my “Duh” award. Perhaps I just haven’t seen enough of “the trenches”, but I think each and every one of my own and my kids’ teachers has tried to motivate them. I also think parents motivate. A new “system” isn’t going to be any better at this…
  • “90. Reading and writing” – Best if we have them do interesting pieces. Ok – we want them to do such a thing, and why can’t we within the system we have? My belief is that the education system is trying to get as good material as can be had. (Ok, I think the New York education system is – I would say there are differences by state, and I am not qualified to comment on others…)
  • “94. College as a ranking mechanism, a tool for slotting people into limited pigeonholes” – Suggesting the college system is even more robot-ification. And here I think the metaphors get mixed. If school has no choice, and college was for the upper class, why is it that college (with choices) is now bad for everyone? The thought that a classic job after a college education is perhaps gone, but that was never my thought.
  • “100. Can anyone make music?” – Godin says everyone should create music from the heart. Again – says you;-) Music is in my schools – if it isn’t in yours you should vote with your feet and find one. Music is in my house and around my yard. (My wife reports hearing from a neighbor that they encountered me singing while mowing the lawn – which I could not deny…) But I would like to encourage the use of sheet music and reading of such to share effectively…
  • “102. History’s greatest hits: Unnerving the traditionalists” and “103.This is difficult to let go of” – Why do we teach facts? This one is in here because I agree completely – I was never good at historical facts. My less than stellar results in this department have not held me back. But more importantly, I think I took in all the “deeper meanings” behind all those facts – so maybe it worked as intended. (And maybe it is useful to get a reasonable proficiency with the English language)
  • “106. The third reason they don’t teach computer science in public school” – Because it isn’t memorization. Hey – we’re both CS grads, and I think grasping the logical aspects of programming are beyond many in high school. (And I did learn computer programming in high school – by choice… see comment 27 above…)
  • “113. Completing the square and a million teenagers” – Obedience (again). I think Godin can only see one side of this equation – perhaps a bad experience with a specific teacher. My kids didn’t learn by memorizing. The best teachers actually gave them the answers – the homework was in figuring out how and why that was the answer.
  • “122. Some courses I’d like to see taught in school” – Examples of things Godin wants taught. Ok – come live in Penfield NY, a suburb of Rochester along Lake Ontario. In addition to four great seasons (except for winter this past year), you’ll find exactly those concepts (or most of the essence) in classes taught here.
  • “132. What we teach” – Some good things about teaching and kids. I happen to again agree completely. Unfortunately, I think it is not only possible to do that, but that our systems are doing that.

Knowing what you know

Anyone can only understand what they have been exposed to.

If we have a great education system in this local area, but other people in an awful location don’t, and they can’t hear about it (and decide to do something) – nothing can change.

But by sharing ideas, experiences, and plans, we can give everyone a leg up.

I don’t think it is nearly as bad as Godin suggests – but to the point of getting a discussion going – that’s already a winner.


  1. seth godin says:

    Thanks for chiming in. Starting a discussion is scarier and more difficult than you give me credit for, but that’s okay.

    If you’ve found a school that’s working, bravo!

  2. ccSteve says:

    Thank you for visiting!

    I’d say it’s easier for someone with a tribe to start a discussion than one without, but yes – it’s hard to get any worthwhile discussion going, and scarier than a substitute teacher;-)


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