aul Graham, a renowned entrepreneur, and co-founder of Y Combinator, has shared insightful perspectives on schools and education. Known for his influential essays, Graham has critiqued traditional educational systems, emphasizing the importance of self-directed learning and practical skills.

In his writings, he challenges conventional notions about the role of schools in fostering creativity and preparing individuals for real-world challenges.

Graham's views often advocate for a more flexible and personalized approach to education, highlighting the need for individuals to pursue their passions and interests outside the confines of traditional academic structures.

Much of the nonsense left in your head is left there by schools.

We're so used to schools that we unconsciously treat going to school as identical with learning, but in fact schools have all sorts of strange qualities that warp our ideas about learning and thinking.

For example, schools induce passivity. Since you were a small child, there was an authority at the front of the class telling all of you what you had to learn and then measuring whether you did.

But neither classes nor tests are intrinsic to learning; they're just artifacts of the way schools are usually designed.

The sooner you overcome this passivity, the better. If you're still in school, try thinking of your education as your project, and your teachers as working for you rather than vice versa.

That may seem a stretch, but it's not merely some weird thought experiment. It's the truth, economically, and in the best case it's the truth intellectually as well. The best teachers don't want to be your bosses.

They'd prefer it if you pushed ahead, using them as a source of advice, rather than being pulled by them through the material.

Schools also give you a misleading impression of what work is like. In school they tell you what the problems are, and they're almost always soluble using no more than you've been taught so far.

In real life you have to figure out what the problems are, and you often don't know if they're soluble at all.

But perhaps the worst thing schools do to you is train you to win by hacking the test. You can't do great work by doing that. You can't trick God. So stop looking for that kind of shortcut.

The way to beat the system is to focus on problems and solutions that others have overlooked, not to skimp on the work itself.

The educational systems in most countries pretend it's easy.

They expect you to commit to a field long before you could know what it's really like.

And as a result an ambitious person on an optimal trajectory will often read to the system as an instance of breakage.

It would be better if they at least admitted it — if they admitted that the system not only can't do much to help you figure out what to work on, but is designed on the assumption that you'll somehow magically guess as a teenager.

They don't tell you, but I will: when it comes to figuring out what to work on, you're on your own. Some people get lucky and do guess correctly, but the rest will find themselves scrambling diagonally across tracks laid down on the assumption that everyone does.

Feb 11, 2024
Alternate Learning

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