Book Review: Stop Stealing Dreams

Stop Stealing Dreams coverI really hope this book catches on.

I really do.

To me, nothing Godin says is revolutionary. Of course schools inculcate obedience and trainability over all things. Duh.

Of course those skills don’t provide you with any job worth having. I would have thought this was obvious. You might get a job worth having if you get a degree– even one in skilled trades. If I had it to do again, I’d probably become a machinist. There’s always work for people who make things. Well, if you make what people need, that is.

But most degrees (I’m looking at you, liberal arts) don’t do much beyond prove that you can divine (at a higher level) precisely what your bosses want from you.

The Permanent Recession

Godin points out that J-O-Bs, the ones where you put in your time and produce what you’re told in exchange for a steady paycheck and a pension someday — those are gone for good.

The jobs where you’re totally interchangeable with anyone who’s desperate enough to put up with more for less pay? Those will always be with us, and that’s what schools are training kids for. It’s not their fault. It’s what they were designed for. Big industry needs burger flippers, you know. And anything that can be outsourced, will be. Apple is never coming back to the States. Don’t kid yourselves.

The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities, and a lot of change. What it’s not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corneroffice, follow-the-manual middle-class jobs. And it’s not going to.

Godin reiterates what he’s been saying for years: The only jobs that are left are for linchpins and artists. It’s up to you to put yourself in that category.

The Role Of Schools

I could see all of what he talks about in my own schooling, and I hated it even then. The school system was dedicated to taking me, a kid who loved to learn above all else, who was interested, and motivated and bright, dismantling me and remaking me into an automaton. Just like everybody else.

There’s a societal argument to make as well. All of us are losing out because we’ve done such a good job of persuading our future generations not to dream.

And there’s a moral argument, too. How dare we do this, on a large scale? How dare we tell people that they aren’t talented enough, musical enough, gifted enough, charismatic enough, or well-born enough to lead?

How dare we? We’re not really daring at all. We’re huddling at the back of the cave, trying to stay out of the searing light.

We Need To Start Over

Because we fear change. We fear having to make our own way. A little while back I inarticulately ranted about how pissed off I was that my generation simply whined about how “betrayed” they felt because they followed all the rules and yet didn’t get the reward they were promised. Godin says it better than me. This is from chapter 35:

Greatness is frightening. With it comes responsibility.

If you can deny your talents, if you can conceal them from others or, even better, persuade yourself that they weren’t even given to you, you’re off the hook.

And being off the hook is a key element of the industrialized school’s promise. It lets parents off the hook, certainly, since the institution takes over the teaching. It lets teachers off the hook, since the curriculum is preordained and the results are tested. And it lets students off the hook, because the road is clearly marked and the map is handed to everyone.

If you stay on the path, do your college applications through the guidance office and your job hunting at the placement office, the future is not your fault.

That’s the refrain we hear often from frustrated job seekers, frustrated workers with stuck careers, and frustrated students in too much debt. “I did what they told me to do and now I’m stuck and it’s not my fault.”

What they’ve exchanged for that deniability is their dreams, their chance for greatness. To go off the path is to claim responsibility for what happens next.

Yes. This.

And also this:

The economy demands that we pick ourselves. School teaches us otherwise.

You should read this book. It’s free. It’s important. Regardless of whether you have children or not, Godin paints a very vivid picture of where the world is going. That’d be nice to know, wouldn’t it?


7 thoughts on “Book Review: Stop Stealing Dreams”

  1. “The school system was dedicated to taking me, a kid who loved
    to learn above all else, who was interested, and motivated and bright,
    dismantling me and remaking me into an automaton. Just like everybody
    else.”I remember the tiny handful of teachers I had who didn’t. I know I was marvelously fortunate to have those few who bucked the system and encouraged learning over obedience.Our daughter is not in traditional school. I’ll pit her common sense and ability to learn against any adult, and I’ll be she comes out ahead 99% of the time.

    1. I didn’t have one of those teachers until I was in high school. Luckily, my mom went to bat for me relentlessly. Otherwise, who knows? I might be a little bobble-head doll right now. 

  2. This is so so true!!  Our son is at an AMI Montessori school and this education system has completely changed my perspective on what I want for my kids!  We sent him initially only because it was a nice, safe environment with caring teachers, I didn’t know anything about Montessori, nor was I that bothered!  But the more I hear about it the more it makes COMPLETE sense, from a neurological, social and personal perspective. I keep thinking “Wow – if I’d gone to a school like that then I’d probably have LOVED my schooling experience!”I’m now extremely passionate – bordering on obsessive about the whole Montessori thing, but you know what – for anyone who’s interested in releasing the true potential of their kids you HAVE to look into it! 😉

    1. Yes, I’ve heard good things about Montessori schools. But ultimately I think you can get by just teaching your kids that authority is not the be-all and end-all. That they have agency and can forge change too.

      For instance, in the last week, I’ve been coaching a handful of people on entrepreneurship. They’ve read books, but they don’t really know where to start. I’ve been involved in entrepreneurship since I was 10 years old. My parents taught me that it was the only way to really be in control of my life.

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