Posted in Educational Reform, Inspiration, Tips for Students

Stop Stealing Dreams # 83

Stop Stealing Dreams, # 83:

Some tips for the frustrated student:

1. Grades are an illusion
2. Your passion and insight are reality
3. Your work is worth more than mere congruence to an answer key
4. Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is a powerful ability
5. Fitting in is a short-term strategy, standing out pays off in the long run
6. If you care enough about the work to be criticized, you’ve learned enough for
today

Posted in Educational Reform

Stop Stealing Dreams # 36

Stop Stealing Dreams, # 36:

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.

Posted in Educational Reform, Inspiration

Stop Stealing Dreams # 19

Stop Stealing Dreams, # 19:

Dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy

By their nature, dreams are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. And when they’re flickering, it’s not particularly difficult for a parent or a teacher or a gang of peers to snuff them out.

Creating dreams is more difficult. They’re often related to where we grow up, who our parents are, and whether or not the right person enters our life.

Settling for the not-particularly uplifting dream of a boring, steady job isn’t helpful. Dreaming of being picked—picked to be on TV or picked to play on a team or picked to be lucky—isn’t helpful either. We waste our time and the time of our students when we set them up with pipe dreams that don’t empower them to adapt (or better yet, lead) when the world doesn’t work out as they hope.

The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen.

I think we’re doing a great job of destroying dreams at the very same time the dreams we do hold onto aren’t nearly bold enough.

Posted in Books, Educational Reform, Homeschooling

Stop Stealing Dreams

Stop Stealing Dreams

After years of hinting around the issues, Seth Godin, one of the world’s most influential bloggers, has finally weighed in on the subject of education.

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!

Also see: Homeschooling works for parents who try it and Why Homeschooling Should be Part of Rethinking Education.