Seth Godin, a marketing guru, discusses his opinion about “what school is for” in this above video. Although this talk or Seth Godin are not directly related to medical education, this is still related to education and can still be applied to today’s medical education curriculum in many aspects.

Mr. Godin goes on to explain that school was modeled in the industrial age and has changed little ever since. The video covers such concepts as:

  • Standardized exams in the industrial age were used as a tool to sort students. The person who created the standardized exams later on came to believe that the standardized exams were too crude, but due to his new conclusions he was excluded from his field.
  • Teachers in the industrial age believed that school was about teaching obedience and respect.
  • The industrial revolution created products en mass, but also needed people who were educated on consuming these products in order to survive. Therefore, schools were also created to educate people (or make replicas of people) about these products.

Mr. Godin states that people are more inclined to do more if it’s art, but do less if it’s work. He also says that now we are more intrigued in interesting stuff, but schools are dissuading us from being creative. With the help of technology:

  • We are finding out new ways of learning so that we don’t depend so much on the person standing in front of a classroom giving a lecture.
  • We can read about what interests us
  • We can view lectures from experts
  • We can learn anything with the help of the internet.

HOW school should function

He then goes on to enumerate 8 things to answer what school is for, or better yet, how he thinks school SHOULD function:

Homework during the day, lectures at night

This sounds like the concept of “flipping the classroom” (similar toKhan’s Academy) where students watch lectures at night and come to school to work out problems during the day with their teachers.

Open book, open note all the time

“There is zero value memorizing anything ever again. Anything that is worth memorizing is worth looking up.” I’m not sure if I agree with this 100%, but it sounds similar to another quote by Albert Einstein about memorizing “Never memorize something you can look up.

Access any course, anywhere, anytime in the world when you want to take it

This is an example of asynchronous learning such as Coursera.

Precise focused education instead of mass batched stuff

I think this is one of the most important goals in medical education. Our education needs to be specific as to what is relevant when it comes to patient care. Information has exploded in the past few decades, but medical school still modeled as it was created 100 years ago when there was not as much information around.

  • No more multiple choice exams: According to Seth Godin these were made because they are easier to score, but now computers are smarter.
  • Measure experience, instead of test scores: “Experience is what we really care about”
  • Cooperation instead of isolation: Seth Godin states when we finish school we go out in the world to collaborate with others so we should value collaboration and not so much isolation.

Teachers will transform into coach(es)

Lifelong learning with work happening earlier in life.

Death of the “famous college”

Seth Godin puts emphasis on defining the “good colleges”, but he also states we don’t know what a good college is.

Teach students to create something interesting and ask if you need help.

Things we should not be telling students according to Mr. Godin:

  • Do not to deviate from the curriculum
  • Better, better, better, better comply
  • Do not ask questions I do not know the answers to
  • Do not figure it out
  • Do not look it up
  • Be like your peers

The concept is that the more the student deviates from the “standard” the more difficult it is for the teacher to process the student.

Seth Godin ends the video by busting two myths:

  1. Great performance in school lead to happiness and success. If that’s not true, we should stop telling ourselves it is.
  2. Great parents have kids who produce great performance in school. If that’s not true we should stop telling ourselves it is.

Mr. Godin states we don’t teach students to connect the dots, but rather to collect dots and memorize facts. He also declares that passion and insight are reality, while grades are an illusion. He returns to the question “what is school for?” and if we don’t know, then we should have a conversation about it.

I think this is an important talk by Seth Godin and we must find which points we can apply to improve our medical education. Which points from Mr. Godin’s talk do you think can be applied to improve medical education? Do you already know examples in medical education in which his points are already implemented? What is school for?

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Javier Benitez, MD

Javier Benitez, MD

ALiEM Featured Contributor
Javier Benitez, MD


Medical doctor, tweets not medical advice or endorsements. Interested in #MedEd & technology. Always learning. I'm no expert. No financial conflict of interest.
Javier Benitez, MD