The purpose of school is to get kids out of the house so parents don’t need to take care of them. But we can’t talk about school that way because if we did, any school would be good enough. So if you want to market your school, you have to differentiate it by focusing on superficial stuff.

For example, we talk about how much money people spend per pupil, yet we know that spending more money doesn’t mean better learning. And now educators are admitting that their data was theoretical and not real and we actually have no idea what works in schools.

Recently I’ve been reading advertising for schools. And I’m struck by the absurdity of the ads. For example, this bus stop ad that says sending your kid to and from school with homework can become a godly endeavor (even if homework does destroy families.)

And the more I look at how schools advertise themselves, the more I see that differences between schools have little to do with education:

College prep
For parents who don’t take college for granted, thinking it’s hard to get into.

Team leadership opportunities
If your kid can’t make the public high school football team, send him here. We’ll make him team captain.

Values-based school
It’s about religion. And if there’s no hyphen after values, then it’s illiterate religion.

Academically rigorous
We charge parents a premium to make them feel like their money will get their kid into Harvard

Focus on arts and culture
We focus on kids who are failing out of school

Find out if this school is right for your child 
It’s not, because if you have to ask, you are too low an achiever

What each of these messages does is distract us from the kind of education that works: a self-directed education. If you have a kid who learns what he or she wants to learn, then it doesn’t matter what adults are around him.

The marketing messages of schools say the same thing: The adults are here to direct your child’s learning because if you are looking for a school, you must think your kids don’t know how to direct themselves.