Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Three)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 14 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at

100. Can anyone make music?

Ge Wang, a professor at Stanford and the creator of Smule, thinks so. The problem is that people have to get drunk in order to get over their fear enough to do karaoke.

Ge is dealing with this by making a series of apps for iPhones and other devices that make composing music not merely easy, but fearless.

He’s seen what happens when you take the pressure off and give people a fun way to create music (not play sheet music, which is a technical skill, but make music). “It’s like I tasted this great, wonderful food,” he says now, “and for some reason I’ve got this burning desire to say to other people: ‘If you tried this dish, I think you might really like it.’”

His take on music is dangerously close to the kind of dreaming I’m talking about. “It feels like we’re at a juncture where the future is maybe kind of in the past,” he says. “We can go back to a time where making music is really no big deal; it’s something everyone can do, and it’s fun.”

Who taught us that music was a big deal? That it was for a few? That it wasn’t fun?

It makes perfect sense that organized school would add rigor and structure and fear to the joy of making music. This is one more symptom of the very same problem: the thought that regimented music performers, in lockstep, ought to be the output of a school’s musical education program.

It’s essential that the school of the future teach music. The passion of seeing progress, the hard work of practice, the joy and fear of public performance—these are critical skills for our future.

It’s a mistake to be penny-wise and cut music programs, which are capable of delivering so much value. But it’s also a mistake to industrialize them.

As we’ve learned from Ben Zander (author and conductor), real music education involves teaching students how to hear and how to perform from the heart…not to conform to a rigorous process that ultimately leads to numbness, not love.

103. This is difficult to let go of

Those of us who have successfully navigated the industrial education system like it when people are well informed, when sentences are grammatically correct, and when our peers understand things like what electrons do and how the scientific method works.

Does the new economy demand that we give this up?

No. But applying ever more effort and rigor to ensure that every kid knows every fact is insane.

We’ve failed at that. We’ve failed miserably.

We set out to teach everyone everything, en masse, with embarrassingly bad results. All because we built the system on a foundation of compliance.

What if we gave up on our failed effort to teach facts? What if we put 80 percent of that effort into making huge progress in teaching every kid to care, to set goals, to engage, to speak intelligently, to plan, to make good decisions, and to lead?

If there’s one classroom of beaten-down kids who scored well on their PSATs due to drill and practice, and another class of motivated dreamers, engaged in projects they care about and addicted to learning on a regular basis, which class are you going to bet on?

If we can give kids the foundation to dream, they’ll figure out the grammar and the history the minute it helps them reach their goals and make a difference.

2 Responses to “Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Three)”

  1. The manifesto is right on in so many ways and I think it gives some great starting points.

    We need to be careful, however, that we don’t just create a new set of guidelines because we think WE know what people need. We should not, for example, be deciding that it’s important for people to become good decision makers or good leaders or anything, for that matter.

    Quite simply, people should become what they are meant to become. But of course as simple as that is, we’re about 180 degrees away from providing students with that opportunity.

    For this to happen students need authentic dreams – dreams that are theirs alone that have nothing to do with us.

    They’ll only be capable of having such authentic dreams once they’ve discovered (and developed) who they are. Then, those who are meant to become leaders (for example) will.

    I believe our job as adults (teachers or not) is to start offering that opportunity to our children.

  2. Anyone can make music and guess what else? Their music is valid on all levels. Christopher Small coined the term ‘musicking’ which essentially is the verb form of ‘making music’. He claims that years ago almost everyone made music, had an instrument in the house, or at very least sang for their or their family’s enjoyment. But somewhere along the way we moved toward the thinking that music was only for professionals, to be done in the sterile environment of a concert hall or worse, that only certain kinds or levels of music were valid.

    My partners and I adopted the idea of ‘musicking’ at The Dallas School of Music and took it one step further at Anyone can learn musical concepts if they are presented clearly and in logical order (as well as packaged and delivered in a format with which they have become accustom …online). This means that anyone interested in learning to play or learning to play better, can access quality information and even professional educators to help them along their way.

    Our passion is not to find the next Mozart – but to help enthusiasts and learners grasp musical concepts that allow them to enjoy music to the best of their ability. We know that most people dream to simply understand and enjoy playing music (rather than aspire to play Carnegie Hall) – and we’re here to help them reach that goal!

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