Seth Godin: TEDxYouth@BFS #Purpose

What is the purpose of school?

Seth Godin, TEDxYouth@BFS

Two new videos to share,” Seth’s Blog, Oct. 18, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams” (see links to various versions as you scroll down)

A piece of “what:” pedagogy

46. At the heart of pedagogy

When we think about the role of school, we have to take a minute to understand that we backed into this corner; we didn’t head here with intent.

A hundred and fifty years ago, 1 percent of the population went to the academy. They studied for studying’s sake. They did philosophy and mathematics and basic science, all as a way to understand the universe.

The rest of the world didn’t go to school. You learned something from your parents, perhaps, or if you were rich, from a tutor. But blacksmiths and stable boys and barbers didn’t sit in elegant one-room schoolhouses paid for by taxpay- ers, because there weren’t any.

After the invention of public school, of course, this all changed. The 1 percent still went to school to learn about the universe.

And 99 percent of the population went to school because they were ordered to go to school. And school was about basic writing (so you could do your job), reading (so you could do your job), and arithmetic (so you could do your job).

For a generation, that’s what school did. It was a direct and focused finishing school for pre-industrial kids.

Then, as often happens to institutions, mission creep sunk in. As long as we’re teaching something, the thinking went, let’s teach something. And so schools added all manner of material from the academy. We taught higher math or physics or chemistry or Shakespeare or Latin—not because it would help you with your job, but because learning stuff was important.

Public school shifted gears—it took the academy to the masses.

I want to be very clear here: I wouldn’t want to live in an uneducated world. I truly believe that education makes humans great, elevates our culture and our economy, and creates the foundation for the engine that drives science which leads to our well being. I’m not criticizing education.

No. But I am wondering when we decided that the purpose of school was to cram as much data/trivia/fact into every student as we possibly could.

Because that’s what we’re doing. We’re not only avoiding issues of practicality and projects and hands-on use of information; we’re also aggressively testing for trivia.

Which of society’s goals are we satisfying when we spend 80 percent of the school day drilling and bullying to get kids to momentarily swallow and then regurgitate this month’s agenda?

(from Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams.” Read more of the thought-provoker/action-provoker here.)

[“A piece of ‘why,'” A piece of ‘what,'” and A piece of ‘how'” are strands of a series on why school needs to change, what about school needs to change, and how schools might navigate the change.]

A piece of “what:” map making, problem finding, messy searching

Rebecca Chapman, literary editor of a new online journal called The New Inquiry, was quoted in the New York Times. “My whole life, I had been doing everything everybody told me. I went to the right school. I got really good grades. I got all the internships. Then, I couldn’t do anything.”

The only surprising thing about this statement is that some consider it surprising.

Rebecca trained to be competent, excelling at completing the tasks set in front of her. She spent more than sixteen years at the top of the system, at the best schools, with the best resources, doing what she was told to do. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, no one is willing to pay her to do tasks. Without a defined agenda, it’s difficult for her to find the gig she was trained for.

[Then, later…] Education isn’t a problem until it serves as a buffer from the world and a refuge from the risk of failure.

(from section 35, pages 53-54, of Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams.” Read the entire section and manifesto here.)

In my jobs as teacher, school administrator, husband, father, educational innovator, etc., I am having to search and discover what needs to be addressed, celebrated, ceased and desisted, opened, studied, innovated, reiteratively prototyped, and enhanced. No one is digesting the messiness for me and handing me well-crafted assignments to complete. While I was in formal school, I think the tasks given to me and the work assigned to me taught me invaluable lessons that I would not trade for the world. I am eternally grateful to my school teachers. But my life has also been filled with the need to make maps, not just read them. I have found it essential that I find problems, not just solve the ones given me. I have needed to search through mess and muck to explore possibilities, connections, relationships, and opportunities. I don’t think I learned these things enough in my formal schooling. Why shouldn’t we incorporate more of this set of modalities into school? Why can’t we create and design more balance into the system of well-defined problems and ready-made assignments?

As the school year begins, are you…

  • Letting students wander in search of their own questions and curiosities, or just directing them to the ones you’ve already defined?
  • Designing space and time for map making, or just promoting and teaching map following?
  • Getting off to the side while students find problems that they think need solving, or just having them solve problems with answers that can be found in the back of a textbook?
  • Making room for students to explore what various real-life work feels like, smells like, tastes like, and sounds like…or just handing them the packages of industrial-age school?

[“A piece of ‘why,'” A piece of ‘what,'” and A piece of ‘how'” are strands of a series on why school needs to change, what about school needs to change, and how schools might navigate the change.]

A piece of “why:” weaving together three strands of a strong rope for engaging school change

Strand #1: Tony Wagner as cited in the National Association of Independent School’s 21st Century Imperative…

Tony Wagner from the Harvard Graduate School of Education interviewed over 600 CEOs, asking them the same essential question: “Which qualities will our graduates need in the 21st century for success in college, careers, and citizenship?”

Wagner’s list of Seven Survival Skills is a distillation of the outcomes of these hundreds of interviews and adds validity to the case we are making. They are:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-solving
  • Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence
  • Agility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurship
  • Effective Oral and Written Communication
  • Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination

 The World Has Changed

In The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It, Tony Wagner argues that “in today’s competitive global ‘knowledge economy,’ all students need new skills for college, careers, and citizenship. The failure to give all students these new skills leaves today’s youth – and our country – at an alarming competitive disadvantage. Schools haven’t changed; the world has. And so our schools are not failing. Rather, they are obsolete – even the ones that score best on standardized tests. This is a very different problem requiring an altogether different solution.”

[from NAIS COA “A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future”]

Strand #2: Seth Godin – “Stop Stealing Dreams”

6. Changing what we get, because we’ve changed what we need

If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well.

The mission used to be to create homogenized, obedient, satisfied workers and pliant, eager consumers.

No longer.

Changing school doesn’t involve sharpening the pencil we’ve already got. School reform cannot succeed if it focuses on getting schools to do a better job of what we previously asked them to do. We don’t need more of what schools produce when they’re working as designed. The challenge, then, is to change the very output of the school before we start spending even more time and money improving the performance of the school.

[from Seth Godin “Stop Stealing Dreams”]

Strand #3: Sir Ken Robinson – “RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

NOTE: I highly recommend studying all three of these resources in great depth. Of course, there are countless related resources, as well. ANd there are more pieces to the “why,” such as brain research, technology advancements, world conditions, etc. But if a faculty would commit to studying these three resources as a think tank of sorts, I believe that a group of committed thinkers and doers could reveal and experiment with many of the “whats” and “hows” to make this transformation in education.

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Works Cited:

Godin, Seth. “Stop Stealing Dreams: (what is school for?).” http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/docs/StopStealingDreamsSCREEN.pdf.

Robinson, Ken. “RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.

Witt, Robert and Jean Orvis. “A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future.” National Association of Independent Schools. 2010. http://www.nais.org/files/PDFs/NAISCOASchools.pdf.

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[“A piece of ‘why,'” A piece of ‘what,'” and A piece of ‘how'” are strands of a series on why school needs to change, what about school needs to change, and how schools might navigate the change.]

Addendum to 7-24-12: I dream a school…the “schoolification of the world.” Brilliant #TED #MustWatch

Education needs to work by pull, not push. – Charles Leadbeater

If you are interested in educational innovation, school reform, or learning enhancement, WATCH THIS! With all of the TED talks that I view, I have never seen this one – “Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums” [18:58]. It was captured over two years ago. Charles Leadbeater makes a compelling case for pull vs. push education.*

[To me, the story of how I found this is fascinating. After re-reading the first 16 sections of Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams” for about an hour, as part of continuing research, I was exploring possible TEDx speakers. Within search engines and tools, I was grabbing combinations of “innovation” and other words. I stumbled upon Leadbeater’s April 2010 TED talk, and I was intrigued by the sidebar because of a recent podcast I has listened to about the Future of Cities and what we can learn from slum evolution. As I started listening to Leadbeater, I was blown away by the connections among Leadbeater’s stories and the way in which Godin begins “Stop Stealing Dreams” with the Harlem Village Academies.]