I began reading Seth Godin’s book Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School for? this week for my Learning and Technology Class. It was recommended as a good, quick, informative read that would made me consider my perspective about what school is. Additionally, it is free to download here, and any person who writes without the intention of making money deserves a read (at least in my opinion). So far, I am really enjoying the thought provoking ideas and opinions.
The book is sectioned off, and this review reflects sections 1- 12. The main message and idea of the first part of this book takes a look back at when education was created, why it was created, and how it has evolved. So far, the idea I get is that it was created to produce obedient factory workers during the Industrial Revolution and has evolved very little to meet the demands of today’s society.
A question raised in Section 4 is “What is school for” and suggests four things. Of particular interest to me was “to enhance civilization while giving people the tools to make informed decisions”. The author does not believe it does a good job at this. In another section, the author criticizes mandatory higher-level math classes. To me, high-level math is very important to most people in making informed decisions. Whether trying to finance a car, buy a house, plan for retirement or just budget money, you need higher-level math. It is important to understand a fixed versus flexible or floating interest rate, what appreciation is and how it affects your assets, or what percent of your income is taxable vs. non-taxable. I think that the way we approach and teach math needs to be considered, to give specific subject areas more of a “life-skill” context, but I do not think that we should downplay the importance of higher-level math.
Another interesting part of this book discussed was the multiple-choice test. It was invented to process mass amounts of people who were working towards work fields of low intellectual demand. Even the inventor of the test believed it should be scrapped after it served its short purpose, yet it still thrives, almost 100 years later. In my class I actually will not give multiple-choice problems, because it lowers the cognitive demand of my students. I have noticed that more students struggle with this demand for higher level thinking than don’t struggle. I am a strong supporter of doing away with the multiple choice answer sheets, but am not sure how we can still fairly measure students across a board, without being subjective with our opinions.
Overall, so far, I agree with most of the book, with the exception of questioning the importance of higher-level math. I am looking forward to continuing to read this book and am interested to see what questions and opinions the next sections will reveal.