My review of Seth Godinís new book, Stop Stealing Dreams
Source: Penelope Trunk Blog
March 12, 2012
Seth Godin just published an e-book about education called Stop Stealing Dreams. He talks about how schools stink, but that even though homeschooling appears to be a rational response to terrible schools, homeschooling is inefficient and unrealistic for most parents.
When I first saw this, I was stunned. Seth has built a career on telling people how to push past the status quo. In his book The Dip, which is my favorite, Seth taught us all how to do something really difficult. In his book Linchpin, Seth asked us if we are doing something that really matters or just talking about it.
I canít help thinking that Stop Stealing Dreams is his description of why homeschooling requires going through a dip, but he doesnít want to do it. So instead of being a linchpin for homeschooing, Seth will be a naysayer. Seth is advocating the status quo: Lame-duck parent activists who delude themselves that their activism is meaningful. And people advocating for large-scale school reform without any blueprint whatsoever for how to educate such a wide range of students on such a large scale. This discussion is parental escapism. No parent, not even Seth, will solve the school problem before their kids are out of school.
Seth has kids. This book is his justification for not homeschooling his own kids.
On the one hand, I like this because I know that if Seth feels like he has to justify it, then itís true that homeschooling is going mainstream.
But Iím disturbed because I adore Seth, and his book, The Dip, really changed how I think about my life.
This moment in Sethís career reminds me of when David Sedaris stopped being funny. Do you know who David Sedaris is? Heís an essay writer who is absolutely hilarious. His earlier writing, such as Naked, is about being an outsider: He was a not-famous writer, from a wacky family, and gay. Itís great material.
But then Sedaris got famous, his funny gay essays went mainstream, and he became one of the richest essayists in history, living in the South of France with his partner, and everything is great and thereís not a lot to write about.
Melissa sent me a link to this ad for Mercedes. The ad blows me away because itís full of creativity. There is the amazing idea for a non-emission car. Then thereís the idea of how to convey that car visually, in an ad. And then there is the video editor who created a really fun story. Watching the ad is fun because you feel that you are part of a huge creative blast of energy.
Thatís how I felt when I read Sethís earlier books. Thatís how I felt when I read Sedarisís early writing.
Itís very hard to be creative when you donít need to be. Creativity requires a different kind of drive.
Itís this drive: Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who is in and out of mental institutions all the time, but she canít stop creating art. Her art almost always has dots on it. She does the art because she canít stop.
Seth has done one really big thing for the homeschooling movement: he has focused our attention on the real barrier, which is the ego.
So many parents say theyíd homeschool if they had more resources. Seth shows us that resources are not the barrier. Sethís book is the rationale that parents with unlimited income use for not homeschooling.
Itís clear to me that the real reason Seth is not homeschooling is because he thinks heíd be bored doing it. He has bigger fish to fry. He thinks itís inefficient to spend his days educating his kids when he has such big ideas, and such a big audience waiting to hear them.
I get it. I have that problem, too. Itís just that Iím not willing to cave to it. Iím going the scary route: Iím taking the dip. I know that schools suck. I know that kids are best educated in a way that is customized to the student. And I know that my career is going to suffer because Iím giving my kids this education.
Do you know how David Sedaris started writing well again? He started writing about life as a rich person. Hereís a recent example in the New Yorker. Itís good writing. I felt good reading it. And I felt happy that Sedaris was able to shift himself to accommodate the issues he faced.
I am hoping Seth will be like David Sedaris and Seth will find something better to do than tell people why they should push for maintaining the status quo. I donít know what Sethís next dip is, but I think itís time for him to take one. I think the book about homeschooling is Sethís admitting that heís scared to do something new. He has too much to lose.
But you donít need to be as rich and successful as Seth to feel that way. Each of us feels that way when we are going to do something difficult.
And, in the meantime, Seth makes the best argument for homeschooling yet: Smart people only argue against an idea when itís clear that ideaís time has come.