Seth Godin: Marketing Thought Leader & Educator: The Wishing and Dreaming Problem
Seth Godin is an influential and innovative marketer who has been writing, educating, and dreaming in the space for over 30 years. He runs a massively popular blog; has written 19 books on topics like marketing, creativity, leadership, and standing out in a sea of sameness; and created the altMBA, an online, global workshop for leadership and management.
Seth’s Original Story: The Wishing and Dreaming Problem
If you had a wish, what would it be? If a genie arrived and granted you a wish, would it be a worthwhile one?
I think our wishes change based on how we grow up, what we’re taught, whom we hang out with, and what our parents do.
Our culture has a dreaming problem. It was largely created by the current regime in schooling, and it’s getting worse.
Dreamers in school are dangerous. Dreamers can be impatient, unwilling to become well-rounded, and most of all, hard to fit into existing systems.
One more question to ask at the school board meeting: ‘What are you doing to fuel my kid’s dreams?’
‘When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut assistant’
Jake Halpern did a rigorous study of high school students. The most disturbing result was this:
‘When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?’
- The chief of a major company like General Motors
- A Navy SEAL
- A United States Senator
- The president of a great university like Harvard or Yale
- The personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star
Among girls, the results were as follows: 9.5 percent chose ‘the chief of a major company like General Motors’; 9.8 percent chose ‘a Navy SEAL’; 13.6 percent chose ‘a United States Senator’; 23.7 percent chose ‘the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale’; and 43.4 percent chose ‘the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.’
Notice that these kids were okay with not actually being famous — they were happy to be the assistant of someone who lived that fairy tale lifestyle.
Is this the best we can do? Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams — sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants?
The century of dream-snuffing has to end. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.
School Is Expensive
It’s also not very good at doing what we need it to do. We’re not going to be able to make it much cheaper, so let’s figure out how to make it a lot better.
Not better at what it already does. Better at educating people to do what needs to be done.
Do you need a competent call-center employee? School is good at creating them, but it’s awfully expensive. Do we really need more compliant phone operators, and at such a high cost?
Given the time and money being invested, what I want to know, what every parent and every taxpayer and every student should want to know, is: Is this the right plan? Is this the best way to produce the culture and economy we say we want?
What is school for?
If you’re not asking that, you’re wasting time and money.
Here’s a hint: learning is not done to you. Learning is something you choose to do.
Quote: “Learning is not done to you. Learning is something you choose to do.” – Seth Godin
If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.
Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:
Homework during the day, lectures at night
Open book, open note, all the time
Access to any course, anywhere in the world
Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction
The end of multiple-choice exams
Experience instead of test scores as a measure of achievement
The end of compliance as an outcome
Cooperation instead of isolation
Amplification of outlying students, teachers, and ideas
Transformation of the role of the teacher
Lifelong learning, earlier work
Death of the nearly famous college
It’s easier than ever to open a school, to bring new technology into school, and to change how we teach. But if all we do with these tools is teach compliance and consumption, that’s all we’re going to get. School can and must do more than train the factory workers of tomorrow.
Fast, Flexible, and Focused
It’s clear that the economy has changed. What we want and expect from our best citizens has changed. Not only in what we do when we go to our jobs, but also in the doors that have been opened for people who want to make an impact on our culture.
At the very same time, the acquisition of knowledge has been forever transformed by the Internet. Often overlooked in the rush to waste time at Facebook and YouTube is the fact that the Internet is the most efficient and powerful information delivery system ever developed.
The change in the economy and the delivery of information online combine to amplify the speed of change. These rapid cycles are overwhelming the ability of the industrialized system of education to keep up.
As a result, the education-industrial system, the one that worked very well in creating a century’s worth of factory workers, lawyers, nurses, and soldiers, is now obsolete.
We can prop it up or we can fix it.
I don’t think it’s practical to say, ‘We want what we’ve been getting, but cheaper and better.’ That’s not going to happen, and I’m not sure we want it to, anyway.
We need school to produce something different, and the only way for that to happen is for us to ask new questions and make new demands on every element of the educational system we’ve built. Whenever teachers, administrators, or board members respond with an answer that refers to a world before the rules changed, they must stop and start their answer again.
No, we do not need you to create compliance.
No, we do not need you to cause memorization.
And no, we do not need you to teach students to embrace the status quo.
Anything a school does to advance those three agenda items is not just a waste of money, but actually works against what we do need. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true.
No tweaks. A revolution.
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.
Quote: “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.” – Seth Godin
Find more from Seth Godin at sethgodin.com.