May 8, 2012

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Stop Stealing Dreams – by Seth Godin

stop stealing dreams

Stop Stealing Dreams is a free e-book/manifesto written by the Seth Godin, a successful author, speaker and blogger. If you’ve read any of my blog entries, you’ve probably seen me refer to Seth. He is a very smart guy, who does a good job of merging business ideas with social psychology. In this book, Seth talks about our education system. Actually, he does more than talk about it—he skewers it. And I couldn’t agree with him more.

Our education system is broken. Some people know this. Most don’t.

We are destroying dreams.
Our system of education is built on giving the masses a base level skill set and teaching them to follow rules and orders. The problem is, that forces mediocrity. Now, more than ever, we need inventors, artists and dreamers. Those types rarely fit into existing systems.

Dreamers in school are dangerous. Dreamers can be impatient, unwilling to become well-rounded, and most of all, hard to fit into existing systems.

The good jobs are gone.
OK, maybe not all gone, but they are going. The model used to be: Work hard in school. Get good grades. Get into a good college. Graduate and go to work in industry. Mmmm. Not so much anymore.

In 1960, the top ten employers in the U.S. were: GM, AT&T, Ford, GE, U.S. Steel, Sears, A&P, Esso, Bethlehem Steel and IT&T. Eight of these offered substantial pay and a  long-term career to hard-working people who actually made something.

Today, the top ten employers are: Wallmart, Kelly Services, IBM, UPS, McDonald’s, Yum(Taco Bell, KFC, et al), Target, Kroger, HP and The Home Depot. Of these, only two (two!) offer a path similar to the one that the vast majority of major companies offered fifty years ago.

Burger flippers of the world, unite.

We need more artists and linchpins.
The problem is we don’t know how to teach people to be artists. An artist isn’t just someone who writes novels or paints paintings. An artist is an inventor, a problem solver, a coder, an entrepreneur—a person who makes things happen.

Sadly, most artists and most linchpins learn their skills and attitudes despite school, not because of it.

The system encourages hiding.
It’s easy to hide in school. It’s easy to hide in large corporations. Often, it’s the path of least resistance that appears the safest. It may have been at one time, but it’s becoming less so every day. The relevance of a company in the marketplace can go from first position to dead in the water overnight. The same thing can be said for your job.

The challenge is that the connected economy demands people who won’t hide, and it punishes everyone else. Standing out and standing for something are the attributes of a leader, and initiative is now the only posture that generates results.

College isn’t what it used to be.
Scratch that. It is what it used to be, it’s just much more expensive and our economy is different now. College is facing the problem newspapers faced ten years ago. Their crash may not be as bad, but they need to adjust. I’m not confident that they will. They need a push.

Most colleges are organized to give an average education to average students. One reason to go to college was to get access. Today, that access is worth a lot less.

These are just five points of a 200 page document that is worth your time. I don’t mean to bash education completely or to say that college isn’t worth it. College was integral to my development as a young man. But, I have to admit that the vast majority of my time there was spent filling requirements that really had no tangible benefit. The vast majority of my professional skill set has been self taught. The problem is that college isn’t adapting as fast. The bigger problem is what students are taught well before they get to college.

The answer? There are a few in the book. It poses many more questions than answers. It’s too big a problem for one guy to solve. That’s part of what this is about: creating a dialogue.

Read the ebook. Spread the word. I’d love to know your thoughts.

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