We Can't Mass Produce Students

The Simple Solution to Education

by Seth Godin, from We Are All Weird: The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance

A different approach to education is almost impossible to conceptualize and seemingly impossible to execute.

The simple alternative to our broken system of education is to embrace the weird. To abandon normal. To acknowledge that our factories don’t need so many cogs, so many compliant workers, so many people willing to work cheap.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

It’s not easy because we can’t process weird. We can’t mass-produce students when we have to work with them one at a time or in like-minded groups. We can’t test these kids into compliance, and thus we can’t have a reliable, process-oriented factory mindset for the business of education.

No, it’s not easy at all.

When we consider whom we pay the most, whom we seek to hire, whom we applaud, follow, and emulate, these grown-ups are the outliers, the weird ones. Did they get here by being normal students in school and then magically transform themselves into Yo-Yo Ma or Richard Branson? Hardly.

The stories of so many outliers are remarkably familiar. They didn’t like the conformity forced on them by school. Struggled. Suffered. Survived. And now they’re revered.

What happens if our schools (and the people who run them and fund them) stop seeing the mass and start looking for the weird? What if they acknowledge that more compliance doesn’t make a better school, but merely makes one that’s easier to run?

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead, find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way.

See also: "How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century," by