Seth Godin is one of my personal heroes, as someone who’s raising his voice to shake things up and advocate positive change. He’s a guy who could publish his shopping list if he wanted to (and make it a best seller, if he felt like it), but his manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams, is free to download and share. It deserves to be read by educators, students, and parents everywhere.
Seth’s writing tends to come in quick bursts, and this book presents 132 different short takes on the question “what is school for?” The world is changing, and institutions tend to be slow to catch up, educational institutions most of all. After 100 years of public schooling designed to enforce compliance, obedience, and uniformity, the problem we are now facing is a shortage of leadership and innovation. Seth says that school can, should, and will be transformed to teach kids how to speak up, stand out, take risks, and dream big instead of fit in, follow along, conform, and consume.
The one riff in the whole book I must take issue with is # 121: “Home schooling isn’t the answer for most”. Pointing out that some alternative won’t work for “most people” is a common argument used to resist change. For example, environmental pessimists often say things like “solar/wind/geothermal/hydroelectric power won’t work everywhere, therefore it can’t replace fossil fuels.” The point is not that a new monolithic structure will be found to replace the old one, the point is that the existing order is going to be replaced, and it isn’t going to be replaced by just one thing, but by many things. Diversity, not uniformity, is the quality of the emerging order of the Universe. Saying “this alternative won’t work for most people” is a way of encouraging conformity and is equivalent to saying “this alternative probably won’t work for you, so you can safely ignore it”. The reality is that as people become more connected and empowered to create the lives they desire for themselves, family and community life will flourish at the expense of institutional life. This means that the monopoly of public education will continue to dissolve as alternatives on every scale from accredited online schools to homeschooling co-ops to individual homeschooling families continue to expand and flourish. This is akin to the natural process by which a huge blacktop parking lot, if not continually maintained, will eventually revert to a diverse wilderness as the roots of grasses, shrubs, and trees break through and take hold. It doesn’t matter if homeschooling will work for “most people”; if you want homeschooling to work for for you, then it will!