Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seth Godin on Education

Seth Godin’s manifesto titled, ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’ showed me why Education is everyone's business. 

There are chefs, artists, engineers, sportspeople, scientists sitting in the classrooms of the world today. Then why must we ask only educationists about solutions to the problems of education. Not every student will get into education. Many of us have spent 10-15 years in the education system of our countries. So we all have a right to express our views on education whether we are an academic, an artist or just a student. Education is everyone's business!
In his TED Talk by the same name , he describes eight ways education can re-thought and here I have included a small commentary on each point mentioned.

1.  Homework during the day and lectures at night – Seth advocates a flipped classroom model where students watch world class lectures online at home and then come to the school to discuss their work with the teachers, using classroom time for reflection and for application of knowledge they have received. This is better than large amount of time being wasted every year, with conducting the same lecture thousands of times at colleges and schools across the world.
2.  Open-Book, Open-Learning – Seth mentions how there is no value in memorizing anything ever again. He has a strong argument here, because today all the information we need is available in our pockets.
3.  Access to any course in the world – You do not just have to limit yourself to the courses happening in your city or country. You can take online courses from the best universities around the world.
4.  Precise focused Education rather than large batch stuff – You are often encouraged to work on a variety of disciplines at the start. You will be much better off, deciding your specialization and then doing whatever you can, to work on that particular discipline.
5.  Measuring experience instead of test scores – Test scores are a way for the system to keep track of every student. It is not fair that students have to bear the burden of accountability that government and regulating authorities demand.
6.  End of compliance as an outcome – Teach students to evaluate every situation critically and then to act on these evaluations. Do not take anything for granted. Mass schooling is probably heading to the edge of the cliff. You don’t want to walk down with the masses. Look ahead into the distance and ask yourself if it makes sense to just walk off a cliff, because everyone else is doing so too.
7.  Cooperation instead of isolation –Most institutes are often designed to limit your thinking to what is being taught in school curriculums and textbooks. But with technology you can now learn from students and teachers from all around the world and cooperate and collaborate with them to learn from their varied experiences.
8.  Death of the famous College – Do not choose a college because of the brand name. If you do not know what you really want to do with your life, spending thousands of dollars on a college degree will not get you any closer to self –realization. 


Point 132, in Seth’s book on the education industry, ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’ is titled, ‘What we teach?’ and is a guide for parents and educationists on what we must really teach our children.

When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions.
When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless.
When we teach a child to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete.
When we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us.
And when we give students the desire to make things, even choices, we create a world filled with makers.

 Are schools the only way to educate yourself?

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Seth speaks out about the reliance of students on successful schools as the only way to get forward in life in the book as well. He says, “The two advantages most successful schools have are plenty of money and a pre- selected, motivated student body.”
As a student investing in your education, you can actually get both of the above facilities at a much cheaper rate. You can even get much better facilities if you know where to look for them.
In college, I got in touch with young entrepreneurs, designers, programmers and creative enthusiasts who were actually making an impact with the projects they had started through their own initiative. I also invested the extra money I had for my education into various conference and seminars I wanted to attend in and around Mumbai.

He further adds, “If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, he will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.”
As students we are depending on a broken system of education that is designed to encourage compliance and not creativity and out of the box thinking.

Frederick Kelly, Multiple Choice Tests and the SAT

A professor in Kansas invented the test in 1914. Professor Kelly described the test as follows, “This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”
The SAT Exams that many US Colleges use to accept students is based largely on Kelly’s model. Seth describes why this model is still being used,
“The reason is simple. Not because it works. No, we do it because it’s the easy and efficient way to keep the mass production of students moving forward.”

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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Jake Halpern had conducted a study with over 600 students where this question was asked: “When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?”
The options where the following:-
1.  Chief of a major company
2.  Navy Seal
3.  President of a great University like Harvard or Yale
4.  United States Senator
5.  Personal Assistant to a very famous singer or movie star
These were the answers that were received in that study as mentioned on Jake’s website. Find out more at
There were five options to chose from and, among girls, the results were as follows: 9.5% chose “the chief of a major company like General Motors”; 9.8% chose “a Navy Seal”; 13.6% chose “a United States Senator”; 23.7% chose “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale”; and 43.4% chose “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.”

Students need time to think

At a very young age, students enter the education system in their own countries. In most countries around the world, there are legal consequences if students do not attend college till they are eighteen. From the age of four to the age of eighteen, these students do not even get one year to think about whether what they are doing even makes sense.
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Most are then encouraged to enter college, get a masters degree, get a p.h.d, get a job, get married, have kids, go for a few holidays abroad, get a few promotions and then retire. Why must every person in the world follow this model? Every individual has their own definition of the life they would like to lead.
Students need time to think and reflect on the things they would like to do with their lives. But the system does not give you too much space to do so. Have you ever thought why? Because if too many students start thinking about the amazing things they want to do with their lives, the system will break down. They need the majority to comply, so that the broken education system will survive.

The back up- problem

Parents tell their children to always have a back-up. But the very reason, you opt for a back-up is because you are not 100% sure about what you really want to do with your first plan. Most often the focus is more on the back-up, then on the real passion. Over time the back-up career becomes the students full focus and the real passion dies out, because nobody ever encouraged them to go ahead with it.
Seth puts it well in point 36 of his manifesto titled. Instead of Amplifying dreams, school destroys them’. He states that, “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 heart- break, we push them to bury the dream and focus on just the job.”
The world needs Linchpins, Artists and people with the courage to develop a scarce attitude
In point 39 of the manifesto, Seth describes the above three characteristics as follows,
1.     People with Scare Skills and Attitude-
“Scarce skills combined with even scarcer attitudes almost always lead to low unemployment and high wages.” – Seth Godin
2.   Artist
“An artist is someone who brings new thinking and generosity to his work, who does human work that changes another for the better. An artist invents a new kind of insurance policy, diagnoses a disease that someone else might have missed, or envisions a future that’s not here yet.” – Seth Godin
3.   Linchpin
“A linchpin is the worker we can’t live without, the one we’d miss if she was gone. The linchpin brings enough gravity, energy, and forward motion to work that she makes things happen.” – Seth Godin
Strive to be any of the above in your field.

Read the manifesto @
Watch Seth's Video Talk on the subject @

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