Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

How best to avoid high school

Jerry Stratton, January 21, 2005

I have an editorial half-finished about the need for a free market in education. It will probably take several more months, if not longer, to finish. In the meantime, Paul Graham writes a lot about why the current system is mostly pointless and random.

The best parts of his speech are in the footnotes. Writing about why society fails high school students, he writes:

Why does society foul you? Indifference, mainly. There are simply no outside forces pushing high school to be good. The air traffic control system works because planes would crash otherwise. Businesses have to deliver because otherwise competitors would take their customers. But no planes crash if your school sucks, and it has no competitors. High school isn’t evil; it’s random; but random is pretty bad.

He basically recommends treating high school as a day job: something you have to do, that has arbitrary rules that don’t have to make sense. Something that is meant to teach them not to learn:

Your teachers are always telling you to behave like adults. I wonder if they’d like it if you did. You may be loud and disorganized, but you’re very docile compared to adults. If you actually started acting like adults, it would be just as if a bunch of adults had been transposed into your bodies. Imagine the reaction of an FBI agent or taxi driver or reporter to being told they had to ask permission to go the bathroom, and only one person could go at a time. To say nothing of the things you’re taught. If a bunch of actual adults suddenly found themselves trapped in high school, the first thing they’d do is form a union and renegotiate all the rules with the administration.

And finally, and more importantly, he also recommends finding interesting stuff to work on in your spare time, because that’s where your future will be found. Good stuff.

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