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 can’t help thinking that Stop Stealing Dreams is his description of why homeschooling requires going through a dip, but he doesn’t 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 it’s true that homeschooling is going mainstream.
But I’m disturbed because I adore Seth, and his book, The Dip, really changed how I think about my life.
This moment in Seth’s career reminds me of when David Sedaris stopped being funny. Do you know who David Sedaris is? He’s 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. It’s 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 there’s not a lot to write about.
Melissa sent me a link to this ad for Mercedes. The ad blows me away because it’s full of creativity. There is the amazing idea for a non-emission car. Then there’s 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.
That’s how I felt when I read Seth’s earlier books. That’s how I felt when I read Sedaris’s early writing.
It’s very hard to be creative when you don’t need to be. Creativity requires a different kind of drive.
It’s this drive: Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who is in and out of mental institutions all the time, but she can’t stop creating art. Her art almost always has dots on it. She does the art because she can’t 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 they’d homeschool if they had more resources. Seth shows us that resources are not the barrier. Seth’s book is the rationale that parents with unlimited income use for not homeschooling.
It’s clear to me that the real reason Seth is not homeschooling is because he thinks he’d be bored doing it. He has bigger fish to fry. He thinks it’s 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. It’s just that I’m not willing to cave to it. I’m going the scary route: I’m 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 I’m giving my kids this education.
Do you know how David Sedaris started writing well again? He started writing about life as a rich person. Here’s a recent example in the New Yorker. It’s 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 don’t know what Seth’s next dip is, but I think it’s time for him to take one. I think the book about homeschooling is Seth’s admitting that he’s scared to do something new. He has too much to lose.
But you don’t 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 it’s clear that idea’s time has come.