What Is School For?

Mr. Seth Godin asks this question in this video presentation. I find particularly interesting what he states about college education given all that’s been discussed about college on this site.

9 thoughts on “What Is School For?

  1. Lawyers all say good morning to the judge when the judge says good morning and starts going through the calendar.

    As a former choir teacher, I had to teach kids to stand in rows and sing the notes on the page. Some refused to sing what was written and wanted to sing their own parts. On purpose. (It’s called putting your own style to it) There is a time and a place for that. I tried to tell them that when we sing in groups we have to sing with one voice. As a professional singer I have to do the same when it’s called for and have to know when it’s OK to stand out.

    The real purpose of college for the top tier is to win friends who might want to work with you later AND to potentially go to grad school which does require some measure of competence. You remember – the student government kids who played the compliance game to some degree they also forged strong friendships and alliances.

    Let’s face it, society does require some measure of respect for others. But this guy’s view is somewhat limited. There were a complex set of factors involved. Most of the workers in these factories ended up being poor immigrants or young girls. Some factories started their own schools. Chances are that if there was a family who owned their own land and were able to feed themselves with what they grew, they weren’t going to go work in factory unless something happened. I’d really like to know where he got his information about making deals for how to make schools develop people who will be compliant.

    As much as I hate school, I’m not sure I completely buy his arguments.

    • PS My cousin’s husband comes up with ideas for businesses and is quite an entrepreneur – something they don’t necessarily teach in school. Most of his jobs have come from friends who want to work with him. He got really high grades and went to law school. This is how “top tier” people do it. They know how to comply AND how to think independently.

    • The real purpose of college for the top tier is to win friends who might want to work with you later AND to potentially go to grad school which does require some measure of competence. You remember – the student government kids who played the compliance game to some degree they also forged strong friendships and alliances.

      There is definitely a lot of truth to that at the top-tier colleges and universities. This is why one–if afforded the opportunity–would rationally choose a school like Harvard or Yale or Cornell or MIT or CalTech or Princeton, etc. Fact is, for graduates of those schools, many doors are open in ways that they are not to graduates of lower-tier schools. Especially if one does a good job networking while at those universities.

      • Unfortunately not everyone gets the hang of that networking thing. I wish I had been in student gov’t. I saw it as a waste of time that didn’t do anything. I barely tried in school and was outlandishly bored by everything, inattentive and sometimes defiant-except for math which made me cry because I was two years behind my friends. I went along with things in choir and theater – which does require nice rows, following directions, and teamwork to get it done.

        PS There are some fine west coast schools which lead to west coast jobs. guess it depends on what you want in your region. The eastern Ivies only mean so much out here. If I have kids, I will tell them to conform with a grain of salt. Sometimes you have to “smile and pretend” to get along with people.

    • These are all excellent points, there ARE times when we must work together in unison, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I believe Mr. Godin would have us ask the question “Is this what school is for?” If you yourself were asked “Should school be about teaching all children to behave the same way and in cooperation with one another to the exclusion of all else?” what would your answer be? What else would you like to see included in the definition?

      You mentioned the importance of networking. That’s a great thing to include in the definition of what school is for. Whether it is at a name brand school or not.

      Rather than discount his arguments, what are your own? What do you think school should be for? Were you happy with your own experience? Would you have your children repeat your experience? Would you wish for something more or better for them?

      When our family asked ourselves that question it led to an extraordinary outcome. I encourage everyone to do the same.

      PS for more information on the history of the KKK and deals to lure farmers into factories, do as Godin suggests, google it. Wikipedia is a good place to start. There is also a great book “Dumbing us Down” by Mr. Gatto for more history on the origin of the school system as we know it today.

      • Hi Denise … I would be very interested in knowing the extraordinary outcome your family has come to regarding schooling if you are comfortable sharing.

      • Personally I sometimes liked the defiant kids better than the compliant kids when I was teaching because I knew that they were really thinking. But some of the more compliant kids got were just excellent all around. Maybe they are going to get better opportunities because of their good behavior and Os in citizenship.

        The problem with school is they got rid of tracking because it wasn’t fair and went with mainstreaming so that kids with less skills could be more normal. While that’s very beautiful in theory, it’s very frustrating in practice.

        PS Because of my naturally defiant nature, I choose to discount some of what he says. There is a time and a place to do your own thing, and a time and place to comply. Some kids can’t handle independent or cooperative work. When I gave kids time to practice piano or run their lines in theater, many told me later that they didn’t and just talked instead. I gave them the grades they deserved. Isn’t that a little how it is in the real world? Sometimes you get raises for exceptional work.

  2. i don’t know that the whole higher education system will dissolve … but i do think it’s interesting that there are grass-roots movements questioning what’s been done for the last however many years … and doing something about it.

    if i had my choice, i’d homeschool with an adaptable curriculum, allowing freedom to explore learning as subjects and topics peeked the interest of my kids.

    i don’t think one needs a formal education to learn that there are appropriate ways to behave in different circumstances.

    interesting … in a conversation with school staff and administration yesterday, i suggested a model where there would be a minimum to maximum amount of work one could do on an assignment, and the student could decide how much they wanted to do … did they just want to get by, or did they want to do well, or did they want to do their best, on that particular assignment, and the student could decide (middle school age kids). i told them that in the real world people choose all the time what kind of job they’re going to do at any particular time … that sometimes we’re on our A game, and we knock it out of the park … and sometimes we’re struggling to get by … and sometimes people simple choose to not do as well at certain times than others. this would mimic their choices in the real world. and the staff told me that was UNrealistic – that kids this age were incapable of making that decision. i was … s.t.u.n.n.e.d. i asked my girls if they understood this concept, and they both looked at me like, “Duh. What’s the point of even asking?”

    in the same meeting/conversation, these people told me that the structure for this middle school was above what kids this age were capable of. i asked them 3 times in 3 different ways to make sure i understood what they were saying … that they’ve created a system where they believe the kids are incapable of performing well … and all three times they confirmed. i am … dumbfounded.

    • Higher Ed will not dissolve, but it will shrink considerably. Colleges and universities are large and bloated, and–compounding matters–there are a lot of private colleges that have sprung up out of nowhere. All due to a financial bubble created by federal government.

      And make no mistake: that bubble will pop. When it does, it will be a gigantic crash. Entire universities will go Tango Uniform. Of those remaining, entire departments and degree programs will be slashed. Many “tenured” professors will find their positions eliminated due to “financial exigency”. Many administrators with once-cushy do-nothing jobs will find themselves out of work.

      The endgame will be a higher-ed landscape that actually produces graduates who are in a position to be productive. Moreover, colleges and universities will become more selective in their admissions, and college will become what it ought to be.

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