Marketer and author Seth Godin on Stop Stealing Dreams at TEDxYouth@BFS – Transcript
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Seth Godin – Marketer and author
Good morning, boys and girls.
That was terrible. You’ve learned how to do that from a young age. You’re supposed to say, “Good morning, Mr. Godin.” So let’s try again.
Good morning, boys and girls!
[Audience: Good morning, Mr. Godin!]
Have you thought about what that’s for? Have you thought about how, for a hundred or 150 years, that was ingrained into the process of public education? And have you thought at all as people on the cutting edge, as people who are interested in making school work again, about a very simple question: What is school for?
I don’t think we’re answering that question. I don’t even think we’re asking that question. Everyone seems to think they know what school is for, but we’re not going to make anything happen until we can all agree about how we got here and where we are going. So my goal today is to put that question into your head and help you think about it.
First, we have to understand what school used to be for. There was a woman named Mary Everest Boole and she came up with this notion — she was a mathematician in the late 1800s — that you could use string and nails and wood and make decorations, those things with the string goes back and forth, and there is math built into that, and that a teacher on the cutting edge, of fifth graders, might decide to use that idea modulo nine and remainders and string going back and forth to teach an important lesson about math.
So that memo went home to all the parents at my kids public school and said, “We need help with this. We need hammers.” So I am sort of unemployed. I showed up at school that day with a bag of hammers, a big bag of 18 hammers. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard 18 kids hitting nails with 18 hammers in a little room for 20 minutes, but I have. I’m not going to do it for you because it’s really hard to listen to.
And what the teacher explained to the kids is they must arrange the brads in this certain pattern, hammering, hammering, hammering and make sure they’re in there nice and firm. And so these kids are hammering, hammering, hammering, 20 minutes of zero education. Just 20 minutes of hammering.
And then the teacher walks over and she says to a boy, “I told you to make sure the brads were all the way in.” And one by one she pulled them out and threw them on the floor every single one and put the board down and that is what she believed school was for. School was about teaching obedience.
“Good morning, boys and girls” starts the day with respect and obedience.
Now I have to move on to Frederick J. Kelly. Some of you have brought your own number 2 pencil for the quiz that’s going to be part of today. The number 2 pencil is famous because Frederick J. Kelly made it famous.
Back around World War I we had a problem, which was that there was this huge influx of students because we had expanded the school day to include high school, and there was this huge need to sort them all out. So he invented the standardized test and an abomination. And he gave it up ten years later when the emergency was over but because he gave it up, because he called it out, because he said the standardized test is too crude to be used, he was ostracized and lost his job as the president of a university, because he dared to speak up against a system that was working.
So let’s try a little experiment here. I’d like everyone to go ahead and raise your right hand just as high as possibly you can. Now please raise it a little higher.
Hmm. What’s that about?! My instructions were pretty clear and yet you all held back. How come? You held back because you’ve been taught since you were 3 years old to hold a little bit back because if you do everything, if you put all out, then your parents or your teacher or your coach or your boss is going to ask for little bit more, aren’t they? And the reason they will is because we are products of the industrial age.