As many of you recall, I was not impressed with Linchpin. The book left a sour taste in my mouth and still bothers me when I think about it.
Fortunately, Seth Godin made one salient point that touched me in a positive way. Godin argues that American schools have one singular goal: to create a slightly educated, literate, 21st century factory worker.
A factory worker is a metaphor for anyone who works a job that lacks meaning, passion, and innovation. If you are an accountant or an underwriter who shows up to work and toils on behalf of a global corporation — never contributing new ideas to the marketplace and ceding your right to think on your own — you are a factory worker.
There’s something to be said for acknowledging the corruption and degradation of the American public (and private) school system. While religious zealots are arguing over curriculum in Texas, which sets the tone for all textbooks in America, we are ignoring the fact that kids lack the ability to do basic math and think critically.
This is why I was excited to see the SEED School featured on 60 Minutes. Have you heard about this school? From the CBS website,
- SEED is the nation’s first urban public boarding school.
- Ninety one percent of the students finish high school, and 95 percent go on to college.
- SEED’s goal is to prepare these children academically and socially for college and beyond. The students enter in sixth and seventh grade; 80 percent of them performing below grade level.
I was fascinated by the focus on social skills. The kids are taught to think for themselves, how to speak in public and share their ideas, and how to function as successful members of our society. Yes, you need to eat well. Yes, you need to present yourself in a professional way to champion your ideas. Yes, you need to go to bed at a decent time. Yes, you need to read for 45 minutes each night — in addition to your homework — because it’s important for you to be exposed to big ideas beyond Facebook and XBOX.
As a former recruiter, I was frustrated when a candidate would appear on my doorstep with a whiff of desperation and a lackluster set of critical thinking skills. Too scared to be honest with me because so much depends upon getting a job and paying off the consumer debt, these candidates would answer questions with fear, trepidation, and a lack of depth.
How can you be innovative when you’re too scared or too stupid to question the status quo? In this respect, I agree with Godin on his notion that public schools deliver nothing more than semi-enlightened factory workers to the modern day work environment.
Here’s hoping the SEED School helps to set the tone for the 21st century American worker and thinker. Not everyone will go to college and get a corporate job, but everyone should learn self-confidence, math, and how to question authority.