Does Education Spark Dreams or Steal Them?

Brad M. Griffin | Apr 16, 2012

Recently Seth Godin published a free manifesto against the current education system titled Stop Stealing Dreams: What is school for? I have hesitated to read it all the way through or blog about it because, frankly, as a public school parent I get hammered with criticism all the time.

Yes, our education system has problems. Big ones. But we still have a vision that every child living in this country, regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background, deserves a good education. And pulling out our own kids and resources wont do anything to help or reform the system. The kids who lose are the ones without access to anything better.

Despite all that, Godin is attempting something different here: opening the doors for bigger thinking about education: What is school for, anyway? Why should we make kids do it? How could we dream different dreams about school in America? Not just public schools, but all schooling. From the intro:

The economy has changed, probably forever.

School hasn’t.

School was invented to create a constant stream of compliant factory workers to the growing businesses of the 1900s. It continues to do an excellent job at achieving this goal, but it’s not a goal we need to achieve any longer.

In this 30,000 word manifesto, I imagine a different set of goals and start (I hope) a discussion about how we can reach them. One thing is certain: if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’ve been getting.

Our kids are too important to sacrifice to the status quo.

Agreed. We invest blood, sweat and tears into our local school, and sometimes all we get is the stains on our clothes. There is a lot we disagree with in the educational system. We do think our kids are ultimately getting a better education by learning the stories and cultures of the kids around themsome who are like them and many who are not. But its possible school is designed to kill their dreams.

I think Godin is asking good questions, questions for every kid in the country. What I hope is that this stirs usin the churchto ask these questions but without the knee-jerk reaction of pulling out. We have such a long track record of pulling away and cloistering rather than being good news in our neighborhoods. I think Godin has ideas that can be good newstruly liberating good newsfor young people. But it will only be good news if Christians engage the system rather than retreat.

Interestingly, PBS picked up on some young teachers who are engaging education as a way of honoring the image of God in students in one low-income district. Its not the only way to dream different dreams for kids, but its one making a difference:

Watch Education Justice on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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