What is school for?

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.

[We have a new cover! Thanks to http://www.asasku.blogspot.com/]

The TEDx talk

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You can get your copy for free

Here are four versions of the manifesto. Pick the one that you need, and feel free to share. To download a file, you'll probably need the option key or the right click button on your mouse... ask a teenager if you get stuck. (Just added an audio reading by Dave Wakefield all the way at the bottom of this page).
The On Screen version
Use this one to read it on a computer or similar device. Feel free to email to the teachers, parents and administrators in your life.
The Printable edition
This is the same document, but formatted for your laser printer or the local copy shop. You are welcome to make copies, but please don't charge for it or edit it. (And I fixed two typos and added the missing link to Doc's book).
Here's the Kindle edition
You'll need to download it and then plug in your Kindle via a USB cable. Drag the file to the Documents folder on your Kindle and boom, you're done. I'm told that you can also open it with the Kindle reader on your Mac, PC or iPad.
The ePub edition
This should work with other types of ebook readers, but I haven't tested it. Your mileage may vary, and if it doesn't work, the PDF should. Readers have told me that this opens on their iPad as well.
The manifesto in HTML on the web
Useful for cutting and pasting, I guess. The PDFs are easier to read. Now improved with easy to link to chapters...
How I built the manifesto, plus back up links
If any of the links above don't work, you'll find back up PDF downloads here, as well as a long-ish essay about how I built them.
Jeff's modified epub file
Jeff generously tweaked this version so it reads better on your screen. No warranties or refunds, but give it a try.
Improved Nook edition
Devon built this for us.
42 quotations from the manifesto
Ivana takes her pick of 42 tweetable quotes.
NEW! A fabulous new, easy to use audio edition
Thanks to Zia Hassan for contributing this
The bumper sticker!
Yes, the 30,000 word manifesto has been reduced to a killer bumper sticker. Check it out.

How to get a free digital copy--formatted for your screen

Just click on the picture of the seagull

Click the picture to get the free ebook There are several versions of the manifesto.

One is a PDF designed to be read on your screen. Feel free to email this anyone you think might want to read it. You’re also free to post it on a website, as long as you don’t edit it or charge for it.

The other featured edition is a PDF formatted to be printed on any printer. Feel free to make as many copies of this as you like and hand them to people who might benefit from a discussion about what we’re investing our time and our money and our future into.

If you have a Kindle or a Nook or any other device, see below for some links on how to import the PDF to your device. I also created special editions that are easy to transfer directly to the Kindle or Nook. And, as a bonus (once the guys in the Apple iTunes store approve it), an iBooks edition for the iPad.

For a list of other books by Seth Godin (that’s me), scroll down to near the bottom of this page. And if you have comments about the book, feel free to post them here, or even better, on twitter #stopstealingdreams or on Facebook or your own blog!

Sir Ken on Creativity and schools

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Feel free to chime in with your comments

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  • cybaby Jul 26, 2014 @ 4:33 pm
    The world is changing and we need to adapt to it. fostering dreams/talents Its a battle worth fighting.
  • andyvasily Jul 23, 2014 @ 1:30 am
    As Daniel Pink says, the gap between what science knows and what schools and businesses do is still huge. I've been involved in coaching, teaching, counseling, and education in general for the past 20 years. It is still those teachers on the fringes, pushed to the side as you say Seth, that are creating the biggest noise and truly making a difference. They are doing remarkable things.

    Despite many administrators and decision makers knowing what truly drives learning and motivates students, little change is being made. The indispensable linchpin educators making a difference in the lives of so many young people are often the ones that are considered to troublesome because they constantly question the status quo. Schools, admin, and policy makers should be embracing these linchpins in their schools, but sadly this is not what is happening in most cases. To remain employed and keep their jobs these indispensable teachers must just smile and wave like the Madagascar penguins. Show up, teach the facts, manage kids, and give them tests.

    Will this prevent me from seeking mastery in my teaching or dissuade me from being the best that I can be, no way. It makes it more difficult, but I'll relentlessly keep pushing the cause.
  • jgutteri Jul 16, 2014 @ 8:55 am
    Hi Everyone, it's great to have a page to communicate with like-minded people.

    I'm currently working with another founder on an all-new school that will foster dreams, not steal them.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about it, so please send an email to james@jamesgutteridge.com.au and I'll be in touch.

  • Niktravelfit Jun 28, 2014 @ 6:32 am
    Thanks for sharing!
  • hutch87 Jun 15, 2014 @ 4:38 pm
    A lot of what is taught at schools now has very little use in the real world, unless you follow a very specific career path. Schools should be more about learning life skills and things that you will need when you are an adult
  • mitali-chowdhury-16 May 20, 2014 @ 1:15 am
    Interesting post.
  • houldsworth1 May 08, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
    Fantastic. I've been saying much of this years.
    I left school when I was 16. I went back to get my degree because many companies won't look at you without one. After 20 year of industry experience school was almost too easy.

    I love to teach. I teach my kids, my co-workers and even myself.

    The Raspberry Pi comment was spot on. I had my 11 year old daughter use one of those to control a robot that I built with my son 4 years earlier. The fun I had watching her problem solve that was incredible.

    If we can stop teaching to the test then we can build a future where people ask the hard questions. People that ask hard questions are not good for politicians or people with money and power so this is going to be an up hill battle, but it's a battle worth fighting.
  • MeredithFR Apr 16, 2014 @ 3:07 pm
    I'm trying to keep interactive, team-building outside the classroom activities part of the "traditions" at my children's grade school, but it seems like an impossible task. The principal explained to me during a "Principal Chat" last year that "new traditions - like giving Kindergartners iPads" were being put in place while older traditions -- like a walking tour of historic Boston sites -- were being taken away. He is entirely missing the point of the need to encourage creativity, teamwork and interpersonal skills, versus put more tech in the hands of children. I wish there was a way to effectively harness "the Seth Godin movement" to bring awareness and pressure to school administrations. I've sent links to Stop Stealing Dreams to the administrators, but don't believe they've listened or read them. If anyone has any ideas, please tweet me at @merflyrip Thx.
  • CordeliaFlakk Apr 08, 2014 @ 10:25 am
    Aaaaand that's why I spent 14 years homeschooling my three daughters. They've gone on to excel in what they do, because they had meaning and learning in their lives.
  • JArora Apr 07, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
    Very inspiring message and I appreciate the tone of acknowledging those educators who are trying to embrace change while often stuck in slow-moving bureaucracies. Many folks are doing amazing work to help our kids and are forced to work within a system that is not designed to adapt to change and innovation.
  • julesh2013 Mar 13, 2014 @ 11:08 pm
    Very good. I want my daughter to follow her own path and know she can do anything, including not have to work for someone else!
  • AmineBomBom Feb 18, 2014 @ 8:45 pm
    We have to make our dreams true, specially the ones we share with others wether a wife or friend or family, and dont give up
  • ikeephouse Dec 28, 2013 @ 1:49 pm
    I really enjoy the TED talk. Loading my kindle now with your manifesto. Thanks!
  • YogaAngel Dec 20, 2013 @ 2:53 am
    I have always felt that our education system was built to create compliant drones for the work force. I didn't know until now that it was a fact! :-/
  • saulosegurado Dec 05, 2013 @ 4:51 pm
    Great post!

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What's your take?

Should we reexamine what school is for?


Yes, we need to start making artists, not low-wage automatons

familystorykeeper says:

There are definite failures with school as it is now. School doesn't help every child get a great education. Most people have some things that they do very well and some things they don't do well. Standardized testing indicates everyone should do well at the same things.

AlexBPearl says:

I think there's too much emphasis on getting exam results and perfecting exam techniques. Ken is right to point out that creativity is almost a dirty word in schools. Creativity and imagination should be encouraged and not treated like a poor relation and brushed under the carpet. Alex Pearl - author of 'Sleeping with the Blackbirs'

smartwaybooks says:

I think we should reexamine what life is for...and how we can prepare young people to be successful in life. That includes teaching life skills such as personal finance, how to buy and prepare healthy meals, and how to interact with people in a way that benefits both parties. Some of those are more art than science.

carol_2 says:

We homeschool to give our kids the freedom the learn at their speed (so far they have graduated at 18 and 17 years of age), to give them one-on-one teaching, and many other reasons. They all loved being homeschooled, and have had absolutely no problem fitting in at college and in the world.

wyattfairlead says:

I am not sure about artists, but we definitely need to reexamine the school system. What we need is schools to actually start turning out innovators. We need people to start thinking again. People no longer think and that is to societies detriment.

bjj_james says:

Creativity vs. Obedience, I choose and open minded approach.

jan-kinahan says:

The status quo no longer is sufficient!

jan-kinahan says:

Today and tomorrow, in a nutshell! (In education, the past is largely inapplicable! Read on!)

coolaunt says:

Not only it's purpose but the outcome it truly delivers. Are we truly offering the skills that children will need to be functional and productive in the world on it's current course?

alphastim2 says:

Yes but I am not claiming we need to make more artists. Lol.

The manifesto consists of a lot of whining about schools. There is next to ZERO about what Seth thinks schools should actually look like. Kids have to be someplace during the day as parents are working. And if you have 25+ kids in a classroom there is only so much freedom and exploration that can be permitted. Homeschooling is the best way to achieve what Seth is suggesting and yet he dismissed it! Hilarious contradiction! If you are going to whine on for hundreds of pages please talk with someone who knows something about schools and have them put into words some actual suggestions on what your ideal school would look like and how it would run.

No, we need more rigor and obedience and better test scores

dpgibble says:

We can't skip the preliminaries. Once I start reading reviews and opinions from toddlers and 6-year-olds on this site, I will accept the possibility that I'm wrong. The Information Age requires impossibly high levels of technical education to expand. Almost no culture has solved the moral conundrum created by the demand for "more." Japan came close and now they face extinction. External systems of discipline make warfare more lethal and classrooms more predictable. But the best special ops soldiers, industrialists, scholars and artists have first mastered themselves. Hence the real purpose of schools.

BarbaraFrank says:

We certainly need tor reexamine school. But we also need to allow parents to choose how their children should be educated. Not all parents will choose to homeschool their children to adulthood like I did, but they should have the option by being able to direct the property tax dollars they pay to the public schools toward any educational option they wish.

BFuniv.com says:

As long as we start school at ten years old, end it at twelve, and this curriculum is a free choice for those considering going into engineering, science, or foreign military service.

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My teaching experience

Photo by Jill Greenberg (yes, *that* Jill Greenberg) I got my first gig as a teacher up in Canada at the age of 16, teaching style canoeing to hundreds of kids every summer. In college, I was the youngest computer science TA the department had ever had, and did it for three years as I developed and taught a lecture series to classes as big as a hundred.

I was an adjunct professor at Mercy College, developed and taught a course on desktop publishing for the Learning Annex (which they ‘shared’ without asking me and used nationwide). I’ve taught science lectures on a volunteer basis in public elementary schools and was a popular professor the year I taught at the NYU Stern School of Business.

I founded the SAMBA alternate MBA program which I hosted in my office daily for six months, and have run a series of events and seminars and free programs around the world over the least twenty years.

I have no idea what it’s like to teach full-time in an underserved education-industrial-complex high school in which the teachers are in a pitched battle with a testing-oriented system that wants nothing but to force them to act like automatons. My guess is that it’s unspeakably horrible, which is why I wrote this manifesto.

Other books by Seth Godin


More free stuff from Seth

Two blogs, free ebooks, book recommendations and more
An overview of my work
This is a great place to start if you're new to my books and work.
Posts about my recent experiments in book publishing
The Domino Project published a dozen bestsellers in a row. This blog chronicles what we did and what we learned.
The original blog, updated daily
Since 2000 (or something like that)

How to get any PDF document onto your Kindle

Click the image to get the instructions Just click the picture to see the article. It’s pretty easy… you email it to a special address.

You’ll also note that the ebook has been published in mobi format. All you have to do is download it to your hard drive, plug your Kindle in via the USB cable and drag the file from your hard drive to the Documents folder on your Kindle.

Sideloading to the Nook

Click the image to get the instructions You can also browse the file via the web. Click the picture for details on sideloading.

You’ll also note that the ebook has been published in epub format. All you have to do is download it to your hard drive, plug your Nook in via the USB cable and drag the file from your hard drive to the right folder on your Nook.

A quick mind map

Thanks to Lynne Cazaly in Australia…

A teacher who mattered

Most of us have had at least one, some have been lucky to have had many. If there’s a teacher who made a difference to you or your kids, give them a shoutout here.
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  • Marias_Stuff May 29, 2013 @ 1:56 pm
    One teacher really can make all the difference... but sometimes its a parent too. Parents must not forget to inspire their kinds to achieve and think big
  • smartwaybooks May 23, 2013 @ 5:18 pm
    Mr. Gregory. An elementary teacher who coached my high school track team. At practices, he ran with us and did every fitness drill he asked us to do with us. I was amazed. It changed the way I viewed coaching. Years later, when I coached track, I did the same thing. Never asked the kids to do any fitness drill that I wouldn't or couldn't do with them! Teachers who teach and lead by guiding their students like that are few and far between, but they "get" education at its deepest level.
  • Margot_C Feb 24, 2013 @ 12:27 pm
    The most helpful assignment I ever got in school involved a list of questions and a day in the library to answer them. It taught me a lot about how to research and find information. This lens was an interesting read and certainly makes a lot of very valid points. I am a big fan of the book, "The Willpower Instinct".
  • takkhis Feb 12, 2013 @ 2:42 pm
    Yes! I had one such teacher in my life :)
  • Jay27 Jan 07, 2013 @ 3:24 pm
    Absolutely loved this video. We need a faster growing awareness of the fact that education sucks. Thankfully, education is already being transformed thanks to initiatives such as the Khan Academy and others.
  • kent-ong Nov 03, 2012 @ 3:40 am
    I am not sure if this is correct. I read Robert Kiyosaki's book.Rockefeller built and support school system because he needed workers to work for him rather than build a wealth empire.
  • Mr-Panda Oct 20, 2012 @ 2:33 pm
    DWW is awesome. Teaches what he loves, and is oh so funny while doing it.
  • Papier Sep 19, 2012 @ 8:30 pm
    Sorry, I didn't have one teacher that I can recall exciting me about learning or anything else.
  • CarlynMitri Aug 20, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
    Mr. Grogg! You'll never see this but I will give you a shoutout anyways :)
  • mouse1996 Jul 05, 2012 @ 3:48 am
    To many to name. It was their kindness and not really what they taught that made them wonderful.

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