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PYP 068: Paul Scutt on Trusting Children and the Problem with Coercive Education

paul-scuttWhen you think of the school you went to, or the school your child goes to, do these words pop into mind?

  • fun
  • fascinating
  • exciting
  • nurturing
  • empowering
  • joyful
  • community
  • teamwork

For most people, not so much. Even those of us who “won” at school, who got good grades and participated in the resume-stuffing clubs and activities, mostly preferred the time we spent outside of the classroom, doing things and exploring ideas we found interesting.


For the other 95%, school is usually seen as a necessary evil. A place where people in authority can coerce your attention, restrict your movement (even to the point of telling you when you can and can't stand, sit, or go to the bathroom), evaluate you based on mysterious and arbitrary criteria, and force you to perform unpleasant activities under threat of present punishment and future ostracism.

Enter today's guest, Paul Scutt. Paul is a dear friend of mine from way back, and the gently fierce voice of contrarian wisdom when it comes to how children should learn. A co-founder of the Princeton Learning Cooperative, Paul believes that children can and should be trusted with their own education.

In today's conversation, wel look at the Alternatives to School movement. We cover:

  • the real goals of modern compulsory education
  • the problem with rewards and punishments
  • why learning content is often a waste of time, and what kids should be doing instead
  • why members of the Princeton Learning Cooperative are encouraged to try things and then quit
  • four important books by Seth Godin that inform the Alternatives to School Movement (The Dip, The Icarus Deception, Linchpin, and Stop Stealing Dreams)
  • how to tell if your child could benefit from leaving school and taking charge of their own education
  • examples of teenagers who quit school, got a real education, and are doing just fine in the real world
  • and more

Enjoy, comment, and please share.


The Princeton Learning Cooperative

Alternatives to School – philosophy and resources for self-directed learners

Liberated Learners, Inc. – umbrella organization to spread the self-directed learning movement worldwide

A few of Seth Godin's books relevant to this conversation:

The Dip (about the fine art of quitting, and why it's crucial to life success)

The Icarus Deception (about not letting ourselves fly high enough)

Linchpin (about approaching everything we do as an artist)

Stop Stealing Dreams – a free ebook about the need to reform education



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You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

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It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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