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School is for Fools: 10 Reasons the Education System is a Failure

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school is for foolsThe education system is in shambles, and it has been for quite some time now.

This is not weird. Old things break or go obsolete all the time. Why should this be any different?

What’s weird is that people, at large, still maintain an unshakable faith in the virtue and validity of public education.

This is the first entry of an article series about education and self-education.

The Education is Important; Schooling is Not

Education is important and will only get increasingly important.

Schooling (public education and indoctrination) is just plain bad. It is the remnant of a system rendered obsolete several decades ago.

Schooling used to serve a purpose—like the appendix inside the human body—but now it’s only harmful to the  success of the individual.

Many aspects of public education are problematic. For example, the usefulness of the grading system is debatable. It disincentives creative and lopsided performance (which are the hallmarks of success in the real world).

And, many times the grading system is just plain wrong. . .

Like When George Orwell’s Writing Didn’t Qualify for the “High Standards” of Academia

It’s a funny story.

You know Michael Crichton? He’s the guy who wrote Jurassic Park (the book), among other things. He was damn smart. Unfortunately he’s dead now.

Crichton started writing early in life. He displayed talent from the get-go and was able to support himself through Med school by writing short stories under pen names.

.
When he was 18 years old he took an English writing class at Harvard, where he was given a C- on a paper. Which confused him, because he felt this paper was one of the best he’d ever written.

Not only did the C- anger Crichton, but he really, seriously, believed that his teacher was incompetent and unable to think for himself, outside of the grading criteria. To test if this hypothesis was correct, Crichton decided to do something risky: he submitted a well-known essay written by George Orwell. . . under his own name!

This was 100% plagiarism—Crichton copied the essay word for word, and if he was found out he would be EXPELLED from Harvard.

When the time came for the grading of this new essay he was given a B-.

It turns out George Orwell’s writing wasn’t good enough to make the cut.

That makes you wonder: what does cut it?

What the hell are you supposed to do to get an A?

Crichton was really confused now.

I can relate to that, because I too felt confused many times during my school years.

. . . starting with when I was a kid, and there weren’t even grades to think about!

8-Year Old Ludvig Gets “Put Into His Place”

When I was in second grade I had a friendly competition with a classmate. We competed over who could solve the most math problems each week.

Our class had like 60 kids in it (consisting of 3 age cohorts, aged 7-9) and for some reason, me and my friend were the only ones who were any good at math.

In our first year (age 7-8) we progressed to doing math books for kids who were 10 years old.

One day, I teased my friend for being slow because I was 10 pages ahead of him. My friend said that he didn’t care, “because he was still years before everyone else.”

Our math teacher happened to be nearby when he said this, and she went fucking CRAZY (I don’t know why, no one else cared).

She made a huge scene and embarrassed us in front of the whole class.

“So, you think you’re smart just because you are doing math of people older than your cohort, huh!?”

“How would you like it if I took away your books–huh!? You wouldn’t like that very much, would you know?

We got really scared and pleaded: “No, please don’t take away our books!”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought!”

“I really should take away your books–that’s serves braggarts such as yourself right, puts you in your place. But I will let you keep them if you apologize to everyone else in the class for bragging and hurting their feelings!”

My interest in math almost died there.

[14 years later and I’m at the finish line of my school years when. . .]

A Passive-Aggressive University Thesis Adviser Tries to Stop 22-Year Old Ludvig from Getting an Auspicious Start to His Marketing Career

When I did my thesis project I had to battle a semi-hostile academic overseer.

We had conflicting incentives:

I wanted to learn useful stuff, acquire valuable business contacts, and get the best entry-level marketing job possible.

My handler wanted my thesis to conform to “academic standards”(to be written in a quasi-academic style by citing people who wank off in armchairs for a living) and—of course—to be as easy to grade as possible.

This made me angry, because I had put a shitload of effort into getting a tailor-made thesis assignment for a top-notch marketing company, which turned out to be a success, no thanks to my university.

I took more initiative than all of my class combined and I felt I should be rewarded for it. The least the university could do was to stand out of my way. Instead they put up obstacles.

I guess they don’t want students to get jobs.

My handler wasn’t supportive at all. If anything, she was trying to sabotage the start of my career.

Looking back on this now, I don’t care at all. But as I reflect on the situation, it really highlights one of the big underlying problems with university. . .

The “Institutionalization of Knowledge” and its Problems

University is supposed to be a final checkpoint towards work-life: it’s meant to train and empower young people into getting the jobs they want; not to recruit them into the ranks of academia.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened (and always happens when something becomes institutionalized).

Like big government, the interest of university is no longer primarily in serving the people–which is why it was created–but in serving itself, and making sure the machine “stays alive,” with its cogs turning.

One of the major ways universities do this is by forcing students to waste their time writing theses (that no one reads or cares about). 1

This is a Really Shitty Final Rite of Passage Before Entering Work-Life

We need a new one that is adapted for the 21st century!

Why force boring and non-value-adding activities on those who don’t want to join the “institution of knowledge”?

University is now strongly mismatched to the demand of the job market.

College and uni might be a good place for finding yourself, but it’s not a good place to find a job.

Like My Friend Kyle Eschenroeder Wrote a Few Years Ago:

“You go to college to figure out what you want to do, what you like. Going into college I was mainly interested in three things: Libertarian ideas, trading, and making movies. Graduating, those are still the most interesting things to me and none have been enhanced by my college career. In fact, I’m an economics major and my ability to grasp what’s happening in the world is almost totally thanks to the internet and a willingness to read, not their bullshit textbooks.

My Economics degree is like my SAT score, people can look at it and say, “well he jumped through those hoops well”. More and more companies, especially ones worth working for, are looking at what you can do, what you’ve actually created.”

I graduated with a master’s degree in business—and guess what?

–I’ll never have any use for it!

Why?

Because initiative beats “jumping through the hoops” every day of the week.

Now, let me tell you…

10 Reasons Why the School System is a Failure

  1. The School System Was Created for the 18th Century
  2. School Teaches You to Fit in…to an Obsolete Economy!
  3. School Turns You Into a Sissy Conformist
  4. School Breaks Down Most People’s Will to Learn
  5. School Does Nothing to Cultivate Self-Knowledge
  6. School Makes Otherwise Independent People into Co-dependent Peons
  7. School is Full of Propaganda
  8. School Does Not Teach You How to Think Properly and Develop Your Own Style Through Synthesis
  9. School Inculcates You with a Sense of Baseless Certainty That You Base on “False Knowledge”
  10. School Imposes a Bunch of Fake Rules on You That Handicap You for the Real World

Starting with reason #1…

Reason #1: The School System Was Created for the 18th Century!

It’s hard to pin down when and where public education started, but the first time public education was cohesively organized to fit the needs of an entire country in a successful way, was in Prussia under Frederick the Great ca 1750.

To entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master.

Frederick the Great

Frederick’s Education System in Prussia:

Frederick turned Prussia into a socialist state with planned economy. The country was so bureaucratic that women had to register the exact date of each month’s period to the state. 2

The purpose of Prussia’s public education was to train citizens into the jobs its government decided was important for the future of the country.

Remember, this was a planned economy (not a free market) and:

  1. The economy, at that time, was simple enough 3 plus,
  2. Prussia’s population was small enough for a bunch of highly intelligent people to “plan ahead”. Frederick and his administrators could make reasonably accurate projections and decide that “we need so-and-so many workers for this and that role”.

Napoleon’s Education System in France:

50-something years later, Napoleon noticed how successful Frederick’s education system had been and decided to copy it for France, with some minor adjustments.

For example, Napoleon wanted his education system to:

  1. Train competent personnel (military leaders, scientists, and engineers) for his army and administration.
  2. Indoctrinate citizens into obedience and patriotism (and wrest power from the Christian church to the state).

Like Frederick, his system was also a massive success—for its intended purposes. The skill with which Napoleon’s engineers built bridges, moats, and other combative structures was unparalleled at its time.

The Western World’s Education System:

After noticing the obvious success of Prussia and France, much due to their education systems, the rest of the western world eventually copied their approach, with minor adjustments of their own.

This change took place during the early stages of industrialism, and so the biggest difference between the Prussian and French educational systems and the western education systems had to do with training the population for new stuff like:

  • Factory work
  • Managerial work (outside of public administration)
  • Scientific inquiry (the origins of the STEM fields)

The greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention.

Alfred Whitehead.

Off the top of your head, you probably will instinctively think most about managerial work and scientific inquiry. But those areas received maybe 10 % focus each, whereas training people into factory workers received around 80 % of the focus.

Why? Because factory work was by far the most important thing to the economy at the time, and it does not come about naturally.

Accordingly, lots of public education had to do with what we now call schooling (disciplining and indoctrinating) people into obedient and reliable factory workers.

You know, stuff like…

Sitting in straight rows, raising your hand before you address the teacher, asking for permission to do XYZ. Following the rules.

And so, here we are today!

Reason #2: School Teaches You to Fit in…to an Obsolete Economy!

See public education for what it is: a system for training as many people as possible into professions reasonably projected into the future.

It worked pretty darn well for Frederick the Great and Napoleon. It also worked for many western countries during the industrialization (although it may not have been the most enjoyable experience).

Today it does not work well, because the world is changing so much faster than before. The Internet, AI, robotics and such things are rendering many industries obsolete. The school system can’t keep up.

How can you project what jobs to train workers for one generation from now if you can’t even project what will happen in many industries 5 years from now?

School today is great if you want to be, E.G a:

  • Retail clerk or a cashier
  • Truck driver
  • Doctor or nurse
  • Janitor or property manager
  • A gazillion types of office workers, administrative agents, number counters, or middle managers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly interested in holding down one of those jobs.

I have no faith in the system so I work hard to create my own systems.

Reason #3: School Turns You Into a Sissy Conformist

—Too bad nearly all winners are contrarian in one way or another!

Sissy conformists have to do what they’re told. They have to obey the leader and ask for permission to go to bathroom. They have to watch stupid TV shows and memorize American Idol names to keep up with the recent happenings of popular culture.

It’s nothing short of intellectual prostitution to corrupt your Dunbar’s Number to fit in, and in doing so living in a collective hyperreality, instead of choosing to create your own reality.

Sissy conformists don’t get to set the pace or the trajectory for the projects they work on. The slowest member of the group “decides” that. The chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

sissy conformists slowest member of the group sets the pace

In real life, winners are those who dare to do interesting stuff that stands out and runs contrary to popular opinion.

In school, winners have to carry the losers, and for the winner to get his superior ideas picked he has to rely on the consensus decision of the group, rather than the merit of the idea.

[Also read: 10 Ways to Be Different and Profit from Contrast.]

Reason #4: School Breaks Down Most People’s Will to Learn

School is jail for children, adolescence, and young adults.

—A prison of the mind.

The man with the world’s hardest name—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—put it exactly how it is in his book Flow:

Many people give up on learning after they leave school because thirteen or twenty years of extrinsically motivated education is still a source of unpleasant memories.

This ALMOST happened to me!

I thought I didn’t like to learn stuff until I was 20. Then I realized that being an A-student in school has little to do with enjoying the learning process or achieving real-world success. That’s when I took matters into my own hands and decided it would be my way or the highway. Best decision I ever made.

The trick is to create your own framework of learning and pound in the knowledge on your own terms. You’ll love it once you learn it.

Reason #5: School Does Nothing to Cultivate Self-Knowledge

Education is either for domestication or for freedom.

Joao Coutinho

In a recent episode of 25 Minuter, my podcast with Mikael Syding, we said that metacognition is the single most common trait that successful people have in common.

This has been agreed upon by wise men for millennia—dating back to Ancient Greece. The purpose of education is to bring about self-knowledge.

School does nothing to teach or incentivize metacognition or self-knowledge. And why should it? That’s not what it was made for. Never was!

The closest you get is assignments having to do with “analysis” or “critical appraisal” of some subject. But—at least in my experience—that’s just for show. Whenever I seriously scrutinized anything I always got lower grades, like Crichton. (But I often did it anyway because I couldn’t help it.) 4

Anyway, it makes sense that things are this way. The industrialists of the 19th century didn’t want independent-minded thinkers; they wanted reliable managers and precise workers. The school system is still built to churn out people like that—people who know how to compute, but not how to think.

People with high metacognition—the sort who, over time, develop a strong self-knowledge—tend to succeed in spite of their schooling; not because of it.

Reason #6: School Makes Even Independent People into Co-dependent Peons

Like the bed of Procrustes, you’re forced to fit in whether you want to or not.

But a better question is: Do you even want to fit in? With those people?

Haha!

Only losers and weaklings have to fit in.

The strong make their own way in life. You don’t need to make a detailed study of the Savannah to understand that you want to be the apex predator.

Humans are animals too—we just wear suits and skirts to work.

One of the most common rationalizations you hear from people who have been brainwashed by the system to believe in the infallibility of public education, is that “school teaches you how to work in a group and accept other people who are different than you. It’s important to work in a group.”

They are also quick to tell you, “teamwork is the glue that binds organizations together!

–Yeah, maybe.

But a better question is: Do you want to live like that?

Do you want to work with people who are so much different from you that you have to waste precious hours during your biological prime time, pleading with them to make progress?

People work well in different settings. Some people work 10x more effectively alone. Do you?

I can’t answer that for you—and neither can school.

It takes self-knowledge.

Reason #7: School is Full of Propaganda

And it has to be that way.

(. . .At least in the western world—how else will you maintain a democracy?)

You cannot get through the density of the propaganda with which the American people, through the dreaded media, have been filled and the horrible public educational system we have for the average person. It’s just grotesque.

Gore Vidal

It’s different for each country. In Sweden the propaganda is based on outdated socialist ideology (the sort that prompts math teachers to go into rage and threaten to take away 8-year olds’ math books if they use it too much).

In the real world, it is very hard to succeed when you have this sort of mental dysfunction, because it is at odds with reality.

It’s like taking perfectly intelligent kids and making them mentally handicapped. Then they have to undo this damage themselves. If they can.

Another example is in the U.S, where many schools are not allowed to teach about evolution or abortion, because crazy Christians prohibit it.

Reason #8: School Does Not Teach You How to Think Properly and Develop Your Own Style Through Synthesis

In the martial arts world there is a long-standing conflict between the different styles: which style is the “best” one?

–The same goes for acting methods.

There are now acting studios where students are “taught” how to act. Many practitioners, with real-world success under their belt, like David Mamet, believe that acting studios do more harm than they do good.

Maybe you have seen the TV show Actor’s Studio, where James Lipton interviews people who are successful in the movie industry?

In the audience of that show there are hundreds of acting students, all looking at the famous guest with deep admiration, as though the person is a metaphysical guru who inhabits “the secret to acting”.

Little do the members of the audience know that they’re probably about as good actors as the celebrity up on stage is, only that they lack the level of breadth and comprehensivism that the celebrity has.

The celebrity typically knows 10 other skills than just acting–such as promotion, business, networking, public speaking, etc, etc.

The celebrity’s success does not rely solely on his or her acting skills.

Again, the same goes for martial arts. . .

In the martial arts world we now know that MMA is superior to any and all other martial arts (if you can call MMA “a martial art”).

Even if the rules changed, some new type of MMA would still prevail. Why? Because it’s not just one style; it’s the practice of putting many styles together into a unique synthesis that fits the individual fighter.

–And that’s how you become successful at anything in life. Not just fighting.

You have to develop your own style in life by gaining experience and studying other fields than the one you’re in.

You can’t just rely on one thing. Your co-dependence will make you as uninformed and unsuccessful as those audience members.

Reason #9: School Inculcates You with a Sense of Baseless Certainty That You Base on “False Knowledge”

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Yogi Berra

The memorization of “facts” probably makes up something like 80% of public education. This aspect of public education does more harm than it does good to a person’s long-term cognitive development. Because…

It can lead to 3 common types of cognitive handicaps:

  1. The mistaken notion that you can fit reality into neat boxes pertaining to specific academic disciplines.
  2. A deeply rooted confirmation bias regarding “facts” and “certitudes” of life and business (that turn out to be mistaken or outdated assumptions) which may never be successfully uprooted and overturned.
  3. Conditioning of unsuitable mental practices that may be convenient in the classroom, but that are typically useless, irrelevant, and—sometimes—even harmful in real life.

Any and all three of the above cognitive handicaps breed a sense of “false certainty” whereby you feel more confident in your abilities and understanding of the world than you deserve to. 5

This “false certainty” is especially rampant among students of (macro)economics, liberal arts, political science, and similar areas–where there are few (if any) real-world litmus tests to test performance against.

You can get into of all sorts of trouble—not least financial—by overestimating your own skill and underestimating the risks involved in what you’re doing. Like Bernanke did.

Reason #9b): School Conditions You into Having an Unhealthy and Irrational Fear of the Unknown

Which student wants to be caught by the teacher not knowing the answer to the question?

No one dares to say, “I don’t know, but if you give me a day I will have the answer for you by tomorrow!”

Public education tricks you into “false certainty” from thinking that everything is knowable or quantifiable.

Worse still: that it’s actually worth investing the time to know or quantify every parameter before being able to make a decision!

(As if time was not your most important resource.)

In the real world, it’s more important to take action and get movin’ than it is to be 100% certain. Momentum matters greatly.

In the real world it’s typically more important to know the limits of your knowledge–(1) what you don’t know, and (2) the certainty with which you believe your idea to be correct–than it is to have memorized some quirky-sounding formula or a bunch of “facts”.

Reason #10: School Imposes a Bunch of Fake Rules on You That Don’t Exist in the Real World

In school you’re not allowed to work the way you want. You have to sit by your desk and do it like the textbook says.

In school you can’t think and say what you want. You might hurt the feelings of the dullards, the immigrants or the [insert other group of currently downtrodden people].

You know what they call taking initiative and being creative in school?

Cheating!

In the real world, you can “cheat” as much as you want.

You just do what you want, learn what you want, rely on your judgment, make decisions under uncertainty, and take responsibility for your actions.

The rules are, there are no rules.

–Aristotle Onassis

What could be simpler?

The end.

 


Additional resources to complement with:


If you are into hardcore self-education & want to create your own way of learning:

Don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Commonplace System

 

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  1. This is one of those mindless, obsolete, traditions that must be altered or removed from the new education system.

  2. so that it would be easier to reliably keep track of child births and such things..

  3. technology disruption wasn’t changing the world every few years…

  4. The only exception to this that I can think of was my Swedish and English teacher during high school. He was the sort of natural teacher who could make his students interested in anything, and genuinely encouraged students to be open-minded and reflective.

  5. you often see it in university graduates (of different titles) who feel entitled to such-and-such a salary for having—as Kyle eloquently put it—”jumped through the hoops”.

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Comments

  1. Was just about to provide several counterexamples from my experiences as a first year undergrad at Stanford until I read the very end when you mentioned “elite schools.” Although I have to admit my high school experience had many characteristics that you describe (and I even went to an “elite” high school!).

    Looking forward to the next article!

    • Elite schools — nice!

      Would be interesting to hear more about your experience with that, relative to other people you’ve met, and how your education + classmates seem to be differ.

    • I am of the opinion that any negative experience is a learning experience. All the negative parts of schooling are just a reflection of the way humans are deep down. That is never going to change and you will encounter the same types of deffects in other areas of your life, whether work, play or interpersonal relations… Human nature is the way it is…

      With any experience, you always need to take the mindset of “what can I learn from it”…

  2. You say people with high metacognition become successful despite their education. So you mean that a person who later gets famous and successful at business doesn’t become that way because he/she has a prestigious degree but because of self-knowledge in general, which improves trial-and-error in business? Also, what about the network one might gain from a prestigious degree?

    • The network you gain from a degree often lacks breadeth. Those people followed the exact formula, provided through their education, and there are high chances that thinking for themselves is difficult, or impossible.

      Why not build your network through trade groups, conferences, submitting work to people and becoming interested in people? This way you will find more self-aware people who have the drive to forge their own path.

      ( I have done this through the Internet. Though there is much untapped potential in the “real world” if I could finance visiting conferences and events.)

      Yes, a degree can be used stregiclly for fastrackjng yourself into a network. The question: Is that network based in quality or quantity? Are those relationships, at their core, beneficial?

      Your answer depends in what you seek from your network.

  3. Macrowiz says:

    Please explain and expand what you mean here when you say this:

    “This is a Really Shitty Final Rite of Passage
    We need a new one which is appropriate for the 21st century.”

  4. Vojtech says:

    Hey Ludvig! Never knew the origin of the schooling system, as you explained it in historical context makes more sense. Thank you!

    1) Studying political sience I see it as a biggest curse and blessing together. You are right, I was forced at my uni to memorize outdated theories, have never been taught anything (almost, kid you not) with practical value (in the real world it always worked differently as I saw later) and spent hours to be trained as a well-fitting academian.

    2) , 3) I realize the insignificance of the schooling system after my 2nd year,. I finished the bachelor and got out of there to the real world. If something UNI taught me is , what doesn´t work. That was the blessing. Rigid, conformist systems produce fragility. That is why most of my peers can´t get the job after completing masters in political science. Learning what doesnt work and you don´t want was great lesson.

    Metacognition: The fact is also, that I could do much more in the school in terms of being contrarian, seeking the like-minded individuals and max the value for myself.

    Q: In further series , it would ineterest me to know:

    – your tips on how to maximize the value from the not-so-effective school system
    – would you advice yourself to go to the university again and what would be criteria for choosing an institution

    • “Rigid, conformist systems produce fragility. ”

      –Can you elaborate?

      I will (hopefully) answer both your questions in the next article.

      • The easiest way for you to understand that is to buy a copy of “The Black Swan” and “Antifragile” by Nicholas Nassim Taleb. I think.

      • Vojtech says:

        True, it´s derived from Taleb.

        By saying Schooling system is fragile I meant it hates randomness and volatility. Example would be your Thesis choice which didn´t conform to academic standards. Teacher didn´t like your initiative. What if everyone would start doing that? More work, change of the thesis grading policy, etc.

        Instead to expose students to the real world problems, the system often goes with fake security – learning not very useful skills, which are easily graded, having rigid rules on how the seminar papers should look like etc.

        Then the fragility is transferred to the graduates who come to the job market with unadequate skillset and unprepared to life..

        Experienced type of knowledge is antifragile = small mistakes are acceptable, learning by trial-and-error, avoiding big losses
        Institutionalized academia knowledge is fragile = small mistakes are punished, big mistakes aka loosing later in job market are hidden traps

        Hope I managed to clear myself, it´s definitely not this white/black dichotomy but Antifragile is good concept to look at the different systems based on their relationship with error and randomness.

  5. How could you get into a business school / good university if you didn’t have good grades?
    I find it fishy.

  6. Alexander S says:

    Taking education in your own hands is essential to having any kind of personal success, no doubt about it.

    In the engineering department at my school there is a phrase commonly repeated: “you will have employers knocking on your door after graduation!”. This is only potentially true…

    Many of the students here don’t really learn anything apart from what’s in the curriculum. They do what’s required of them in school yet still believe they will get a well-paying and interesting job after graduation. Not going to happen, unless they start spending their free time on personal projects and such instead of wasting all their time on DotA 2 and TV shows.

    I’m in computer science/engineering. If you want to be successful in this field, taking initiative is absolutely vital. Have a personal website. Have a portfolio on GitHub to where you upload your programming projects. Learn things not in the curriculum: machine learning; scientific computing and data analysis; the interlap between statistics and programming; app development; and so on—useful skills.

    I’ve only touched on the technological aspect so far. Education is manifold. It does not matter how interesting your work is if you are clueless in other areas:

    * Eat well and lift, or else you’ll be low on testosterone and gain less respect in the eyes of your peers.

    * Pick up a book instead of a newspaper, or else you’ll stand convinced by leftist media that daddy government wishes the best for you and that unregulated immigration is a great idea.

    * Learn about male-female sexual dynamics and the current state of the world in this regard, don’t live blissfully blind to the fact that you as a man don’t have any reproductive rights whatsoever, or else you’ll be left paying child support and alimony to the mother of your children (whom you are not allowed to see more than once a month). Good luck getting out of that if you’re not already rich.

    * Study at least some psychology and philosophy to facilitate metacognition.

    Also, as you often repeat, study history, and read SGM ;)

    Great one, Ludvig. Excuse my somewhat incoherent rant and potential typos, I’m on my mobile.

    • Really good comment, Alex. Thank you. Not incoherent, lots of useful advice!

      • Alexander S says:

        Insightful comment and all, thanks! Oh and by the way, could you edit the “live blissfully blind” to say “don’t live blissfully blind” instead, so that the comment is not confusing to future readers? If you have the time, of course.

        Also, interesting about the history of schooling. I didn’t know that the concept of universities was that “new”.

    • Alexander, great comment mate. Good to see a real programmer for once. Getting MinGW GCC to compile was one of the hardest things ever, I take it as a C dev you’re using Linux/Unix/Mac?

      Un question pour vous… as someone who obviously has his head screwed on, why haven’t you done something commercial?

      I guarantee if you made a company money with either front or back end programming, you’ll be 90% more valuable as a team member.

      • Alexander S says:

        Programming in C on Windows can be a pain in the arse. Yeah, I use Mac OS X, works perfectly for my purposes (complete Unix system, easy package management with Homebrew and easy to carry around and work with).

        I’m actually working on learning web development (using Python with Flask) properly at the moment, hehe… It’s something I’ve neglected for a good while, but yeah, it is very important to know, especially for commercial purposes.

      • DUDE DON’T LEARN FUCKING FLASK, you’re wasting your time. Ruby on Rails is where it’s at. Rails is the millionaire’s club, here’s the guy who made it: http://david.heinemeierhansson.com/ “We split our time between Chicago, Malibu, and Marbella.”

        Rails will make you a billionaire far more than “Flask”. Let’s see what was programmed in Rails… Twitter, Groupon, AirBnB to name 3. There’s a HUGE company in UK called Sage (£1bn turnover). They’re moving their customers to a “cloud” system………. wonder what it’s programmed in? Yep. Check this out: https://convertkit.baremetrics.com/ — programmed in? Yep.

        J’ai plus experience de la Rails et je suis un fanatique pour cette. Drop Flask and go “all in” on Rails.

        A little bird tells me that a new version of SGM might be programmed in Rails, too.

      • Jeremy Davidson says:

        As counterpoint, Ruby on Rails is great but Node JS might be as good or better. Ideally learn both, but you should probably know Javascript before Ruby, and then it’s easier to get into Node next rather than Rails. Ruby is pretty popular and offers good salary potential, but Node seems to perform better and is more natural to C programmers. But really, both are great.

    • A dozen times ‘yes.’

      You’re on the money; of my electrical engineering peers, only 10% or less spend their free time working on relevant projects and self-learning instead of playing League of Legends, watching Game of Thrones, or even getting high/drunk. Very few exercise, eat well, talk to men, talk to women, read history, read psychology, or read outside material on their school subjects; they just expect professors to teach them everything they need to know to pass the exam, then expect to find a high-paying job right out of school.

      That just means our advantage is greater!

  7. I wouldn’t be so harsh on the educational system. Yes, a lot of things are wrong with it, but it does teach you some fundamental skills that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s just up to you to do with that stuff what you will. That’s where self-learning comes in.

    I have always taken school as a “teaser” thing, where you learn some basic knowledge and then you should go on your own and explore things that interest you.

    In the modern world, there is a need to have some sort of a systemic educational system to teach some fundamental skills. Most people in the world don’t need much beyond that and they don’t even have the motivation to go beyond that.

    People who spend their time taking selfies and doing other BS, don’t really care about getting educated, but there needs to be some sort of a system in place, to at least make them somewhat productive.

    I attribute much to what I do now to self-education, but I have to say that school has helped me out in many ways as well. There is just no way that as an individual you can come up with a self-learning system that would cover all the basic fundamentals that you need.

  8. Having spent 8 years at a university and having gotten a PhD from a leading UK university.

    This is why Universities still exist:

    – So parents can send their kids there, and fool themselves they are great parents for having done so
    – So the students can fool themselves into procrastinating on what they REALLY want to do.
    – Stupid social status

    Maybe only 0.5-1% of students actually need their degrees for what they want to do. Medical doctors, lawyers, people who want to do academic research STEM subject.

    Aside from that…..

    USELESS

  9. This is a very interesting topic. I must say that I dont agree 100%.
    University isn’t supposed to be a place to educate proffesionals. This use of university is a Contemporary invention. The term “Business School” is almost a contradiction, little can you learn abou entrepeneurship studying. University should, and it was supposed to be a research center for Academics. If you want to lead an academic career, and work in research, then I think University is very important, not so if you want tecnical formation, or to create a business.
    In University you can find groups of people who can support you and with them you can expand your ideas. Chicago Boys and Milton Friedman wouldt of been the same if they didnt attend to university.
    I agree 100% with you critic to highschool though. I focused on improving myself in highschool. I joined politics and participated in debates and forums. I also kicked my mates asses by keeping a healthy diet wich made me perform better.

    • Business school = oxymoron.
      Haha — I like that. Might steal it for future reference :)

      “I focused on improving myself in highschool. I joined politics and participated in debates and forums.”

      –Wow, good for you. That’s young.

  10. I would say that maybe it isn’t university that’s that wrong, it’s what people expect from it; for most it’s just a socially acceptable way of spending 3-4 more years fucking around and avoiding taking responsibility for your life. It isn’t a magic pill as many people at the age of 18 just enter following the herd without ever asking why and thinking about do they need it right then. It’s not entirely professors fault, they are just highly knowledgeable people about one specific topic, they usually don’t promise too much and at good universities carefully check if you are good fit for their programme, they usually hate lecturing and delegate it to focus on their research. And we need those people, even if only 1% of them make significant discoveries. The student’s are those who come to them with “shut up and take my money” mentality.
    For example: to learn a foreign language (perfectly) you don’t need to spend 3-4 years studying it at the university yet many of girls do because they think that they have talent for languages why in fact they have never put any serious effort into anything and don’t like studying in general (as result of bad previous schooling, weak parents or whatever). As result they get bored translating XIII century books but that’s what studying language and culture of one nation means and the problem was in the expectations. (ok, maybe not the best example).
    I think that USA system and college provides much more opportunities compared to Europe as it is easier to switch subject (major), try out things, and they try more to teach ‘critical thinking’ and entrepreneurship. But in general traditional education is largely obsolete concept badly in need of repair and reshaping now when you have unimaginable knowledge in your pocket, literally everything that is available to humankind, but you don’t use it and chose to be addicted rat instead.
    So what was I trying to say is that I agree with you but that much of things universities are required to do shouldn’t be their responsibility in the first place because and there can never be one size fits all solution. Everyone is responsible for their own learning.

  11. I dropped school at 17, best choise i did and will ever do in my life.

    • *choice;
      *Also, capitalise your ‘I’s
      At least one benefit of the educational system is proper spelling :)

  12. As a musician, I can relate to Reason #8. Many pianist practise so hard for their entire lives, hoping to win the all-important prestigious Chopin competition in Warsaw that will kickstart their career. And when it doesn’t happen, they’re screwed. It’s not like they are bad pianists, they just aren’t the cream of the crop. So they can still play really well, but the problem is that that’s the only skill they have. (Yet the layman won’t know why their music sounds better than others anyway.)

    And then there will be those who study music to become performance majors. It’s not uncommon for these people to think:
    1. Enter elite conservatory > 2. the more elite, the better you can hone your skills > 3. better skills = better job

    I think it’s foolish to entrust something so very important as our own education into the hands of the school system. Or anyone else for that matter. Yet so many people are relying fully on their uni education, expecting that ‘education’ to do all the heavy lifting. Plus, the more I read and take action, the more I realise just how inadequate school is in preparing me for life.

    I liked this article a lot!

  13. Mert Torun says:

    Dear Ludwig,
    I was one of the very best students in my high school and elemantary school. I am very proud of it, I am now at medical school because of it. But I was always jealous of people with scientific projects in my age, people who gives value to world.
    Lately, I made my name on some scientific journals but it was mostly product of networking and running around errands for prof and nother much thinking on my part. Right now, I am trying to come up with scientific project I can look say ‘I am proud of it’. My friends says that I can do it but I need courage. Do you have any advice or motivational words for me?

    • I’m not Ludvig, but as someone in the STEM field, I have one for you. Think about a puzzle you really, really want to solve and that you would lose sleep if you can’t. You have to obsess with it – and if it happens that the particular puzzle is important enough in your field you’re in. Of course, you need to understand your own limitations and take a problem you actually believe you have the skills to solve. There are always plenty of problems to solve in science with a variety of importance and difficulty. A project you would probably be proud of would be, for example, thinking about a complete new angle to deal with a well-defined problem (personally I like the ones that are clear and very easy to state but have nevertheless no known solution, but that’s me) . It’s all about the puzzles.

      • Mert Torun says:

        Thanks for your advice. It means a lot. I will try to obey it for next 6 months and see what happens.

    • I really dig the honesty, this Reminds me of a friend of mine except my friend wants to take much more credit and make a bigger deal for his published paper hehe.

      • Mert Torun says:

        Thanks. I used to be shy about it or boast it too. But now I realize it is a common thing
        (although I find a bit unethical) and it is better to be honest about it rather than acting with overcompensation.

  14. Fantastic Post Ludvig!

    I have to agree that the school system today is in shambles! A Dinosaur that is on its last days on earth. I went through Public Schools albeit quite a few years back than i would like to admit but back then the Teachers where much more different than the ones that are Teaching now. I had a few Teachers who actually cared about us learning and most of the time we learned things that were not part of the curriculum.

    But all of those things you spoke about above is still true! I learned so much more on my own from when I was a child by doing a lot of reading as well as watching Documentaries on the Public Channels. Even read a few National Geographic books and learned about Cultures and people. I did that because it felt normal to me to learn about things on my own. My parents even bought us an Encyclopedia set that me and my brothers read, learning about people, places and things.

    The looks I would get when I would answer a question like “What is the capital of New York State?” most people would say NYC, when in reality its Albany. I would look at them like who could you not know that? Even today ask a younger person where California is on the map and most would not be able to figure it out.

    My Public Schooling mostly was learning in what we call a Trade School which teaches you how to work in certain fields and to get a job. This is how I was able to move into technology only because my major while there was in Electronics.

    But this never kept me from learning on my own. Self Knowledge is extremely important as it helps anyone to see the world differently. you would be surprised on how many people can’t even do something as simple as changing their flat tire on their car and rather wait hours for the Tow Truck to arrive. I learned to use Map when I drove a delivery van all around NYC during the summer at the age of 16 as well as a Jack Hammer when me and my Dad decided to demolish the garage.

    With Self Knowledge I can build and fix computers! Which is what I do now for a living.

    I think the worse that schools teach people is helplessness! Waiting for others to come to their rescue rather than going ahead “Balls Deep!” and tackle the problem. I see that helplessness a lot in field that I work in as people become mentally unable to function if they come across a computer problem. The majority of the issues that pop up are user related and can be fixed quickly. Hell you can even Google the problem and I’m sure you will find the solution. But most people will not take the time to learn and would much rather sit there and blame the computer! A machine! How ridiculous is that!

    Anyway in the end unless the schools change their views it will be heading much like the Dinosaurs went! To extinction! Even with this new invention called “Charter Schools” its the same old shit just different Masters!

    Great post Ludvig!

    • Long live U.S says:

      “Even today ask a younger person where California is on the map and most would not be able to figure it out.”

      Haha yeah maybe you have seen this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_pw8duzGUg

      Anyways, it is maybe not the most important type of knowledge to know (trivia) but our people’s lack of it reflects poorly on us. Makes me a bit embarrassed when I see videos like that.

  15. Jeremy Davidson says:

    Hi Ludvig,
    Great article, as always. Interesting timing too – I’m just finishing up my first year in Engineering classes, and am finding the tedious teaching style to be a bit off-putting. Schools don’t seem to have anything very difficult to teach, so they convolute it through pointless complications and omissions in order to keep students coming back day after day.
    Personally, I want to see what can be done when I’m not spending 10 hours a day on make-work to get A’s, and am planning to drop out and work on online business ventures instead. University might be great if you want a stable job working for someone for the rest of your life, but I like to think that it’s possible to do better.
    I guess we’ll see. Thanks for the article, great trigger for thinking.

  16. Matias Page says:

    GREAT article, Ludvig!

    I hated school since the firs day! I hated the predominantly reptilian mentality coupled with dogma and herd behaviors for as long as I can remember!

    It is very much like getting a job vs creating a business yourself.

    Universities serve themselves, NOT their students! Jobs serve the owner, not the employees!

  17. If Frederick the Great was so smart, then why did he make a socialist system? There’s a reason capitalism has won out as the main economic system in most of the world.

    • History mate says:

      Mike you are falling victim to historian anachronism:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anachronism

      As much as I am against socialism (in the modern world), it was definitely the right choice at the time. Frederick made the right decision and his type of socialism was just about what was needed at that period in time to make Prussia the best and strongest country in Europe. Chavez failed in Venezuela because first, idiots can’t copy geniuses. And second, as you remark, capitalism is the way now.

    • Abgrund says:

      Free market capitalism died in the 1930’s. All modern nations of any significance have managed economies. The only difference is whether the government dictates to the corporations or vice versa.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ludvig,

    FYI, I don’t normally comment (I’ll admit some of your commentators are pretty smart and I consider myself fairly intelligent!)

    This post really spoke to me on so many levels…..

    Yes!!!! Education is important just not so much schooling. Ludvig gets it, super fine distinction!!!! I’m from the US and I can honestly say college is not worth it unless you know what you are doing. Most 18 year olds are not bright enough to make that big decision yet. Sadly enough I know several people that are in their late 20s and owe upwards of 100K. Short of robbing a bank or running a crime syndicate I don’t know how they will pay it off.

    I actually just bumped into an old classmate a couple hours ago and we were laughing/cursing at this professor who ran a class about altruism (“that hippie class”). I felt like I wrote my best and did my part to try and get an A…..boy was I wrong.

    Yeah seriously, the school system is for idiots. Like my old boss said, “Anyone with an asshole can go to college now” (haha).

  19. A comedian that I like used to put it elegantly:
    “You study 25 years. Then, when you start your ‘real’ life, you need to spend another 25 years just to unlearn the shit you have just memorized because, otherwise, you can not survive; it’s just impossible!”

  20. Hi,

    I am now at the end of my second year of college. I am planning to quit studying for a while, or maybe forever…. Even if I go back to school, i will choose to self fund me education and just take classes for the sake of learning and meeting people not for the sake of earning that useless piece of study

    The biggest reason I quit school is not one 10 of the reason. They are more society-based i GUESS. THE BIGGST REASON I QUIT IS I FEEL MY LIFE IS SO EASY AT COLLEGE AND IT IS MAKING ME SOFT. who am i kidding? It is actually me making myself soft. School( my school) is just one way for me to avoid the harsh world
    I read a book called “50th law” by 50th cent and ROBERT GREENE. 50th cent started selling drugs on street since the age of 11 years, and later in his early 20s, he became and rapper and the rest of is history. That is a book i strongly recommend everyone to read. One of the best book i have read on self-reliance and how be fearless and the super importance of creating your own empire. You are missing out big time if you don’t get that book now!!!

    My opinion on college:
    How challenging and fulfilling do u find your college life?
    If u do activities in college such as playing in a college sports team, being a club or fraternity leader, etc. or doing activities everyday to challenge and stretch yourself. You are learning, growing and having fun or even making money as a college ambassador. Why quit?

    If u are just going to classes and spending the rest of time mostly playing video games and watching TV show(the worst part u are funding your college through student loan or parent money) like what I am doing now from time to time. You should seriously take a step back and make some serious changes.

    College isn’t magic pill, how useful it is “all depend on” how much u utilize your everyday at a place called “college” to further your goals and potentials.

    • Great comment, Yaze.

      I listened to 50th Law as an audio book when I was like 21. Great book, but the narrator was not good. I remember some time when he would say stuff like, “Understand: Your purpose is formlessness, be refined and untouchable….” or something like that. It might have read well in written form, but made me laugh when listening to it.

      That being said, I totally agree with you it was a very inspirational book. One of my biggest takeaways from it was the intimidation factor, and that 50 doesn’t scare easily, and how it has helped him in negotiation with people who tried to lord over him with their degrees and education.

  21. #11: Many (if not most) teachers are dorks with no real life experience outside of the school.

  22. Ludvig,

    This is a very interesting post. However, while I am no internet hater, I happen to disagree with you this time.

    Discipline

    It takes consistent effort and energy to study to get good grades. One of the greatest skills you will ever develop is shutting up and getting on with it. Whichever field you succeed in, you have to do something until you are sick of it.

    Michael Crichton

    While Michael was famous for his novels, he was in fact a brilliant doctor during his ‘day job’. How did he succeed in medicine? By kicking arse in school. Michael Crichton’s grades were exceptionally good.

    ‘Rebellious’ Professionals?

    Be honest – do you REALLY want a doctor who dropped out of high school? Do you want an accountant who failed his maths exams?
    No. You don’t.

    And before you mention Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Larry Ellison and other famous dropouts, be honest with yourself. Are you a genius like one of those guys? No. You are not. You will be a lot more successful if you knuckle down in school.

    The real problem with school

    The real problem with school (at least in Wales) is that school is too easy. Almost every student gets brilliant marks now. And every year there is improvement! I’m not exaggerating. Even average pupils get high marks.

    Creativity v discipline

    The old fashioned classroom drilling which Ludvig criticises – well, I wish we had a bit more of it. If a pupil reads some Coles notes and writes a 500 word essay, his teacher will praise his ‘creativity’ to the roof. To ace a grade A in chemistry or physics, you need to do very boring stuff over and over again. Give me an ‘obedient servant’ (to paraphrase Ludvig) with a work ethic over a ‘creative’ type who can barely read any day.

    Dafydd

    • Great points — I agree with your critique (though I don’t necessarily think it conflicts with what I put in the article).

      “Give me an ‘obedient servant’ (to paraphrase Ludvig) with a work ethic over a ‘creative’ type who can barely read any day.”

      –I certainly agree (speaking from the position of someone who would be hiring). But I would not necessarily agree if I were looking at it from a societal standpoint.

    • Matias Page says:

      There are no obedient servants reading this type of website. But I agree that people who are willing to be servants must be trained, conditioned and educated to serve.

      Hard work and discipline is not (and was never) common. Period. Much less in the educational system/academia/workforce. Most people are lazy and lack self-discipline.

  23. Srikanth Katrisal says:

    Something you’ll find funny is that the university our engineering college is affiliated to has incorporated the most basic principals that any engineer should know into its curriculum into eight neat little units per subject. We are only required to learn any five for our exams. -_-

  24. hi,
    nice article,

    some other problems I see with schools are:
    * unnatural\unhealthy enviroment
    * sleep deprivation
    * stress
    * sitting all day
    * not much sport

    now I am working in a shitty job to make money so i can afford to go abroad and study at a university. i am going to study IT. i view IT as one of the best choices if choosing what to study.

    as far as i know it is not a hard school. I dont want to spend a lot of time learning so that should be good.

    instead, i want to put majority of my mental enrgy into: studying on my own (looking forward to product about commonplacing), working out, building my business/freelancing, having fun.

    my goal is to be an entrepreneur, but I view programming as: somethink that i like, something i can live from (and have a healthy lifestyle) even if my business goals does not go well

    to say the truth, i dont really know if i will want to stay there … if things about my business go well I might get the confidence to stop studying. but dont say it to my mom :)

    Anyway, What do you guys think about my plan?

    • If you want to be a freelancer, IT is a proven path. I know several well-paid IT consultants, but I can’t give you any other specific advice than:

      1) Learn useful IT skills / programming.
      2) Consider working a job to build a network (of potential clients).
      3) Get your first 1-4 clients, acquire testimonials, get repeat work, do a kick-ass job and hope for word-of-mouth.

  25. At the same time, when I read your article, at the news, there was a reporter who talked about three students. They did three exact copies of the same pieces of work as a experiment. They handed over the work to their teachers. In the end they all got different judgment from the teachers. Another amazing part, all the students went to the same school.. I left a few details out, but I think you got the point!

  26. @Dafydd: I fully agree with ‘school being too easy’. As long as you follow some simple recipes, you can get top grades and delude yourself that you’re some kind of kick-ass achiever…and then you enter university and fail because noone prepared you to work in an unsupervised environment with subjects of rapidly increasing complexity.
    It happened to me unfortunately and while I did graduate with a masters degree in ‘hard science’, it took me so long to finish that I forgot 90% of what I had learnt to begin with and have huge trouble finding a job. I’m not saying that my chronic lack of motivation was *caused* by the fickle and antiquated nature of the schoolsystem but it definitely made things worse.

    On a ‘lighter’ note, I wonder if the incident with ‘young Ludvig in the 8th grade’ was a typical case of scandinavian ‘Jantelagen’ -making sure that EVERYONE is average and condemning heads that try to stick out- and maybe doesn’t happen that often in other cultures. I think that any sensible teacher who’d find a kid with advanced interests would do anything in their power to satisfy said kid’s thirst for knowledge so that it won’t be bored.

  27. Excellent article Ludvig.

    I started studying international business at age 16 and I really liked the courses because we learned essential skills such as accounting for small businesses in excel, how to write business letters in English and also the basics of marketing (both for big and small businesses). We also spent 2 years learning about the cultural differences between the top economies in the world so that we would be able to communicate well with all types of people. The 3 years I studied this were extremely useful and definitely worth it.

    Then, I got accepted to the 2nd best bachelor program in my country (international business and politics). Most of the classes were absolutely useless. We would read loong 50 year old political theories that put the world in useless boxes and then waste time discussing these theories. The business courses were also useless since we would learn how to create strategies for large corporations (without even having experience working for a small one), and how to predict economics and finance by using models based on unrealistic assumptions. It was extremely hard to relate to all this theory and the professors had no real life experience running a small business, let alone creating strategies for big corporations.

    For example, we had a course called internet marketing and I took this course after I had already started making money online. When I wrote one of my best papers ever and shared some of my winning marketing strategies which I had already tested with success on my own business, my teacher gave me a C while other people who had no experience with online marketing got A.

    Another time, I went for an oral exam in a course called “Managing People in Multinational Corporations”. Needless to say, the teacher was a woman in her late 20s who had NO BUSINESS EXPERIENCE. Before I even entered the exam, I could tell she DID NOT like me because unlike other teachers, she didn’t offer me a drink prior to starting the exam and she shouted at me to “hurry up or else I’ll fail you” when I was about go into the exam room despite me showing up 2 hours early. Once the exam started, she would argue against EVERY answer I gave instead of trying to guide me in the right direction or work with my answers. At the end, she failed me and suggested I study hard for 2-3 months for the retake exam. (This was the first time I failed at business school). After this incident, I asked my school if I can get a new person grading me and they said NO, and that was the tipping point that made me decide I would soon quit university and start my own business. I simply didn’t see the point in wasting 2-3 months studying an useless course to please ONE PERSON who has NO EXPERIENCE in the field she’s TEACHING.

    Despite some of the downsides of University (a lot of useless courses taught by teachers who don’t have experience), university wasn’t all bad. I had an entire course covering the cognitive biases Ludvig often discusses here, I got paid monthly to study, I studied abroad in Bangkok and had the time of my life and our entire grade relied 100% on exam performance so I basically skipped 80% of classes and travelled a lot while building up my fitness blog.

    If you’re considering to attend university I would only suggest you do it if it’s 1) free, 2) elite school with a clear path to cash and networking, 3) your parents will pay it all and 4) you have no other options.

    In the case you have no other options, and you can’t enter an elite university just pick an University that either won’t put you in any debt, or minimal debt and while studying the courses at University, read A LOT of books on other topics and try out a bunch of things that you find interesting so you can find yourself and eventually plan your exit from Uni into something more meaningful.

    • Thanks for this comment, Oskar. I’ve had some similar experiences during university. Ironically, I was failed TWICE on my entrepreneurship course. Haha!

      Anyway, this is some *REALLY* good advice you give for most people, I think.

  28. Richard says:

    Great article Sir Sunstrom, when I was in school I saw idiots making more money than my parents online. I saw they were selling shit that I didn’t even want to buy. I figured that if they could do it, so could I.

    First money I made was from a porn website at 15. I remember my mother asking “who’s this cheque from?” I just said I didn’t know (it was from the porno company because someone bought “Next Door Nikki” pictures. Or it might have been “Princess Blueyes”). Some kid laughed at me in school for it; I politely reminded him that every time some lonely wanker like him bought the pics, I made $$$. He eventually started asking me how to make money.

    I remember the careers woman telling me she “had no advice” because I’d been selling skateboards online. I remember the fat motherfucker “head of sixth form” I had to talk to (because I slept in computer class). “I don’t want to go to university”… “let’s look for a nice red brick one to go to”. Do I want to be like you? No.

    When I was allowed “study leave”, I spent the time looking for a job. Serendipity, I found a marketing one in my hometown. I applied (despite needing a “degree” in marketing ~ 4 yr). My dad gave me one of 2 epic pieces of advice (the other “you’ll eat anything if you’re hungry enough”) to actually TAKE your CV to the company. I was shaking but did it. They called for an interview, because I had nothing to lose I just made it up and got the job.

    4 uni grads lost out to a 17 year old with no experience, who made his first money w/ tits pictures. I made affiliate money before I had sex. Turns out they mainly wanted to hire me because they invested £100k in a website that wasn’t performing. £12m company with a 29yr old marketing manager & 17 yr old sidekick. I read my manager’s uni thesis the first day…………. utter shit.

    Money talks, bullshit walks.

  29. “University is now strongly mismatched to the demand of the job market.”

    That is the biggest misunderstanding. University doesn’t have the intent to get you a job on the market.

    University is about qualifying and educating people to be Scientists. The knowledge you get is not meant to be used in real life, but in academic world only (that’s why it’s useless in jobs).

    It’s like using a fork to eat a soup.

    People have to get over it. They only do it for the status these days anyways, to do what everybody is doing. But f**k what everybody is doing, everybody is not utilize the possibilities of these days. We live in an age of freedom, but almost everybody keeps himself in prison.

  30. Kanagaraj says:

    Great post again Ludvig!!! School is one place where I always feel that I have never been guided properly. This affected my growth as a person for more than 10 years. Its a depressing thought that I went sleepwalking through my precious life and by some luck never landed in some terrible situations.
    But I have no one to blame since everyone from my parents and teachers done what they thought was the best thing. The problems with the school is, they have teachers who are not inspired enough, who doesn’t upgrade their knowledge with latest happenings and who doesn’t show how the subject they teach connects the past, present and future. I had a history teacher who doesn’t even explain the events described in the book. He used to ask students to read each paragraph in turns to complete the lessons *SHUDDERS*. And this is the way he taught world wars and Indian freedom movement. I came to understand the value of history only after reading your blogs.
    The way I see it, school is just an extension of the society where we have mediocre and average teachers in large (around 80%) who in turn produce mediocre and average students who after going through mediocrity for 5 – 7 years continue in the same vein for rest of their life. Even the most inspired teachers in my school never shown any lessons in practical and I learned trigonometry, algebra, photosynthesis, biology with no idea of how they are useful in a real world. It’s a complete mess. My college is just an extension of school. Another 4 years of mediocrity where we were never taught about the real world skills. I HAVE ALSO NEVER SEEN ANY OF MY TEACHERS CONSTANTLY UPDATING THEIR KNOWLEDGE. It just gets passed on to the students.
    School is just like any organization which requires inspired and knowledgeable person to work properly. But again they need to select teachers from a society which contains more mediocrity than elitist. I don’t see any solution to it at least in my region in India.
    I have read an essay written by Paul Graham which criticizes the school system. I felt it was closer to truth and applies universally. You might be interested in it. http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html. Even though it primarily talks about nerds and their struggles, it has generous amount of information which shows how uninspiring the schools are.

    • “I had a history teacher who… used to ask students to read each paragraph in turns…”

      >That is how almost all of my teachers “taught”, in grade school. At least one of them also made us hand write the whole book as it was read. This is just laziness on the part of the teacher; she doesn’t have to speak or even read the book herself.

      “I HAVE ALSO NEVER SEEN ANY OF MY TEACHERS CONSTANTLY UPDATING THEIR KNOWLEDGE.”

      >Most of mine never had any knowledge to update. Some were good at inventing “knowledge”, though.

  31. Thomas Quinn says:

    The American school system (just like the rest of the West’s) is utter garbage. I think it works for a relatively small majority of people (some people seem to need an amount of authority-imposed structure), but it completely alienates those that might literally NEED a different style of teaching/learning.

    Thank God for the digital age. We are all fortunate to be living at the cusp of this time.

    Your own reality is the only reality worth living in.

    – Thomas Quinn

  32. Abgrund says:

    Ludvig, the story about your math teacher was really depressing. I used to hope that this sort of vicious animosity toward learning, experienced constantly by myself and other intelligent students of my acquaintance, was a unique characteristic of American teachers and a product of our notoriously anti-intellectual culture, but obviously it ain’t so.

    I’d guess your academic “handler” was just trying to make her job easy. Original work has to be comprehended to be graded. Re-hashed bullshit doesn’t; the “advisor” (as we euphemize them here) only has to check that the word count is right and the proper forms were followed. The content is irrelevant and few grad students are capable of producing real content anyway. “Higher education” is just a system for the purchase of credentials and the employment of academics. Trying to do anything unconventional for a thesis is like trying to pay with gold coins at Walmart – they don’t know how to process it.

    Universities were not created to serve the people. They were created to flatter the pretensions of the early Renaissance bourgeois regarding their offspring, and their predecessors were schools for training clerics (i.e. academics). They have also been around a lot longer than just two centuries, and in spite of much accumulated change their fundamental structure is still pretty much what it was during the Crusades.

    I don’t know about Continental Europe, but in America universal public education has been around (at least in the northeast) since the earliest colonies in the 1620’s. The Puritans brought with them from England a positive obsession for schools. Other immigrants had much less respect for education but seem to have practiced it anyway. In 1835 de Tocqueville observed that Americans were by far the most educated people in the world, with hardly any illiteracy. He also noted the remarkable intellectual vacuum in America, which still persists. Coincidence?

    School (university, at least) is far more useful today than for the occupations you list. Not that it’s necessary, or even particularly helpful, to attend school to acquire the relevant skills. Most professions are strictly regulated, and cannot be entered without credentials which hinge on “education”. See https://abgrund.wordpress.com/2007/07/14/education-is-class-warfare/ which I wrote some years ago.

    “Why force boring and non-value-adding activities on those who don’t want to join the “institution of knowledge”? >Because they are measurable and easy to achieve. If you can’t teach someone to succeed at a real task, you can document that they completed 600 pages of homework, dutifully copying the answers from the text. I had one teacher in grade school whose “teaching” method was to force every student to hand copy the whole textbook, a few pages each day – and that was the regular assignment, not a punishment! The punishment for being caught reading was confiscation of the offending book, and numerous additional pages of hand copy.

    “School Does Nothing to Cultivate Self-Knowledge” >Quite the opposite. The main purpose of school is to promote conformity, and if everyone is the same, self knowledge is meaningless. Assignments that purport to be in some way “investigative” are in fact designed to get the victims to buy in to the status quo – it is always made clear, directly or indirectly, what the result of the “investigation” is supposed to be, and the victim is graded accorded to how well her “discovery” fits that expectation. It’s like the “spiritual journey” of a Mormon Elder.

    “One of the… rationalizations you hear… is that “school teaches you how to work in a group…” >Nothing could be further from the truth. School teaches people to fail as a group. The dynamics, function, and circumstances of a group assembled for a school project have no resemblance at all to real life work units, and there is little or no cooperation. One or two people do all the work and the others coast. Having them report on each other’s performance makes it even worse because the majority of slackers will vote themselves a better grade than the one who did the work. Teachers don’t honestly give a crap about teaching people to work together, either. They like group projects because it cuts down dramatically on their own workload.

    “Do you want to work with people who are so much different from you that you have to waste precious hours during your biological prime time, pleading with them to make progress?” >Welcome to management!

    “You have to develop your own style in life by gaining experience and studying other fields than the one you’re in.” >This is the alleged intent of the “general education” requirements that are still crammed down the throats of 19 year olds in imitation of the thirteenth century university curriculum. But you can’t force people to be interested in the world, and by college nearly all of them have learned to hate learning. These classes are just pro forma; neither the teachers nor the students put any effort into them and both just want to get them over with.

    “Have you got an advanced degree? Did it pay off?” >Define “advanced” and “pay off”. I only have a B.S. but financially it is has certainly paid for itself. Is my life better because of it? Impossible to say, but it is certainly much different than it would otherwise have been. For one thing, I am less educated because I took four years off from learning in order to attend school.

    • Hey Abgrund — appreciate the long answer. Interesting analysis, I guess you’ve thought about this for quite some time…

      “The content is irrelevant and few grad students are capable of producing real content anyway. ”

      –Yeah, I agree. And I straight told her that my work was not intended to be original or academic, I just wanted to get a good job.

      “He also noted the remarkable intellectual vacuum in America, which still persists. Coincidence?”

      –I have read about this too. One assumption I’ve heard is that the reason for the lack of intellectuals could be ascribed to the U.S (at the time) being a new culture. (In his memoirs, LKY harboured similar ideas about Singapore’s current lack of intellectuals and artists, as compared to older countries.)

      “Assignments that purport to be in some way “investigative” are in fact designed to get the victims to buy in to the status quo – it is always made clear, directly or indirectly, what the result of the “investigation” is supposed to be, and the victim is graded accorded to how well her “discovery” fits that expectation.”

      –That’s an interesting idea. I think you’ve alluded to this sometime before.

      “But you can’t force people to be interested in the world”

      –That’s the problem.

      • The intellectual barrenness of the U.S. has long been noted, and it isn’t really explainable as an attribute of a “new” culture. There really is no such thing as a new culture. The colonists of the Americas brought the cultures of their home countries with them, and their descendants brought these same cultures into the hinterland, with as little change as possible. De Tocqueville found porcelain tea sets and volumes of Shakespeare and Milton in one-room log cabins deep in Indian country. Even when attempts have been to create a culture de novo, as in France and Russia, the result has not been a sudden cessation of intellectual activity.

        That the U.S. has always fallen far short of its prima facie intellectual potential, and continues to do so, is hard to dispute. In 1835, the eastern seaboard had been settled for two centuries, the population was beginning to rival that of major European nations, and America was already the most prosperous and most literate nation in the world. Yet America had made virtually no contributions to science or the arts. The whole country could boast only a few authors of modest reputation, one or two architects, and one or two painters, but not a single poet or sculptor; a handful of practical inventors, but hardly any scientific discoveries; political and historical treatises but no new theories or insights.

        The modern U.S. continues this tradition with little change; in comparison to its resources America is still intellectually barren, and it is worth noting that our scientific progress has been largely achieved by immigrants from non-English speaking countries.

        Some theories I have read to explain this:

        Cultural Origins [David Hackett Fischer]: The dominant U.S. culture originates not from East Anglian Puritans, but from Northumbria, Scotland, and Ulster. In the Eighteenth Century this area was impoverished, backward, disorderly, and violent, with a marked contempt for learning. Immigrants from this culture settled inland because they had no money to buy land and the civilized coastal societies would not tolerate them, and they proved well suited to the hardships and anarchy of the interior. As a result they spread unsupervised over most of the continent.

        Racial Inferiority [Henry Louis Mencken]: The Celts, who contributed most of the U.S. gene pool, are racially inferior in terms of intelligence and character.

        Democracy and Opportunity [Alexis de Tocqueville]: Egalitarianism discourages any activity which is not tangibly profitable; only productive work is respected and everyone is constantly struggling to get ahead. America was intensely egalitarian and provided a wealth of opportunities for people to get ahead, which absorbed all their energies. In aristocracies, contrarily, the upper class neither needs nor respects productive work, but values more abstract achievements and has the leisure to pursue them.

        Slavery [various commentors]: Many observors have attributed certain shortcomings of the southern U.S. to the long persistence of slavery there, and have pointed out that the South, in particular, has always been a cultural wasteland.

  33. Ludvig,

    Lots of great points here, and I love the top 10. I would add another enormously important and omission from modern school systems: the missing management of money.

    Not one class teaches (accurately) how to accrue wealth and invest properly. None of the professors of entrepreneurship classes are rich, having such a class is laughable, and hardly any of the business professors make over 6 figures from their businesses outside school; they’re paid by checks. It’s extremely important to learn, yet nowhere to be found.

    Also the teamwork point is spot on, and reminds me of Dalio’s “Principles” where he speaks on weighing opinions differently. Before speaking, ask yourself if you’ve earned an opinion. It’s some non-PC advice that you would never hear in a classroom, but are forced to adapt to when working with teams of the average.

    All of this consolidates many reasons why I chose to drop out of university halfway through and learn from the world, my books, and my mentors.

    – Evan

  34. Loved this article. I went to school and I’ll be the first to admit, its pretty useless. I feel bad telling younger kids that it makes no sense to go to school, but in reality, you’re actually putting yourself at a disadvantage by going into debt. Then when you graduate you’ll be forced to take the first mediocre offer you get joining the ranks as a debt slave. But if you can learn almost anything watching youtube or reading up on the internet, then why mortgage your future over a piece of paper? It just doesn’t make sense…
    I also hate how school encourages this kind of linear thinking of “I want to work for XYZ company”. But what if you don’t want to work for anyone and just want to be a freelancer or entrepreneur? School really has nothing to offer for people like that…

  35. Awesome article! (did you go to school in Canada?) and (arguably more impressive) look at the amount of quality responses! I’m afraid I haven’t much to add to that realm. As a pro, I do think the university system has a good student council infrastructure and running/campaigning then solving problems can be a very rewarding experience. Of course this doesn’t stop the “Institutionalization of Knowledge” and university’s bad traits.

  36. Most of comments related to universities, but I think, as you pointed in one of examples, that the biggest problem is in the prior education (primary, high school). Most of them in most of the countries simply suck, teachers are bad, unmotivated and underpaid. Here and there you find ‘that one teacher’ who was a good motivator but it is just a plain luck. Of course, most universities are also average, made for masses, with average students and professors, and in (maybe not so near future) will be destroyed by online education. Great professors/people in general are scarce and have high opportunity cost of sitting in class; that’s also why school doesn’t add much value. But also there is a minority of elite schools whose value come from people you get to meet during those 3-4 years and I guess that that’s what’s next text about.
    On the average I still think it is a good choice, because usually saying that education system is a failure actually means attitude like this: I’m good like this, I don’t need to learn that shit, I have Google, etc… It’s fine but don’t rely solely on it.
    Also I think that we mustn’t underestimate the signaling effect of education (those academics have theory about everything  ). Degree isn’t such a bad approximate of one’s ability but it is true that it is becoming less important because it’s harder for schools to keep up and it’s easier to show your experience over the internet. So always there is always other way around (except, maybe, for academia and medicine). I’m not so fond of criticizing academics because I think that their research matters, but also that it is extremely stupid to give them to prepare people for real life.

    Maybe he expressed it better:
    http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/too-much-education-is-bad-dont-over-educate-the-young-nassim-taleb
    I really like the notion that education (especially elite one) can lead to wrong sense of entitlement and inhibit risk taking.

    • Good points. I have to dispute one thing, though: teachers are not underpaid. In fact most of them are paid far too much. They are nothing but babysitters, and such lousy babysitters that most parents would never consider hiring them twice even at four dollars an hour.

      • Yes, not all teachers, but most are. While it is not universally true, I stand by this: “if you can’t do, teach.” Basically, unless you have have a knack for teaching (you love it and can’t live without it) then you’re a teacher because 1. You are lazy with lots of patience or 2. Incompetent to actually do the thing you’re teaching, so you teach because the only other option is swipe floors at Walmart. At least 80% (I’d say more) of teachers are there to collect paychecks.

      • Abgrund says:

        I’d say 95% are just there to collect a paycheck, and what’s more almost all of them are unfit to collect it. Most of them only “teach” because they are too lazy or too stupid to handle any real job.

      • Pretty much.

  37. Evans III says:

    This is what I like about you over and over, that you keep it REAL and say shit that most others shy away from. *I applaud your bravery, comrade.

  38. Since the education system makes enough billions to even start thinking about innovation (it’s a business that only pretends to “serve” students in their marketings campaigns), let’s have every freshman high school/uni guy and gal read this article. This will make our future adults realize what the heck they’re getting into.

    Talking about propaganda: apparently Canadian soldiers won World War 2… At least that’s what my naive ultra-patriotic teacher (with analytical breadth of a brainwashed monkey) sells us every day. Now combine stupid patriotism, clear distaste towards everything unknown and forcing kids to believe media as if it were god-send messages of wisdom… and, lets see, we get TESTS where poor Canadian students have to sift though 1940’s PROPAGANDA NEWSPAPERS to answer FACTUAL test questions!!!

    Call this education, but I have a better word: Brainf*cking. Come every day and we’ll make you stupid, ultra patriotic to the point of hostility towards anything unknown, make you love pop culture and always point out that everything long and intelligent is for boring armchair nerds, promote blind obedience and moronic rules, literally make thinking “unpopular”, spend most of class time dealing with the “fragile” spoiled semi-human-retards instead of beating the shit out of them and transforming them into capable humans & actually encouraging intelligence and thinking in class, etc…

    Again this is a must read for all those who think public education is a pride of their developed country. In most cases, it makes your country only less developed and uncivilized by training mindless zombies.

  39. Kay HONG says:

    Nice points Ludvig. School’s never taught us how to make money by ourselves, but to teach us how to work for other people.!

  40. Maybe I should drop out of college. Honestly, I learn more in reading at the internet than listening at my boring classes.

  41. praneet says:

    Dear Ludvig,
    You are my Gold standard for information and work ethics.

    Thanks!

  42. Ludvig, I highly agree with you on this whole article and all the reasons you came up with why school is now a failure. It makes total sense. Your writing here was extraordinary.

    I would just like to add on that thought that school can limit your creativity as it keeps you forced to make and apply your work to be in cohesion with what the whole system, university, professor, and grading criteria wants. You basically have no freedom because you have to conform to what makes you a “good” student.

    Creativity is limited with the school system.

    I am currently in college right now, I was wondering what is your advice to convince parents that self-education is a better approach?

    • Abgrund says:

      If you’re old enough to be in college, why do you need to persuade your parents (or anyone else) of anything?

  43. History classes, science courses, cooking classes – all of these wouldn’t be attainable if I didn’t
    come here. Like I’m studying the book Eragon right now.

  44. I’m sorry to say this but your blog article is also FULL ON propaganda.
    It appeals to the emotional side of a lot of people out there who were “frustrated” by their experiences of schooling, and don’t seem to have moved on.

    Writing comments full of wrath, advocating for “thinking like an investor”, preaching what is right “thinking”, etc.

    What makes you think you are special breeds? Because you didn’t fit in school? Because you got Cs and Bs? Because you had your own personal pursuits?

    Well, maybe the kids who gets As in school REALLY enjoy being conformists? And maybe they enjoy it SO much that when they grow up, they work for these factories you seem to demean so much. May I remind you that the food on your plate has been produced and wrapped by various “factory” workers?

    Could you go and grow your own vegs? Could you run your business or “build” your wealth without the hard work of some at other (sub-) levels?

    No, you all seem to think you have it all figured out. But what do you offer as now? What have you done yourself to impact on the lives of others outside you circle? Did anyone who commented put a link to any life changing discovery/entreprise that they have made? I see none of that, but I read a lot of random advocating/advising/coaching with no concrete/real evidence.
    Everyone wants to be a guru, but despise the follower mentality…

    Well, thank you, but no thanks. I don’t buy into that propaganda.
    If you want to destroy a system, build one FIRST, then the old system will autodestruct if it is as “obsolete” as you lot claim.

    In the meantime, this is just useless “rhetorique” from wannabee rat racers…

  45. I love this post!
    As as College student, I can tell you guys -all true.
    My school is one of the most helpful, according to yelp reviews and other liars.
    First the staff is garbage, and most likely trained to do nothing but misguide folks and tell them how hard school is!..
    Soon as you go in, they instill this fear of what happens if you fail and a whole bunch other nonsense rule, that were made up by dummies.

    I was pursing nursing. According to the RULES, you need a certain grade and a whole bunch of other bullshit stuff to supposively weed out the weak, according the fat snob who looked at my transcript.

    I’m a fit guy and to hear that from some ugly fat snob while she giggles as she hands back my transcript.. Was very detrimental. Helpful school my ass.
    Don’t even get me started on bursar or financial aid places- there’s a reason they run like a dmv, with bullet proof windows and everything.

    For anyone who says getting an A is hard. Don’t lie to yourself. Making a business and planning step by step what to do with the business eating shit from your peers or family memebers who don’t believe in your business is even harder. Way harder.

    But hey! Don’t take it from me. Watch your family, friends, “girlfriend” cheer you own to be just like them- Complain about life later on.

    Ludvig, one of the best post I read, on education basically being a joke !
    Thanks man.

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  1. […] If you in the meantime want to dig deeper into the subject, take a look at Ludvig Sunströms article where he gives his view on the article. Thanks for reading, and make sure to leave a comment […]

  2. […] The public education system pops out people that are like these mass-produced katanas. They’re mentally dull. […]

  3. […] bien plus à apprendre ici que pendant 5 ans à l’université. Mais n’entrons pas dans cette polémique (du moins pas tout de […]

  4. […] Most masters are self-taught. And even if they attend some school of formal education, that only gets you so far. 90% of mastery is self-education. […]

  5. […] Start Gaining Momentum’s “10 Reasons The Education System Is A Failure” […]

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