February 3, 2009

What School Is For Or: Why Arizona Needs Seth Godin

Seth Godin, author of Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow writes a fantastic blog that everyone should read daily - including the Arizona State Legislature. A couple of days ago, he outlined what he thought school is for. In his mind, the purpose of school is to (my favorites are bolded):
  1. Become an informed citizen
  2. Be able to read for pleasure
  3. Be trained in the rudimentary skills necessary for employment
  4. Do well on standardized tests
  5. Homogenize society, at least a bit
  6. Pasteurize out the dangerous ideas
  7. Give kids something to do while parents work
  8. Teach future citizens how to conform
  9. Teach future consumers how to desire
  10. Build a social fabric
  11. Create leaders who help us compete on a world stage
  12. Generate future scientists who will advance medicine and technology
  13. Learn for the sake of learning
  14. Help people become interesting and productive
  15. Defang the proletariat
  16. Establish a floor below which a typical person is unlikely to fall
  17. Find and celebrate prodigies, geniuses and the gifted
  18. Make sure kids learn to exercise, eat right and avoid common health problems
  19. Teach future citizens to obey authority
  20. Teach future employees to do the same
  21. Increase appreciation for art and culture
  22. Teach creativity and problem solving
  23. Minimize public spelling mistakes
  24. Increase emotional intelligence
  25. Decrease crime by teaching civics and ethics
  26. Increase understanding of a life well lived
This list was strikingly relevant to my life last week, because Arizona just approved a $275 million cut to its public schools - making much of the above list nearly impossible to achieve. Maybe we can bring Seth in to teach our lawmakers how to be a little more creative in their spending cuts so we don't completely throw away the future...

Remember when I got all bummed about the state of our state a few months ago? I was thinking about telling you, "I told you so," or writing an equally dreary follow-up, but Brian was kind enough to beat me to it. Here's a snippet from his Open Letter Governor Brewer and the Arizona State Legislature:

You believe that any tax is a bad tax and you laud your ability to cut, slash and refuse to pass any taxation. You tell us you are putting money back in our pockets. But the truth is you are simply stripping us of the services we want from our government. You tell us that we can choose private schools, home school or find the best education alternative for us and our children. What you do not tell us is that you are relegating our children to demonstrably inferior educational alternatives unless we are wealthy. We can not afford to live in a state which educates the children of the wealthy and relegates the rest to menial labor.

I’m not a socialist, or a liberal. I’m a businessman. I know what you do not and can not seem to understand. Prosperity is a result of investment. If you will not invest, you will not prosper. If you will not invest I will no longer invest in AZ either.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are things worth paying for. There are things worth sacrifice and, yes, even higher taxation. If our children, and our future are not worth that sacrifice what, I ask you, is?

That pretty much sums up what I would have said. Except for the "not a liberal" part.

"At the very time our nation is calling its universities to action... Arizona has gone in the opposite direction."
Dr. Micheal Crow (President, Arizona State University)


Anonymous said...

So the question is...what do we do now? Do we flee this state and it's antiquated laws and philosophies and old guard, wild, wild west bourgeoisie? Take our tax dollars to somewhere that they will be appreciated and put to a use we deem fit?
Or do we plan on leading a youth revolution in this state, running for all of its offices -- including city and school-board level -- and take back this place and shove it into the 21st century with us? The new parents and those soon to be new parents should be the ones rising up the most as it will be their children suffering the consequences.
So what do you say? Max revolution? Or max exodus?
(Honestly, i'm leaning towards exodus.)

Denny R said...

I fundamentally disagree with saying that it is the school's place or responsibility to do many of the things on that list. It is the family's job to do half that list or more. It is also the failure of the family to step up and do its job that has caused the government to need to and even have the opportunity to step in and do the parenting themselves through the public school system.

Aaron Stiner said...

Dear Sam,

Your post makes me want to cry. I just relandscaped my front yard and redid my kitchen. I invested in my home and I invest in my community. It saddens me that my child, and the children of all Arizonans, are suffering under our current state government. Sigh...thanks for depressing me buddy!

Btw, I can't believe you didn't indicate, "Defang the proletariat"
as one of your bolded favorites!

Tyler Hurst said...

All I want to know is...what's next? How do ordinary citizens combat this knowing our state is only going to get WORSE?

Ron Werner Jr said...


You and Sam need to both exodus to Oregon!


Lewis Cash said...

There are some things on that list that I (as an educator) take issue with; however, that is besides the point.

Why is this cut happening in AZ? In OR, our school's are getting cut because of the economic down turn. The state is simply not getting the revenue it thought it was going to get and therefor have to make cuts across its entire budget (our county's mental health department has already taken a 10% cut across the board). In this year alone, my district will have to cut between 3.5 and 7.5 million (bugetted) dollars. The current plan to make up for this lack of money is to leave currently open jobs vacant and fill with subs, cut some field trips and athletic events, and potentially cut 5 days from the end of the school year (all employees will lose those day's pay). While I think our district is doing the best it can in this situation, these cuts will no doubt have a HUGE impact on our students.

I'm not sure what the solution is.

(But I agree with Ron that you and Adam need to exodus up here... biking riding and snow boarding [respectively] happens in copious amounts.