Dear Seth Godin, Stop Dealing Steam

Hi Seth,

Last week I read your book, Stop Stealing Dreams, and very much enjoyed it. You’re a great writer. I’m not sure if anyone has told you this before, but your writing is almost as good as your speaking. And your speaking is terrific. I’m a big fan.

In your book, if you recall, you picked apart the problems with America’s school system and said the way to fix it is by changing what topics are covered and how we cover them. In your own words:

As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.

I emphatically agree. And so does every single teacher I’ve ever talked to. And there’s a reason we agree. It’s obvious.

Looking at responses to the book, the general reaction was one of, “I nodded my head in agreement the whole time. This is exactly how I’ve felt for years.”

However, the difficulty in changing our school systems is more than figuring out better end goals and better curriculums. There are 1,000’s of charter schools experimenting with alternative curriculums. The flipped classroom is just one of hundreds of ideas floating around.

And while the standard curriculum in most public schools is awful, it’s hard to say the curriculum is the root of the  problem.

I’d love if you could expand just a wee bit further on three of your ideas.

3 Fairly Impossible Problems with Schools

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1. What are the actionable steps to get rid of standardized testing?

You talked about  how schools are stuck teaching to the test and that’s a generally agreed upon problem. To stop that, colleges would need to judge students in some other way.

On what metric should colleges judge students?
If it’s portfolios, how do we convince all universities to judge students on portfolios?
And what accomplishments should these portfolios include?
Or, do you propose getting rid of the college system in general?

2. How do we improve the quality of teachers?

If I read you right, the crux of your argument was to make learning more project based, as well as making it deal with more current  subjects such as programming and negotiating.

If this is the goal, is the problem the curriculum or the teachers teaching the current curriculum?

Can a fantastic curriculum help a poor teacher make his students care?

To rephrase that, how can we get lousy teachers to successfully teach in a project based manner?

Or to rephrase again, how can we make lousy teachers get better?

One answer is by providing extended one on one mentorship programs for the teachers or just firing the bad ones, but that brings us to our final problem:

3. What’s the best way to increase school budgets?

But somehow I’m sure you guessed this was where I was headed.

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There’s a good chance those aren’t fair questions. Any thoughts?

Absolutely not expecting an answer,

-Jeremy

About Jeremy Shuback

Entertaining by way of writing, improvising, painting, teaching, and Shabbos dinners. But mostly writing. View all posts by Jeremy Shuback →

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