Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin’s Manifesto on Transforming Education

As parents we are raised to have a dream for our kids—we want them  to be happy, adjusted, successful. We want them to live meaningful lives, to contribute in positive ways, and to find and live a life that matters.

And the ticket for making that dream come true? A good education.

We have told our kids that if you get good grades, follow the rules and comply to standards and requirements, you will “get into a good college”, find a “good job”, and be set for a happy life ahead.

And now we are discovering individually and collectively that this there’s a different dream available, one that’s actually closer to who we are as humans, that’s more exciting and significantly more likely to affect the world in a positive way.

Now for the million dollar question….Do schools today offer a good education; one that allows for and enables dreams to be fulfilled?

In true Seth Godin fashion, my friend and Domino Team leader tackles this question in his newly released manifesto,  Stop Stealing Dreams.

Here’s a peek:

Instead of amplifying dreams, school destroys them.  Every day, beginning the first day and continuing until the last day, our teachers and our administrators and yes, most parents, seeking to do the right thing, end up doing the wrong one.

We mean well.  We let our kids down easy.We tell ourselves that we are realistic.  We demand that students have a trade to fall back on, an assembly-line job available just in case the silly dreams don’t come true. And then, fearing heartbreak, we push them to bury the dream and focus on just the job.  The job with a boss and an office and air conditioning and a map of what to do next. A job with security and co-workers and instructions and deniability.  And when the job doesn’t come?

When all the dues are paid and for nothing?

Ouch.

The manifesto is a series of provocations, ones that might make you go “Ouch” and ones that I hope will resonate and  provoke global conversations.

His intention: 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.

Questions that we have been asking and pondering ourselves; questions like:

Like Seth’s previous projects; This is an experiment in firestarting.—I’m hoping that great lenghts he has gone to make these ideas available to a pruposely wide audience will get the fire blazing across every medium, mode, and channel!

If you’re interested in the topic (and I hope you are), please tweet or like the project page, download the files, post mirror copies on your own blog and if you can, email them to every teacher, parent and citizen who should be part of the discussion about what we do with our kids all day (and why).  If just a fraction of this blog’s readers shared it with their address book, we’d reach a lot of people.

The details of the Manifesto can be found here, and the document itself is embedded below.  Seth has also gone to great lengths to make these ideas available to a purposefully wide audience. The entire manifesto free and available in multiple formats and forms. Just pick your favorite:

  • The On Screen version Use this one to read it on a computer or similar device. Feel free to email to the teachers, parents and administrators in your life.
  • The Printable edition This is the same document, but formatted for your laser printer or the local copy shop. You are welcome to make copies, but please don’t charge for it or edit it.
  • Here’s the Kindle edition You’ll need to download it and then plug in your Kindle via a USB cable. Drag the file to the Documents folder on your Kindle and boom, you’re done.
  • The ePub edition This should work with other types of ebook readers, but I haven’t tested it. Your mileage may vary, and if it doesn’t work, the PDF should.
  • The manifesto in HTML on the web Useful for PDFs ; easier to read.

I highly encouraging all my readers to read it and share the manifesto with anyone and everyone they know who are passionate about a new dream of education for our children.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1311764347 Patrick Donohue

    Do we need to blow up the model (like Waldorf?), or can these ideas be integrated within the current standardized testing model?

    Do we have to give up the “measure it objectively, or we don’t know if kids are learning” completely?

    Are there examples of schools or systems (here or abroad) that can balance “let’s make sure every kid gets a great education,” with all the ideas you propose above (which I’m all for, BTW). 

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Hi Patrick,
    These are great questions. There are powerful examples, like Waldorf, that can guide us. The challenge is scaling these models beyond one classroom, one school, one district.I am fortunate to be working with some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the field, and together we are working actively to ensure every child receives a great education; one that not only teaches them the skills they need, but enables them to fulfill their dreams.You can bet I will keep you posted on the progress we are all making together! 

  • http://twitter.com/InnovativeEdu Lisa Nielsen

    These ideas can not be integrated into the current standardized testing model. Standardized tests measure the lowest order thinking and assess things that are irrelevant for success in the 21st century. A great step in the right direction would be for all parents to allow their children to opt out of standardized tests and demand that learning is customized to their child rather than standardized to the system.  Standardized tests have nothing to do with making sure children get a great education. There are much better and more cost effective ways to assess students and they are aligned to how people are measured in the real world. 

    Our kids are not widgets and more and more schools have caught on. Their students are achieving success without these outdated measures. For children to be successful we need to follow the lead of school models like Montessori, Big Picture, Nuestra Escuela, Democratic Schools, Schoolwide Enrichment, etc. and leave the industrialized model with it’s standardized tests in the past. 

  • http://wichita.schoolofrock.com/blog Jason Ramsey

    Great, great article. I have two kids in elementary school and it is a constant challenge to keep them engaged and focused on ‘learning’ instead of ‘test scores’.

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    I couldn’t agree more that many of our schools destroy dreams and especially destroy boys! The sixties infiltration of our school system, the absence of God, the disappearance of male teachers and administrators in the lower grades have all added up to educational disaster, IMHO. Spending is NOT the answer. Values and Standards are. Being Politically Correct is NOT the answer. Maybe bringing back the Ten Commandments and the Pledge might help a bit?

    The irony is that we parents now have the job of helping our children find their dreams. Given there were no school music programs, I had to take on that job for my older son. Lessons and lessons. He was passionate about music. He was lax about school. He ultimately – at the last minute after his high school grades were lousy – wanted to get into the Berklee College of Music. His tenacity and his audition got him early acceptance…without even taking the SATS…he followed his dream.

    I can’t help but share a favorite Elvis song: Follow That Dream:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am05yZehlAM

    Okay, I won’t rant anymore…you get my drift. 

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    I couldn’t agree more that many of our schools destroy dreams and especially destroy boys! The sixties infiltration of our school system, the absence of God, the disappearance of male teachers and administrators in the lower grades have all added up to educational disaster, IMHO. Spending is NOT the answer. Values and Standards are. Being Politically Correct is NOT the answer. Maybe bringing back the Ten Commandments and the Pledge might help a bit?

    The irony is that we parents now have the job of helping our children find their dreams. Given there were no school music programs, I had to take on that job for my older son. Lessons and lessons. He was passionate about music. He was lax about school. He ultimately – at the last minute after his high school grades were lousy – wanted to get into the Berklee College of Music. His tenacity and his audition got him early acceptance…without even taking the SATS…he followed his dream.

    I can’t help but share a favorite Elvis song: Follow That Dream:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am05yZehlAM

    Okay, I won’t rant anymore…you get my drift. 

  • http://susansilver.info/ Susan Silver

    These are all really hard questions to answer. I don’t get into the school debate often, but I do believe there are other methods we can use for education. I am curious to see what Seth has to say about it. I for one hope for a system that will allow kids to pursue interests outside of the standard curriculum. One that allows kids to work at their level and feel challenged.

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    I agree Lisa, but in the meantime we must trust that students learning with passion and purpose will indeed be more prepared to “pass the test” than their counterparts. 

    As you stated, a wonderful step in the right direction would be to bring parents into this conversation and really make it clear what “the tests” are measuring. Many believe they are measuring what matters and therefore support this culture as a necessary evil of getting a good education.

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Thanks for weighing in on this one Susan. This is a conversation that must be had at all levels. Excited to hear what you think of Seth’s position.  Be sure to stop back and share. 

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    I hear you Bruce. The focus on the brain and not the heart is a major culprit of the situation we find ourselves in today despite the “data” that informs us otherwise. Addressing emotion, compassion, empathy, and other Habitudes is not a nicety; it is a necessity!! 

    Keep fighting with me; keep the dream alive!! 

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Thank you Jason! Make sure you advocate and insist on keeping their passion alive. It is about learning and the heart of the learner;without that we have nothing! 

  • James

    I know that many parents are really uncomfortable the further you move away from what they experienced in school. Many believe that test results are the only measure. Teachers are under pressure from principals. Principals are under pressure from administrators, who must answer to the states, and the media that reports schools are failing students. Real change will only come when lawmakers understand that testing can’t be the only goal.

  • http://twitter.com/InnovativeEdu Lisa Nielsen

    Angela,

    I wish that was the case, but the reality is that it is not. I speak to teachers and/or administrators every week who are in or near tears when they they explain how frustrated they are by not being able to do what is best for children. The only way their kids can succeed is with drill and kill the passion of learning from their kids. The drill and kill method works better for getting those tests scores. These educators are being forced to do what they know is wrong for children  

    A start is to encourage and empower everyone to opt out of testing. I set up a way for parents, students, and teachers to unite and do this in every state. I say, “Just say no.” I write about how to do this in this post http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/01/dream-to-be-free-at-last-from-state.html
    You are right. It begins with parents. I hope they are reading your blog and the comments within. 

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    I agree James which makes it even more imperative to paint a clear picture of how the world has changes; therefore the experience of school must as well. Ambiguity is the enemy of change. When parents are clearer about what must be done to prepare students; they will be in a better postion to support schools and guide those making the laws.

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Lisa,
    I know, and I am having those same  painful and frustrating conversations. I am not advocating for more drill and kill; only to prove that leading and guiding students in passion driven learning does far more to prepare for the test. When students are engaged in work that matters, they are practicing the problem solving and critical thinking skills they need. This should eleviate the mindless, purposeless, drill and kill exercises that we put kids thru “in service” of the test. Until “Just say no” is heard; we can preserve the passion and dignity necessary for all kids to success by honoring their genius with relevant, authentic work worthy of their brains and hearts.Keep fighting this fight with my friend, it imatters. #youmatter

  • Twomark92109

    As a freshman in college, I read Thoreau’s comment, “What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” I’ve thought of this often over the years. While there are many basic skills and bits of knowledge that are elementary and timeless, the techniques of student engagement are a challenge. I need only reflect on my granddaughter’s school years so far to realize this. I was disturbed to read Seth’s note that some educators “proudly” refused to read his work. Ok, if you decide not to read it because you’re too busy motivating your students, that’s fine — just quietly go about your business. But to post a declaration that you refuse to read it? Oops, you lose. Please move to the previous grade and try again. Educating a child is hard work. Educating a legion of kids is an order of magnitude more daunting. But to encamp with Luddites without even taking the time to inform yourself? There’s a word for that: Fail.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a valiant effort by Seth Godin on taking the steps to transform education as we know it. Hopefully this style would make people to create the world rather than make people as the world requires.

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