I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts on my hour long commute to work every day. One of my favourite series is the Tim Ferriss Show, because I get a lot of insight into my own academic practices from listening to these high performers from other domains. Earlier this week I listened to Tim interview Chris Sacca and Eric Weinstein. The quotes from the interviews that resonated with me are presented below (note: listening to a few minutes of audio is very different to transcribing and reading that audio…this took much longer than expected).
Chris Sacca on Shark Tank, Building Your Business, and Startup Mistakes:
Question: If you were to start your own school to educate youth, how would you do it? What would you concentrate on? How much would you pay the teachers? Is education the answer to the world’s problems?
Answer: Presuppose that you weren’t using schools to just train your kids to be “successful”. Think about how the purpose of education up to this point has always been: Do well in school and you can get into a great college. Get into a great college and you can get into a great grad school and then you can get a great job. And that has been the baseline underlying assumption for our education system for at least a generation now…probably two.
And yet, imagine if that weren’t the case. I was lucky. I went to one of the most competitive schools in the country. Among my peers were kids who went to all the fanciest boarding schools, all the best prep schools, all the best high schools. I went to a public high school. I went there with trepidation, assuming that I would get trampled by these kids. And, while their life experiences were certainly more diverse and exciting than mine because they had money to do all kinds of cool things, and they had AP classes that I didn’t necessarily have, spending time with them I realised that their world views were incredibly narrow. Most of them had never lived or worked among poor people. Most of them hadn’t actually volunteered. Most of them hadn’t had service jobs, tipping jobs. They hadn’t worked manual labour. The same went on when I worked out in Silicon Valley with top Harvard and Stanford grads at Google and beyond, all across the valley. The same kind of thing…I found people who were incredibly “successful” and yet had very uni-dimensional lives.
So, back to your question: if I were to start my own school…What if you started a school that pre-supposed the goal was: Happy kids. And I mean Happy with a capital H. Balanced. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Do-ers. What if their resume would never matter. Some of you have heard me say before, that the only people who care about your GPA are people who you’ve given no other basis to evaluate you.
What if, instead you wanted to build an education that fostered: Interesting. Understanding. Action. Experience. I don’t know what that school looks like but that’s how my wife, Crystelle and I have been approaching raising our three daughters. I’ve yet to see test scores correlate with happiness. I’ve yet to even see test scores correlate with Learning, with a capital L. So I don’t know what I would do to re-invent the education system or any particular school, but it’s certainly top of mind for me.
Eric Weinstein on Challenging “Reality,” Working with Peter Thiel, and Destroying Education to Save It:
Question: If you had to create a class for any grade level from 9th grade to the end of college, what would the class be and when would you teach it?
Answer: Part of the problem surrounds, where would I be allowed to teach this class? The first question is: Are you really allowed to deeply question your teacher, or your school?…What you’re always looking for, is an education that makes students unteachable by standard methods. And this is where we get into the trouble, which is…we don’t talk about teaching disabilities, we talk about learning disabilities. And a lot of the kids that I want are kids that have been labelled learning disabled but they’re actually super-learners.
They’re like learners on steroids that have some deficits to pay for their super-power. When teachers can’t deal with this, we label those kids “learning disabled” to cover up for the fact that the economics of teaching require that one central actor – the teacher – be able to lead a room of 20 or more people in lock step. Well, that’s not a good model.
What I want, is to get as many of my dangerous kids out of that idiom, whether it requires dropping out of high school, dropping out of college…not for no purpose. Drop into something. Start creating. Build it. Join a lab. Skip college.
Note: Eric Weinstein works at Thiel Capital, which is linked to the Thiel Foundation that provides a fellowship for students to drop out of college and work on projects they care about. So, his point about dropping out of, or skipping college, needs to be considered in that light.