Shakespeare is Awful, Jefferson was a Rapist, and Pi is Useless

pie

I’m going to be dead honest just to clear the air on this one: I only have a vague idea what Pi does. I could google it right now but that would be cheating. I think pi * the diameter equals the circumference. And there’s some other way you can use pi to get the area but I forget how (Pi * radius squared?). But the point is, I’m not sure. I know Pi = 3.14 and another infinite number of digits after that.

But do you ever really need “pi” in life? Like does anyone ever bring you a circle and say, “quick! I need to know the perimeter of this circle?” And you say, “now hold on a second, let me just take pi and do some crap with it and all will be ok. JUST KEEP CALM.”

No.

That never happens.  You can’t even come up with a fantasy where you’re single and your pretty neighbor comes in and says, “you know, I was just thinking about you and if only I knew pi then I would probably have sex with you.” There’s no such fantasy on the history of the planet.

Entrepreneurs never need to know pi. I’ve started a billion different businesses and not one of them required pi. When I was interviewing transvestite hookers for a living at HBO I never once needed to know pi. Like, “if we just string that microphone wire in a perfect circumference I can probably do a better interview.” I never said that. I never needed to. It didn’t come up. The transvestites never asked about pi either. It never came up in their line of work.

Maybe you need pi to build things? I have no idea. I once asked someone, “why do you need pi AND imaginary numbers” and their reply (I can’t remember who it was I asked. Maybe it was God in a dream) was “you use imaginary numbers to build bridges?” Really? Like, I need to know the square root of negative numbers to build bridges?

Math is pathetic. What’s even worse I was in the “mathletes” club in high school. We used to stay after school and take harder and harder math tests. That sounds like a lot of fun, right?

I wish I had the time to pull my kids out of school and homeschool them. What are they learning “pi” for?  I think we outsource pi to China these days anyway. And why do they need to know what the “pistil” is in a flower. Or what cumulus clouds are? Shakespeare is the most boring writer in history. And we all take it as an obvious fact now that any history you learn in public school you have to completely relearn as an adult in order to get the real history. Not a single school teaches that most of Thomas Jefferson’s descendants share DNA with the slaves he raped. Or that the Revolutionary War was fought because tea smugglers here didn’t want to compete with the lower tariffs of the East India Company. I never learned in high school that Hitler was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938 or that Roosevelt sent a boatload of Jews back to Germany to be exterminated or that we firebombed enough cities/civilians in Japan to make Hiroshima look like another walk in the park.

(a painting of Jefferson's "friend", Sally Hemmings)

And who was Charlemagne? I have a vague memory from AP European History but I can’t remember now unless I was to read a book on it. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? They were all pretty much bad guys back then anyway, right? Just like 500 years from now people will probably think our leaders were just as bad.

So I want to take my kids out of school. I know nothing at all about home schooling but here’s my ideal day for them. They wake up and do some exercise for about 2 hours. Then they either draw, read books, or watch movies for the rest of the day, mixed in with fun physical activities. What books or movies should they read/watch/draw? Anything they want. I don’t care.

The only things I ever remember are the things I was passionate about. I can remember everything about Greek mythology (I was passionate about it in First Grade) but pretty much next to nothing about birds or butterflies. Or pi.

How do you find things to be passionate about? You keep reading books and watching movies and doing things or going to museums/places or playing games or sports or whatever and you narrow in closer and closer on those passions. If you’re forced to read things that are boring to you, you won’t be able to narrow in on the things that really excite you. And the more you read boring things, the more turned off you will be on reading things that actually interest you. I didn’t start REAL reading until I was about 6 years out of high school.

(a painting of Romeo and Juliet by someone named Grumm)

Somehow the government has become a big babysitter for our kids. And if the kids don’t “test well” then the schools get less money and we get taxed more. And then once the kids turn 18 and they start going to college then now they become in debt to the government, limiting their choices later to, basically, government-approved jobs where they can pay their loans back.

Well, how would they get social experiences? I have no idea. I’m assuming other people who have home schooled their kids have figured that stuff out. Or maybe kids don’t need social experiences. Did I need to get beaten up every day of 7th grade? Or pine every day of 10th grade for the girls who ignored me? Was it so great to have social experiences then so I could learn later the hierarchy of whose cool and whose not and how that works in the world?

I’m not being bitter. I want the best for my kids. Learning “pi” is not the best for them. Reading plays written in the 1500s is BORING. Even reading a play written last year is boring. Reading comics is fun. Have my kids ever been assigned a comic book to read in school? No. How about “Maus” or “Barefoot Gen”, two classics (comics) in World War II literature that should be must-reads for kids? Never.

Well, you can say, not everyone is self-motivated to learn things on their own. So? Do you think force-feeding those kids Shakespeare will improve their lives if they are not self-motivated? I’d rather my kids watch Spanish soap operas on TV all day. And throw a Frisbee around.

Someone emailed me a math equation and said it was amazing. She said, “  ‘ (IMAGE) ’ is the closest thing she’s ever seen to proof that God exists.”

Good luck with that.

 

Related Posts:

10 Reasons Not To Send Your Kids to College
8 Alternatives to College

Is it bad I Wanted My First Kid Aborted?

 

You Can Call Yourself an Entrepreneur When

 

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  • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

    Yesterday a friend wrote me,

    “I just wish I was better at Maths. There are so many doors that would open. (Money, power, academic prestige, etc…)”

    I believe that most intelligent people are capable of doing math if:

    1) Their math anxiety were mitigated (a very real phenomenon, see my blog post on Choke)

    2) They achieved a robust lesson in the foundations (can’t do algebra without arithmetic; can’t do trigonometry without algebra; can’t do calculus without trigonometry)

    3) They are capable of some kind of abstract thinking and willing to put in the work — math is more about repetition than the nerds are willing to admit (then their supposed genius would be seen as what it really is: hard work driven by loneliness and a desire to be better than others at something)

    • Syren

      This is exactly correct.  It’s also the basis for how I teach kids math in my renegade classical school:  basics first over and over and over til they’re mastered.  Then step by step into the higher levels but only after mastery of current subject is demonstrated.  Old school Saxon math books are terrific for this.  Even non-math parents can use the series to teach their kids math at home better and faster than public school ever could.  While I myself am a language person rather than a math person, teaching math to kids helps me as much as them.  The discovery of math – calculus in particular – has allowed the most miraculous advances civilization has ever produced.  Sure it can be boring, but only until one is good at it – just like reading.  Then all of a sudden, it’s fascinating.

    • Geoffrey Champlin

      Your view of the foundations is counter productive.  Computers can do calculus and differential equations that take humans days in seconds.  Mathematica can use series to solve otherwise unsolvable integrals.  All of these things that are taught as math are simply calculations, not mathematics.

      Math should be taught at the function level, and then expanding into mathematical structures.  Why is it that a few functions take up nearly all of our math education?  We spend a year learning how to do derivatives and integrals when they should be taught in a week.  When students are taught “Linear Algebra” they spend the entire semester learning how to manipulate matrices, learn nothing of Vector Spaces or the actual fundamentals of Linear Algebra, and then in the last week teachers spring Eigenvectors on them like its the next logical step.  I have friends who came out of a Linear Algebra class at a very respected University and couldn’t tell you what a Homomorphism is.

      If students had a truly accurate knowledge of functions, relations, and set theory from a young age, it would be extremely easy to expand basic math instruction to include more complicated structures such as Rings and Fields.

      Did you know that Modular Rings are the basis for the encryption algorithm that is used to encrypt credit card numbers over the internet, and it is a fairly simple function?

      Did you know that LaGrange Multipliers form the basis for Control Theory, which can be used create a robot that can sense walls around it and map out a room?  Why isn’t that taught in Differential Equations?

      These are interesting math applications that occur from math that SHOULD be taught in high school.  Instead students spend hours doing 30 different “exercises” that a calculator can do in seconds, and we wonder why people view math as boring…

      • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

        I don’t disagree with you.  I think that students should be taught algebraic structures before learning about complicated ways you can combine operations.  However I think it is better to start with a practical example grounded in practical manipulation of the real world (your friend owes you money for the clothing you bought, so learn fractions…) and then later explain how the rationals can be defined as a field. 

        • Geoffrey Champlin

          I agree with you at the arithmetic level, but does it really make sense that I learned Multivariate Calculus exclusively in the case where you are operating in a vector space with an orthonormal basis?  If you change vector spaces everything I learned no longer applies, so why didn’t I learn vector spaces first, and then Multivariate calculus could be taught generally?

          Teaching kids to add before you teach them algebra is one thing, but I don’t see how it makes more sense to teach kids “functions” as f(x)=some random equation, when teaching them relations from a set theoretical point of view would be just as easy.  Both concepts are equally foreign, but if kids learned set theory from a young age they could learn a much more useful and less boring version of mathematics.

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            I feel like you did not read my post closely.

            I suggested that the most appropriate model for teaching is:

            1) practical real-world example that gives them more money, sex, power, status
            2) explain the abstract material

            I agree that set theory should be taught at an early age, but only after practical useful examples.  That way they have a _motivation_ for learning.  

            The point of my first post is that there is an emotional basis for learning math.  

          • Geoffrey Champlin

            True, I guess I extrapolated on a minor point in your posts.  I was just trying to highlight the fact that math is boring to most people because it is poorly taught.  

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            And I submit that it is poorly taught since it is not grounded in emotional repercussions

          • mousketeer

            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^nerd alert  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

          • mousketeer

            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^nerd alert  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            hahahhahaha

            i am the biggest nerd EVER

            like…..

            are you kidding bro? do you see my profile pic? it’s a MAGIC: THE GATHERING CARD

            you must be 40, and james’ age. you better be balling outrageous

            oh…

            wait..

            your’e calling out “nerds”

            on james altucher’s blog

            you must want to be my friend

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            And I submit that it is poorly taught since it is not grounded in emotional repercussions

          • Geoffrey Champlin

            True, I guess I extrapolated on a minor point in your posts.  I was just trying to highlight the fact that math is boring to most people because it is poorly taught.  

      • Billy Zelsnack

        “Did you know that LaGrange Multipliers form the basis for Control Theory, which can be used create a robot that can sense walls around it and map out a room?”
        Maybe in academialand. In the real world your robot’s software would use very basic math and very simple algorithms to map out a room. The real world usually requires ugly robust solutions. Academialand only likes beautiful and elegant things.

    • Anonymous

      What does your comment have to do with the substance of James’s post?

      • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

        Good point.  I wonder why it’s the top comment.  Let’s all email James and ask him to remove it

        • Mike Periboob

          Took me a while to figure out that the posts are in order of “Likes”. But I thought most of the posters here would have known that immediately.

          And I certainly dont come here for substance.

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            It took me a while too.  I only just figured it out yesterday.  

            Periboob?  That’s an interesting surname.

          • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

            You can view comments by 4 different criteria. Your choice. There’s a drop down menu top right of comment section.

            Just thought I would let you know/ also there is an edit function if you are using firefox.

  • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

    I’m a mechanical engineer and find that pi comes up fairly often.  Mostly for calculating areas and for some trigonometry stuff.  Don’t hate.
    -www.awkwardengineer.com

  • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

    And look, if your friend’s knowledge of Taylor polynomials (explaining the e^(pi*sqrt(-1))=-1 identity) got her a job in finance and finally let her get some power in this world, then maybe it is proof that god exists for her.  we all worship SOMETHING (credit-d.f. wallace, suicidal human)., for some of us it’s power., for others it’s peace, for others it’s chartbeat/googleanalytics stats

    and some people they worship their followers.

  • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

    And look, if your friend’s knowledge of Taylor polynomials (explaining the e^(pi*sqrt(-1))=-1 identity) got her a job in finance and finally let her get some power in this world, then maybe it is proof that god exists for her.  we all worship SOMETHING (credit-d.f. wallace, suicidal human)., for some of us it’s power., for others it’s peace, for others it’s chartbeat/googleanalytics stats

    and some people they worship their followers.

  • Anonymous

    I used pi the other day when I replaced the outfield fence for little league baseball field. Left field, center field and right field were all equal distance from home place and the back of home plate is a right angle.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s funny. My guess is you did more thinking than you had to.

    • Jacob Johnson

      Maybe little league is different, but the fence is not generally of equal distance to home plate. The gaps are deeper than the foul poles, with some variations.  At least the kids have a perfectly round outfield I guess.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think that ANY major league parks have perfectly “round” outfield fence distances. One of the most pronoucedly-not-round was the old Yankee Polo Grounds – 279 Left, 475 Center and 257 Right at one point in their history.

  • Anonymous

    I used pi the other day when I replaced the outfield fence for little league baseball field. Left field, center field and right field were all equal distance from home place and the back of home plate is a right angle.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    My greatest accomplishment in school was reaching the end of the Shakespearean history plays to find the “Saint Crispin Day,” speech in “King Henry IV”. 

    • Anonymous

      Actually, Andrew, that glorious St. Crispin’s Day is in “Hank Cinq” (Henry V, not IV).  

      James, I’ve got a 6-year old at home and have been thinking about this stuff a *lot*.  I happen to love both Shakespeare and pie (and have an interest in pi).  Unfortunately, my son, who likes toying around with ideas like pi hates pie and he may never develop a taste for Shakespeare.  But, he’s self-directed and I don’t want to get in his way, even if it means he won’t know the difference between Henry the IV Part One or Two or V.  

      On the other hand, what happens to a culture when its members don’t have a shared…um…culture?

    • Anonymous

      Actually, Andrew, that glorious St. Crispin’s Day is in “Hank Cinq” (Henry V, not IV).  

      James, I’ve got a 6-year old at home and have been thinking about this stuff a *lot*.  I happen to love both Shakespeare and pie (and have an interest in pi).  Unfortunately, my son, who likes toying around with ideas like pi hates pie and he may never develop a taste for Shakespeare.  But, he’s self-directed and I don’t want to get in his way, even if it means he won’t know the difference between Henry the IV Part One or Two or V.  

      On the other hand, what happens to a culture when its members don’t have a shared…um…culture?

  • Anonymous

    I was talking to a colleague yesterday about my school grades (it was results time in the UK last week), in the 20 years since I left university and five jobs in that time, not once has an employer ever asked to see the certificates of the qualifications that I put down on my resume…

  • Armin Begert

    It’s great that just because I read your blog, I don’t have to agree with everything you say. :-) I won’t argue why your point of view is pathetic, someone else go do it. 
    Although i disagree with pretty much everything you say in that article, I still enjoyed reading it, so good job with that!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You really think its better to force-feed kids Shakespeare than something they might actually want to read? That state-tested uniformity is the right way for America to go?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UTGKOUQMYRSS2LFT2EZHDH5EOI J.

        Shakespeare was among the better things we did in English class.  I liked it. Versus execrable things like the poem “The Highwayman”, and Nathaniel Hawthorne who wrote single sentences that went on for more than a page.

  • Black Raven 99

    exp(-i*pi) +1 =0 is the more elegant form and zero and one are more fundamental.

  • http://twitter.com/mollyoehmichen Molly Oehmichen

    James – Hilarious, as usual. 

    There is actually a growing movement of educators advocating for the type of homeschooling you propose. My youngest sister (currently 17), has been home schooled since 4th grade when my mom pulled her out of public school because of a bully that was increasingly violent and never reprimanded. 

    My mother is no academic so since then my sister’s education has largely consisted of what she could learn from television. She learned to cook from watching the food network (she’s a better cook than any of us), pop culture from MTV and Degrassi (probably not the best idea), and learned as much as you can in any science class from the Discovery channel. She reads constantly, works part-time at a coffee shop, has a pet micro-mini pig, and plans to get her private pilot license soon. 

    She might not test well on the SAT but she’s smarter and more well-rounded than 90% of kids her age. 

    I suffered through 13 years of public education, aced my SATs, got a BSE from a $50K/year private university and I still don’t know what the heck I wanna do with my life. :) 

    Cheers!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That is a great story, Molly. I’m envious of your sister for having that kind of education. I wish I could’ve done that for myself or for my kids.

      • Austrian Economics

        you can.

  • http://steamcatapult.com/ Dave Pinsen

    I used Pi to win a nice travel mug at Starbucks once. A new store had a jar of jellybeans and whoever came closest to guessing how many jellybeans were in the jar would win. So I counted one column of beans, and made that the “h” (height) in the formula for a cylinder, π r^2 h. My answer was within a few percent of the actual number, and I won.

    Re Shakespeare: you want to expose your kids to him without them being bored? Show them Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Henry V, or Zeffirelli’s film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet

    • Andrea Taylor

      My daughter did the same with a jar of gumballs.  She had taken geometry in school that year, and she was just giddy all day about the “trick” she used.  Her “guess” was only off by 5 gumballs.

    • Andrea Taylor

      My daughter did the same with a jar of gumballs.  She had taken geometry in school that year, and she was just giddy all day about the “trick” she used.  Her “guess” was only off by 5 gumballs.

  • Guest

    One field where imaginary numbers are really useful is electrical engineering, most prominently when calculating circuits under AC currents.

    • Anonymous

      Nobody calculates currents by hand anymore.  It’s all done by simulators.

      • Andrea Taylor

        Somebody has to write the simulator.

      • Andrea Taylor

        Somebody has to write the simulator.

  • C. Martin

    You had me cracking up and I enjoyed the insightful points! Good post!

  • http://twitter.com/bnt0 brian thomson

    You don’t learn π itself, but you learn how to use it if you study Engineering. You like electricity, right? All this business with π and complex numbers becomes really handy, when it comes to getting power from the generator to your outlet, for example. At least until the power goes out, after cost-cutting and lack of skills means the power grids aren’t properly maintained …

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yeah, so the kids who would naturally gravitate to that passion will learn it, love it, live it.

      • Anonymous

        One point you miss in this way of thinking: if they’re not exposed to it in the first place, how will they know they have a passion for it? You have no interest in math and science, so how will you expose your kids to something you have no interest in that they might excel at? That’s the point of a well-rounded education.
        I don’t buy your premise that “kids would naturally gravitate to that passion…”
         Many people don’t find a real direction until deep into grad school, others find it at 14. Because you like homeschooling doesn’t mean you should discount academia. College isn’t for everyone, nor should it be. But that doesn’t mean there is no place for academics just because you don’t like it. It’s a silly argument. “I hate school, so no one should go.” I suck at football, so no one should get to play football. that’s kinda what you sound like to me, James.I got so much more from all the teachers in my life than I ever did from my parents. Not everyone’s environment or experience is the same. Do you think a crack addict is gonna homeschool their kid as well as you would?so, it’s just too bad for the crack addict’s kid then? If homeschooling works for you, excellent. I think it’s a joke…..that’s what makes the world go ’round.
        I would make this argument: for every bad teacher there are 100 bad parents.
        For a lot of kids, public school is the only chance to ‘find’ themselves.
        imho, cheers….

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UTGKOUQMYRSS2LFT2EZHDH5EOI J.

      and knowledge of such like are essential for design of any kind of electronic device.

  • Anonymous
  • Ed

    Without Pi we would not have things like facial recognition software, and without imaginary numbers we would not have AC circuits.

    However, I do agree with you that History class and Shakespeare are bullshit…

  • http://profiles.google.com/jayzalowitz Jay Zalowitz

    Not going to lie, I had an interview at $gs and I had to know pi and how to use it.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yeah, but then you’d have to work at GS. Ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/ambudriver ambudriver

    Some kids do want to read Shakespeare.  I was one of them, completing the  written  works of Shakespeare at age twelve.  I agree that requiring the reading of Shakespeare is counter productive, and we should all be allowed to find our natural interests and talents as opposed to receiving a cookie cutter “classical” education.

    ‘Course, I was homeschooled so pretty much was able to determine my own education from thirteen on or so, which made it much easier to pursue my passionate interests, as opposed to boring ol’ algebra.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You are the best example. If my kids were homeschooled AND chose to read shakespeare it would be the best of every world.

      • Richard

        James, If you can, definitely see David D. Friedman’s writings on “unschooling” (different from “homeschooling”) which is apparently how he raised his (now adult) kids.  (Any of his other writings might be very interesting as well) 
        Here’s a recent blog post of his about “unschooling”.  http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2011/08/schooling-compulsion-incentives-and.html

  • HillaryB

    While I think for some people, pi/math/Shakespeare can be the thing they’re passionate about (I actually felt pretty passionately about calculus in high school), I love the gist of your post. Out with the public school system and standardized testing!

  • casper

    – Nearly everything we use in life building,phone,electricity,vehicles chances are that Pi was used for it, directly or esp indirectly.
    – Children learning many things is to build a mental model of many things/ideas. (google “Charlie Munger Mental Models”). It is necessary to develop a broad set of mental models and then later one can focus and specialize.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I’m not saying they shouldn’t learn. They should just learn it elsewhere. Not boring school. Not every kid needs pi. My kids would rather watch TV. They’d learn a lot more that way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_G7W7BRK25PMITFB4LQFXLFJOWU JohnL

    Say one more word about Shakespeare and I’ll;no just kidding but I loves me a hole lot of Shakespeare.And Pi see the movie Pi if you haven’t.I was a Math major and find numbers as entertaining as chess and music which use math.principals.I disagree I believe kids should learn more not less.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think they learn less at school though where everything is uniform and standardized than if they had free reign of all the intellectual terrain in front of them. most of the time kids are just bored in school. With rare exception, I’ll acknowledge that.

      • vivian andrade

        I guess I’m the rare exception…LOL  School is amazing!

      • Zeke

        The *only* reason I love Shakespeare, is because my teacher had us perform the plays in class, as a read through. We didn’t have to read it as homework unless we wanted to. She explained the complicated words as they came up, and then at the end, we watched a video of the play performed by top level actors. It inspired me to read all his plays, and to try theater myself (which gave me great joy). I can count the number of teachers that were this level of inspirational to me in school on one hand. They should all be like this or else what’s the point?

        I still hate Bill’s sonnets though. YAWN.

      • Zeke

        The *only* reason I love Shakespeare, is because my teacher had us perform the plays in class, as a read through. We didn’t have to read it as homework unless we wanted to. She explained the complicated words as they came up, and then at the end, we watched a video of the play performed by top level actors. It inspired me to read all his plays, and to try theater myself (which gave me great joy). I can count the number of teachers that were this level of inspirational to me in school on one hand. They should all be like this or else what’s the point?

        I still hate Bill’s sonnets though. YAWN.

  • http://twitter.com/mollyoehmichen Molly Oehmichen

    Also, if you haven’t seen this TED talk by Ken Robinson – it’s a must watch on how schools are killing creativity – http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html  

    We should be building education around each child, not building the children around a singular idea of education. 

    • Caroline

      Sadly, Ken Robinson never discusses the possibility that compulsory public education model is the root of the problem.  Until parents and their local community take 100% responsibility for raising their children, Ken Robinson can wishfully believe in his vision of a better educated and creative society.

  • Anonymous

    Test scores have to do with demographics and IQ

  • http://twitter.com/abhijeet80 Abhijeet

    Some people like to read Shakespeare. I’m no Shakespeare fanboy, but I have read 3 or 4 of his plays (with lots of notes, or he makes no sense). I don’t think pi is useless either…

    However, I do get the point you’re making about the lack of options in what kids can read or are assigned to read in schools. If I could have read Maus back in high school, that would have been awesome, or some great sci-fi and fantasy or Harry Potter… Thankfully, I had parents who encouraged me to read outside of school and provided me with all sorts of options to read as well.

  • Akol

    One does need to know imaginary numbers in order to build a bridge. One of the simplest and most elegant ways to model vibrations or any other periodic motion is by using complex exponentials. An engineer needs to design a bridge to damp out any resonances that could cause the bridge to vibrate, be driven at it’s resonant frequency and collapse, ie the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

  • Paul .

    Your good friend Penelope Trunk agrees with you.  She even started a whole new blog about homeschooling her kids.  I think it’s going to be epic.

  • Richardint

    I’d recommend reading Matt Hern’s ideas : http://www.mightymatthern.com/?page_id=40 or listening to his podcast on Canadian Voices (available through iTunes). He certainly opened my eyes to the concepts of learning what you consider to be important. There are some schools successfully doing this… Not enough though.

  • John H.

    Once again you are totally making sense. Pi is an irrational number. As I  follow the Daily Practice I am doing my best to not engage with the irrational. Be it irrational people, irrational exuberance, or (now that you have raised the issue) pi.

    And Shakespeare needs to be enjoyed on the stage (and only if you like going to plays), not in studying it to death.

  • Steven L Goff

    Quant funds and high frequency trading….interesting!No formula…quantitative or not can ever assign true integer/metric to the X orH factor….that being the human emotion factor….or lack there of…..ie theherd mentality….panic……exubaration etc. LTCM > Robert C. Merton and MyronS. Scholes “Long Term Capital Management, tried that….and ultimatelyfailed……to the tune of needing a NY Fed broker bailout due to the systemicrisk they posed to the system at the time. Also have ya ever read the book? > Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madnessof Crowds ~ Charles Mackay…..ya should if ya havent.
    Answered by Steven L. Goff

  • Kevin Faul

    My childhood school experiences sucked. Picked on every day, bored to death, even my 4th grade teacher told my parents I was ‘slower’ than other kids (my parents derided her for this but left me in the class). I was held back a year when they finally, 3 years later, switched schools. I got straight a’s and got into ‘all honors’ classes in high school. Great, right?

    no. wrong.

    all the ‘honors’ kids were void of creativity and afraid. of everything.

    I hated it, wasn’t interested and never did any work. finally, so pissed off at the 10 years of private education, I told my parents I wasn’t going back to high school.

    I dropped out and went to college instead (no GED, no SAT’s, nothing – yes, it is possible).

    16 years old. I went to school year around, picked my own classes – and graduated college in 3 years (BA, Anthropology). meanwhile, I started a small business I ran from  my apartment and invested my money. finished school and joined the CME as a clerk, traded within a year and have a solid career history in finance (without taking anything more than a personal finance class in college, which was almost worthless). I wrote trading programs and had memberships at CBOT and CBOE until I went to graduate school (business).

    I don’t quite ‘eat what I kill’ entirely, but every day I make my lists and have started things. I’ve started probably 5 companies. some worked, some didn’t. maybe one day I will do more. most of my job is intrapreneurial – starting new businesses within existing businesses and I do ok. though I have 2 MBA’s, they were paid for by a graduate teaching fellowship while I spent 1/2 my time ‘learning’ and 1/2 my time consulting and ‘learning’ what companies really wanted. I never had a cent of school debt, all paid for myself (I also turned down 33 scholarship offers, but that’s another story).

    my point is there are options out there most people don’t know about or won’t consider. it doesn’t have to be the institutional, debt-ridden model it is today, even if you do want to stay in school and follow a somewhat ‘normal’ path. if you want to know how you can do what I did, email me. I’m easy to find.

    love your blog James. I read it every day. Thank you.

    • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

      i read it most days

      some times i’m so cauhgt up im mo my own bullshit

      and then i dont read the blog

      but usually i read the blog

      james i love you bro

      • Adnan

        i got some favorite articles bookmarked so whenever im caught up in my BS i can refer to them and things dont seem so bad…great stuff James

        • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

          I created http://www.AwesomenessReminders.com to help myself with this exact problem… any reader of James’ blog should message me for a FREE subscription (we now have a feature that lets you schedule calls to anyone, include yourself, on any day of the week! 

          • Businessben

            Zach loved to try out awesomenessreminder let me  know how

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            Say “hello”

            zachary@awesomenessreminders.com

            I’ll take care of the rest

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            Did you email me!

            Z!

          • Deb

            Ok, here we go again…what is your email?

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt
          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            Did you email me!

            Z!

          • Anonymous

            This is not an advertising site and your concept is about as basic and ridiculous as they come.  You want me to pay $40 a month for some person that has no clue about me or the person I recommend to tell us we’re awesome?  James should block you from future comments in my opinion.   If you somehow actually make money on this, I might start a site for $35 a month to offer the same asinine service.  Almost like 6 minute abs in Something About Mary.

          • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

            I do make money with my service and many of my clients feel $39.95 is a steal considering the value I provide.  If you wish to offer a competing service I am happy to lease you all of my internal processes and software for a rate of 11% of your earnings.  

            Z!

        • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

          I created http://www.AwesomenessReminders.com to help myself with this exact problem… any reader of James’ blog should message me for a FREE subscription (we now have a feature that lets you schedule calls to anyone, include yourself, on any day of the week! 

      • Adnan

        i got some favorite articles bookmarked so whenever im caught up in my BS i can refer to them and things dont seem so bad…great stuff James

    • Deb

      Ok Kevin, what’s your email?

    • kevin herrera

      whats your email?

  • Steven L Goff

    http://stockpickr.com/members/view/answers/74234/There is already Hedge Funds set up and operating on this ;)

  • http://kiddynamitesworld.com Kid Dynamite

    james,

    sorry you couldn’t woo the tranny hookers with pi knowledge (or didn’t try), but I promise you that if you learn how to derive the Quadratic Formula from scratch you will have smart chicks jumping your bones before you can write “Q.E.D”

    -KD

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadratic_equation

    ps – I am a math major, but I still liked this post. 

    • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

      Men who use the phrase “jump your bones” are lame. Not even smart chicks like lame dudes. Therefore, KD has never got laid in his life.
      Q.E.D.

      ps-I have a math degree too. I’m just giving you a hard time. Most mathematicians are surprisingly normal.

      • http://kiddynamitesworld.com Kid Dynamite

        sometimes you have to use phrases like “jump your bones” as standins for phrases which may prove to be more incriminating at a later time.

  • http://kiddynamitesworld.com Kid Dynamite

    james,

    sorry you couldn’t woo the tranny hookers with pi knowledge (or didn’t try), but I promise you that if you learn how to derive the Quadratic Formula from scratch you will have smart chicks jumping your bones before you can write “Q.E.D”

    -KD

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadratic_equation

    ps – I am a math major, but I still liked this post. 

  • Caroline

    James, if you have the time, check out the” Life of Fred” math series by Stanley Schmidt. http://www.stanleyschmidt.com/FredGauss/index2.html 

    I love homeschooling my children.  I pulled the older one from conventional school more than two years ago (my younger will not see the inside of any school for a long time!).  The difference in her spirit is tremendous.  It’s truly worth whatever mountains you have to move to do it.
    -Caroline

  • PChan

    I don’t believe math is pathetic. I think you mean the average math curriculum are not really design for the average working adult.

    I enjoy math when I was a kid but stop enjoying it when I start learning calculus because I didn’t see the practical use of it in want I wanted to do. And then recently I saw a TED talk from Arthur Benjamin and realize it would’ve been more useful if they teach statistics in math curriculum. http://bit.ly/byuuKW

    Now as far as Shakespeare is concern, I’m totally with you. I didn’t enjoy reading stories that is written in English but I cannot understand. No one say “To be or not to be” when they need to make a decision. And even to this day when I watch a Shakespearean movies, I still can’t quite follow the lines.

    I understand that these are just things that didn’t interest me, maybe someone else enjoyed them back in high school. I wouldn’t judge them for it. 

    However this, I think, highlight the argument behind your post; that some long standing  subject matters should no longer be part of the mandatory curriculum anymore if the goal of the education system is to produce productive members of the society.

  • pjc

    Wow James you’re really out to lunch on this pi is useless stuff.

    Pi is fundamental to lots of incredibly useful math. Like the math behind electromagnetism that is used to keep the lights on.

    Society needs *some* kids to grow up to be scientists, and continue to advance basic science. We can’t all be entrepenaurs.

    But the math curriculum is bad, I’ll grant you that. It leans wayy to hard towards training engineers, and not hard enough towards building math literacy. 

    I.e. high school should have less calculus and more statistics. Perhaps just teach kids some really simple calculus, like “the derivative is the slope, the integral is the area”, stuff, but not force them to jump through so many “integration by parts” and all that other junk.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I agree. But those kids (and I was one of them) will naturally gravitate to the sciences. Example: Math in the school system I grew up in (public schools) was horrible. I spent 3 summers from 7th-9th grade going to a special program where I took Algbebra I through Calc, and then Statistics 101 college level. It was my passion. Other kids there had it as a passion as well. But many kids (my kids now) don’t have math as a passion. So it just bores them to sleep and takes up their brain cells so they are too tired to pursue their real passions once they get home.

      • pjc

        I’m passionate about math, but the passion probably would never have fired if I wasn’t forced to learn the “grammar” of mathematics. 

        To use a piano analogy, I’m too lazy to practice much, but when forced to practice to a certain level of proficiency, I began to see the point and got excited about it.

        I was the bottom of the barellel in 4th grade math, but aced AP Calc and minored in Physics.

        To a certain extend, kids do need to be forced to eat their vegetables, at least a little bit.

  • Steven L Goff

    “But do you ever really need “pi” in life? Like does anyone ever bring you a circle and say, “quick! I need to know the perimeter of this circle?”~JamesMathematicians (pro’s and Joes) have searched for a key number that will unlock the uni…versal patterns/algorithms found in nature/society/human species…..just sayin’Chaos Theory quantitative formulas use it very often IN FACT!I had the nickname of PiGuy on stockpickr.  com for yearsssssss….just sayin’ again”All economics really is> The study of peoples propensities to do something or not”…. And the market is composed or comprised (I am better numbers guy than writer) of nothing more than “the greater fool theory” Buying something with the hope (or in my case…a calculated risk…that it will be worth more or LESS at later date. So in most cases I try to get there before most waiting for the HERD to come and relieve me of my shares, while I go on to the next trade.People lie and numbers do NOT.Mathematics is also the ONLY true universal language. For it is definitive… and not subject to interpretation!

  • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

    Everyone is focusing on the “pi” stuff. More important is that kids sit around all day being bored out of their minds when they could be pursuing activities or interests more passionate for them.

    • Steven L Goff

      You know where I stand of the standardized form of education in this developed country. It is NO MORE than subsidized day care for your children while you are off at work paying the TAXES. It dont take 12 yrs of schooling to teach a kid what they need to know in academics. Especially today in the exponential tech growth phase where are in latter stages off(or beginning depending on your mindset) What kids learn today is obsolete before they ever have chance to apply it in workforce. Schooling as we have come to know it and even higher education will be obsolete soon. Via home computing and biometric ID proximity devices to ensure your child is the one in front of computer get the STATE APPROVED curriculum/agenda. (Of which you will pay a fee for by the way….like buying school books)

      • Steven L Goff

        I dont want to hear > “ohhhhhhhhhhhh but the child will miss out on the social mingling aspect of it/school”   Think about that the next time a kid comes to school with gun and kills 25 or a teacher has sex with your daughter or son. Or a bully picks on your kid to the point of suicide.

        • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

          Social skills play a HUGE part of how successful and happy a person is. Shootings, rape, and suicide constitute a very SMALL portion of high school students’ experiences.

          And there’s no better way to learn social skills than to be around people constantly when you’re a kid. However, that doesn’t mean school is the ONLY way to learn social skills.

          • pjc

            “However, that doesn’t mean school is the ONLY way to learn social skills.”

            Summer camp is a much more effective way to teach social skills to kids. 100% socialization – no bored out of your gourd BS.

          • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

            That makes sense except that summer camp is only in the summer. 2-3 months out of the year isn’t enough.

            I’m trying to think of other year-round things that involve a lot of social interaction…

            But all I can come up with is team sports, which is only good for kids that like sports.

          • Sarafina

            social interaction happens the moment you walk out into the world.  Bonds form with people you see repeatedly….so aside from sports, there are a myriad of other “clubs” or classes to involve a child in (think art, chess, drama, music, etc.), there are also opportunities to get involved with volunteer work, get involved with a church youth group if that’s your thing, if you can’t find what you want, create it.  “If you build it, they will come.”   =)  hope some of those ideas are useful.

          • pjc

            Well, 2-3 months of intense, super-fun socialization followed by 9-10 months of playdates and 1-2 semi-organized activities (soccer, swim team, what not) is probably enough, and certainly better than the “normal school + summer desert” socialization that myself and most of my friends had.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

          Watch out, Steven doesn’t want to hear something!  The reason the teacher has been having sex with your daughter (or your son) is because your son and daughter have spent their entire childhood in front of a TV telling them about sex so when opportunity knocks they open the door.

      • Steven L Goff

        Summed up > there is more to leaning what a child needs today going forward than a passing or failing grade can EVER achieved in issuing.  Holistic education if you will. BUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT there is some states passing laws to where you cant even HOME SCHOOL your child if you want to. Not unless someone in the household possess teaching credentials from an accredited institution…..lol HOW FUCKED UP IT THAT?  I know they could get you to do ANYTHING they want to your child when they started w/ forced vaccination for disease to attend school. With untested over time and in conjunction with what they consume daily medication to boot.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

          What good would homeschooling be if all the parents express themselves like “there is some states passing laws to where you cant even HOME SCHOOL your child if you want to. Not unless someone in the household possess teaching credentials from an accredited institution…..lol HOW FUCKED UP IT THAT?”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

        ” It dont take 12 yrs of schooling to teach a kid what they need to know in academics.”  Sounds like you need at least another year, Steven.

    • pjc

      Bear in mind, the public school system is designed to primarily benefit public school employees  – particularly those with seniority, as the passionate young teachers are treated like crap. 

      Private schools are in general less boring, and there are lots of different private schools, so most parents who can afford it find a private school their happy with.

      The Tea-Baggers are right on this subject, and they actually are surprisingly close to Obama in fighting the teachers union.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

        “designed”??? Yeah, right.

    • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

      Sometimes “kids” [people] don’t know what may or may not be their passion.

      The real challenge here is for the child [person] to find something of value in their day at school [work], if they can learn that skill alone, then school [work] would be a fantastic teacher. 

    • Anonymous

      James,

      When you finish with ‘Maus,’ you seem to leave the door open for school. That if the institution of school just taught stuff kids cared about, it would be relevant. I think this is a bad way to end…no giant bureaucratic system could succeed in teaching cool stuff, especially at scale, without killing it.

      That said, I taught a graphic novel course a couple of times for college students, and it was largely successful (Maus, Berlin, Sin City, Persepolis, Fun Home). But students are still fulfilling a requirement OR they love the material and are a bit frustrated with the pace or approach. Like, they are so past Maus they can’t be bothered.

      What happens if 80% of American kids stayed home to watch Spanish soap operas and play X-Box?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

        Hey, I’ve got a great idea!  Why don’t we make all the x-box games in Spanish!

    • http://robertsaric.com/ Robert Saric

      I was an overachiever my entire life, the only thing that kept slowing me down was the  education process.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

        Poor baby, did the nasty old education process slow the little train down?

        • http://robertsaric.com/ Robert Saric

          I think the problem lies in the industrial nature of education. Worth watching, “changing education paradigms” http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U

      • Index1000

        Overachiever ? Compared to who?

    • Chris

      James, go visit a montessori or regio school. See if that gels with you.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

      “Passionate”.  Now there is a truly overused word.  It’s amazing how much ‘passion’ must be floating around that just can’t be used because someone has to read.  Hey, I’ve got an idea!  Let’s go play some video games…I’m “passionate” about that!

  • Anonymous

    Plays were meant to be performed, not read.

  • http://www.andrewriley.net Andrew

    God Damn, James. You make a great point.  I think back to the endless hours of TORTURE spent “learning” math in High School.  Even then I knew I would never need to know more than how to balance my checkbook, and I was right.  25 years later I still get antsy just thinking about high school math.  Plus I was an asshole to my teachers because I hated being there and I was bored.

    If I’d had an adult in my life with the power and wisdom to toss that shit out the window I wonder what I could have accomplished with all those hours of pointless frustration.  I certainly had talents and other interests that could have been encouraged.  I never thought of it in this way before, but what a colossal waste of all those hours of my youth.

    Great post.

  • Tim Melvin

    I foucsed on a of of htings I was passionate about as a kid James.  However drinking cheap wine , getting high and chasing girls didnt really give me much of a boost. Kids need the discipline of studying the necessary to develop the tools needed to find their real passions. Without discipline your average kids passion is video games and tv. Not exactly life enhancing and building tasks.

    Its our job as PARENTS to present the cool comic books and interesting reading material The school needs to focus on boring old basics like Pi and dead poets. Your pursuit of your passions goes fror naught if you do not know how to build a foundation under the castles you built in the sky.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Tim, what if I can do that all day. And not just when they are too tired to think because they’ve been bored to tears all day in school.

      Let’s not forget also, how much history has to be re-learned because it is so out-dated in school? Quite a bit. And how much of biology or science is really properly taught so as to excite the kid. Very little. Let them stay home and if they wnat to learn what’s inside the flower, then they can. At the age of 8 they probably won’t be drinking cheap wine, partiuclarly if I am sitting right next to them.

      • Tim Melvin

        If you can James then you should home school your kids. I am not disagreeing at all with your basic point as I think our education system fails kids on many levels. Just pointing out that discipline is a requirement. I know. I have none.

  • Ubernaut

    I think you are 100% right on that. i was recently eating lunch with strangers on a boat about 8 months ago and the kid at the table was home schooled. Her mother let her study whatever she wanted and simply helped in her current area of interest. One thing i remember is that i was shocked when i heard her age can’t remember exactly how old she was but i do remember that she acted about 5 years older then she was. Apparently the way socializing works is that when you homeschool there are resources from the state/county that help you and they have group get togethers.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, I’ve heard about the group get togethers. i wish i could get my act together and get my kids, at least one of them, homeschooled.

  • Catwood2

    A group of us formed a book club and started out with the book club choice shocker “The Help”. I finished and then the wife picked up and I think more or less enjoyed it. Until she started researching up after the read about the book and decided that it was the work of a lazy writer who couldn’t keep important facts straight in the chronology (a dylan reference sticks out to me). We eventually had the book club meeting and everybody loved the book..which, of course made her a real buzz kill during the discussion. The next member selected a book and went with “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. I thought this might be a reaction to some of the discussion in the first meeting but I could be wrong as he has some Iranian connections. It took forever for the group to get thru the book and there are suspicions that some didn’t ever get there. The story tells of the plight of living under a tough regime – particularly for women – and it spends quite a bit of time bringing in passages from classic works and expounding on them in some fashion. A fashion that kept making me think I had too weak of a background to appreciate/understand what in the hell she was getting at for pages and pages. No Shakespeare there, but might as well have been. My wife felt the same but her reaction was to think she should read or re-read the classic works discussed. My reaction was to thank god I was done with that book and for cliff notes in college. 
    On the home schooling, I have a bias against that based on some first hand and anecdotal. We send our boy to Montessori and the underlying philosophy of a kid directed approach to learning I think speaks to a lot of what I read on your distaste for the “school system”.
    On math, I think the book “Beginners Guide to Constructing the Universe” is a great one for appreciating some of the beauty.
    Great stuff here.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Catwood, I’m going to check out that “Beginner’s Guide”.

  • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

    Most of what is taught today in schools is bullshit. And actual dissemination of knowledge was not even the aim of the modern American education system. If you look into the history on our education system you will see that the basis of it was to create good, obedient factory workers and such. Not only was it not designed to create entrepreneurs, it practically designed to prevent entrepreneurship. 

    And everything they learn in high school they will forget anyway. 

    Pull them out. Do it your way. It’s called “unschooling.” There is a huge fight about unschooling in the world of home schoolers. It’s controversial as hell, which probably means it’s right. 

    • mickeyray

      Yes!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIGUBTMBHJEL7CBK2J5YZA7BH4 Rocky Mountain

      No, the idea wasn’t to create “good obedient factory workers”.  People like Horace Greeley and other 19th century reformers were interested in providing a social infrastructure so that democracy could function properly.  If people can’t read and have at least the rudiments of arithmetic they’re probably not going to be good participants in the electoral process.  Social control as you describe it may be somewhat of an outcome but it wasn’t the goal.  I’m not against “unschooling” but we’ve already got enough semi-criminals wandering the streets who couldn’t tolerate conventional school who certainly won’t function any better and probably worse when they are ‘unschooled’.

      • Caroline

        No.  Unless you’re talking about making democracy work better for those in power, you are wishful, spouting the conventional dumbed-down version of compulsory public education history, and otherwise incorrect.  The roots of our modern public schools were primarily founded by the industrialists and their politicians to promote tolerance to existing working conditions, promote a more homogenous protestant national culture and generally create “good” (ie loyal and patriotic) citizens.  Research keywords like Prussian model of schools, progressive, education, John Taylor Gatto, and origins of public education and you’ll find the facts.  

        The “better-educated voter” rationale taught by teachers whose livelihoods depend on continuing the sham is propaganda.  The truth is it’s about making you more malleable so the ruling class can securely amass more wealth and political power.  Take off your edumacation blinders, and think about what is happening all over the world both economically and politically and you’ll quickly realize you’ve been effectively fooled. 

        • Syren

          Absolutely right on the money.   I did my thesis for a masters in education (an utter and complete waste of time and money) on this very topic.  Apart from my non-brainwashed faculty advisor, everybody came completely unglued at my anti-public school position. They went catatonic when I published my sources and could not, would not, admit that anything I had researched and written was possible, let alone true.  That’s when I knew I was right.
          Thanks for your great post, Caroline. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HCINWHHSVN42E556ME3XFHKGDM Mike

    Time Magazine has always made it clear that their Man of the Year does not imply an endorsement. Quoting the 1938 article: “Hitler became in 1938 the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom-loving world faces today”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HCINWHHSVN42E556ME3XFHKGDM Mike

    Also quoting the Time article about Hitler, I’m sure this is not relevant to your argument:

    “Consistently failing to pass even the most elementary studies, he grew up a half-educated young man, untrained for any trade or profession, seemingly doomed to failure.”

  • Nate

    I was homeschooled, and didn’t learn to have a normal conversation until about 5 years after being put into public school.

    But during those 5 years, I got considerably more dumb also.

  • http://thegoodluckduck.blogspot.com Roxanne

    ‘’ is all I need to read to know there is no God.

    Also, I’m afraid of your commenters.  They’re smarter than me, and don’t laugh as much.

    • http://thegoodluckduck.blogspot.com Roxanne

      See, this is what I mean.  My cut didn’t paste, and that cracks me up.  

      Sometimes, if I know how much of a large pizza I ate, but I only know the calories for a medium pizza slice, I use (pizza) pi to figure out how much to lie to my food diary.  That’s worth 17 years I’ll never get back.

  • Anonymous

    I wish I had the time to pull my kids out of school and homeschool them.

    Blog less, parent more.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Blogging more makes me parent better

    • pjc

      Telling James to blog less is like telling Louis Armstrong to blow less.

  • Steven L Goff

    Time Magazines Man of the Year in 1938 was Hitler?!  Shittttttttttt thats nothin’ >>> They gave President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009

    • Sve

      Maybe he didn’t earn it. But that Nobel Peace prize was really given to all of the citizens of the United States who collectively took a major step to close a wound that had plagued her for 200 years – slavery. No one thought that could be possible. In one election she elected a black man to the highest office in the land and haltingly, just barely put the spectre of her shameful racism past into the role of a defeated foe. It was a victory for the country and a shining example to the world that America at her best can still be a beacon. Too bad it took the devastation of an eight year failed presidency to tip that election. The wounds and remanants of that failed ideology plague us still. The Nobel award recognized that the world moved for the better that day.

      • Alessandro

        They told you a story, that a poor, black boy, from a single mother can be one day President…
        Do you believe it?
        Ok, now you have to be calm and quiet and let them do some business as usual. The same like before.

        • Mike Periboob

          Does not matter if we on this forum believe it. This thought is aimed at the poor black kid who’s drunken father has told him from birth, “you dumb kid, wachu botha with skule fer? Them whiteys gona hole you down, you got no chance, you betta-off in a good gang.”

          That is the kid that (I think) this President sets an example for. Maybe, just maybe that kid will see a black president on TV, and decide that Dad got this one wrong, and maybe he will try a little harder in the public school that the elites here see no need for. Because “home schooling” does not work so well when your home is in Hell.

      • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

        It’s disturbing to me that so many people based their votes on this kind of thinking rather than on what he stood for.

    • Alessandro

      A Nobel Peace Prize to one of the American Presidents is a contraddiction in terms.

  • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

    I think you are underestimating the complexity of social skills. I’ve seen people get torn apart because they don’t follow one or two basic social rules (that have nothing to do with who is cool and who is a nerd). The nerds who follow social rules, generally, get left alone.

    That being said, I learned all my social skills by playing team sports when I was a kid, not in school, so school is not the only place where you can learn those things.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

      So did those people learn those two basic social rules eventually? 

      • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

        No. You and I both know that people rarely learn. That’s why they have to get the social rules down when they are young.

        • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

          I don’t get your point then. The “socializing” in school didn’t really help them then? Or were they homeschooled? 

          • http://www.honeymoonletters.com Whitney

            All I was arguing is that the social skills we learn as kids are more complex than “He’s a nerd, she’s popular.” I’m not arguing that school is where we learn social skills.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JZFTWTJ2Q3MUUQG44RUA7VB7RM Tony

    James,
    You are a riot…………..uhhh, or should I say ‘Flash Mob’?

  • http://twitter.com/JFinDallas JFinDallas

    A lot of people agree with you and they came up with this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_educationMy kids have been going to a Montessori school since they were about 20 months old, they amaze me every day (I know, I know they are my kids…) with the stuff they learn and the way they learn it.

    • pjc

      My oldest goes to a public charter Montessori school and loves it.  It seems to be the best solution for kids under 12, but the “powers that be” frown on it for some reason.

      • http://twitter.com/JFinDallas JFinDallas

        Yes, even though my son was reading full chapter books and starting to toy with some advanced math by the time he was 6, my mother still asks me when am I going to send him to a “real school” so he can start learning some things…
        Must be a generation thing…
        http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/mcafee/2011/07/montessori-builds-innovators.html

        • pjc

          Wow, thats incredible! My son’s not that advanced, but he loves to read, is decent at math, and is friends withe nerds.

          There’s almost a Monitsorri Mafia among high tech rock stars. Bezos, one of the Google founders, Will Wright, all Monti kids.

  • Caroline

    Only in the last several decades in the history of humankind is it
    considered normal for a child to spend the day under thumb of a dictator
    in a room full of people who are the same age in order to become
    educated.

  • firstbase613

    My rich uncle always said, “school was invented to keep people out of the work force”. He should know, he never graduated high school and made enough money to own copper and gold mines around the world.  

  • doug graves

    Not one of your best efforts, old cock; was holding my breath for the “Pie are round – not squared joke.  I liked your curriculum for home schooling though.  Back in 1921, a guy named A.S. Neill founded a school even less regimented than your concept.  He wrote a book called “Summerhill” about the experience.  The school (by the same name) is still in operation…. and they take boarders. http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/

  • Caromusa

    A few observations:

    – You said: “Just like 500 years from now people will probably think our leaders were just as bad”. I’m sorry to inform you that TODAY millions of people think that your leaders are bad. Or plain evil, like Bush (father and son). It’s just my thought, but most people in the 3rd. world countries (like mine) think alike. And it’s not a relief to know that our leaders are also bad, most of the time. But they just can’t control the world. Bottomline: maybe all the people in positions of power end up doing bad things. That could be the subject of one of your posts. At least I find it very interesting.

    – About the boredom of Shakespeare: I also don’t like to read plays, but the ideas behind are very good. The problem is: kids at school are not ready for that. That’s the whole point: being ready! It happened to me: books I tried to read when I was 12 or 15, and couldn’t because they bored me, I loved them at 18. I just needed to read other stuff in between, to grow, to “warm up” the mind. You can’t go from nothing to Shakespeare. You need to start with something lighter, and make a progression. Later on, you like and want the heavy reading. At least that’s what happened to me. Of course, I don’t like all the classics, there’s also one’s personal taste.

    – Travel -as you said- is a great way of learning. A trip to Europe can teach more than 1000 books. That would be awesome for your kids. And you can find out funny facts, like I did: I have only 2 degrees of separation with Hitler, since in one of my trips to Europe I met a soldier who knew Rudolf Hess, who knew Hitler. It was like touching history (the dark and creepy part though).

  • http://twitter.com/CommodityJoe Joe Ravitsky

    I use pi every day to calculate the weight per foot of copper tubing when calculating how to manufacture copper tubing.  Its useful to determine a whole host of calculations related to purchasing, pricing, and manufacturing.  Check out our family business, http://www.ameritube.net

  • http://jimgrey.wordpress.com/ jim

    A teacher told my 12-year-old son about cumulus clouds and igneous rock and other things about the world around us and now the boy can’t get enough.

    If that hadn’t happened, all my son would care about is his Wii.
    Someone has to introduce children to things so they can discover what is interesting to them.  I never would have introduced my son to cumulus clouds and igneous rock because I care not one iota about such things.  

    • john

      I don’t know what the right anwser is but some kids don’t want to brush their teeth or ever go to bed and play call of duty all night.  Uh that would have been me at 8.  Why is let your kid learn everything for themselves the answer?  Aren’t parents supposed to “teach” kids how somewhat how to behave.  I know some parents who do let their kids do whatever they want and they are the worst.  Go to the grocery store sometime.  Pretty sure I don’t want that for my kids.

      • john

        Oh you want to smoke cigarettes drink beer and eat twinkies…. hey its your life 12 yr old son of mine.  I guess you’ll “learn” in 10 years you got screwed having me as a parent.  I really hope james addresses this cause I really think I might home school my kid cause I agree classes and stuff I “learned” was painfully boring.  I didn’t really start reading until I got out of college and would read stuff related to my work.  ie stuff I’m interested in.

        • Tanya

          You don’t need James to “address this” in order for you to homeschool. 

  • Anonymous

    I think you first have to differentiate between Education and Training.
     
    If you start with the idea that you need Training to do this or that or obtain a certificate of some kind, then the superfluous BS is just a waste. But if you want to be well rounded, have some idea of what came before you, have a sense of the foundations of thought and reason, then you need to pursue Education. And knowing what Pi is for and reading some classic literature is a good start. Doesn’t have to be boring though.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    I am so happy my children went to school.  If I thought for a minute that I could stand to home-school them maybe I would have tried, but I knew better.

    And – at my home school –  I wouldn’t have an indoor swimming pool or a soccer-field, or  40 extra musicians hanging around the house, or an auditorium, or a pottery kiln. And I might not have PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Options) or AP courses and testing, or the AFS ( foreign exchange program.) I am sure there’s so much more my school would lack.

    Pi isn’t for everyone – but no one said it was, and false history goes to the core of our nation. Nowadays, so many teachers get called out by students that do their own research….remember …there an internet now…. :)  

    Plus:  There’s plenty of time to home school when the children are home: after-school, weekends, summer break, spring break, winter break, thanksgiving…..

  • Anonymous

    I believe your blog may have the only comment section that I can read without feeling the need to pound my head on a wall.  Not sure if it’s the content that attracts quality discussion or if it’s iron-fisted moderating.  In either case, thanks.  It’s become an enjoyable daily visit for me.

    • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

      I totally agree.  I love James posts – but I equally enjoy the comments
      which are diverse, respectful and appear to be heartfelt.

  • Anonymous

    I can vouch for the fact that it is possible for one to attend public school and receive very little socialization.  My fundy-christian parents would not allow me to interact with others outside the classroom, which is where most of the socialization occurs.  It was straight home from school to  avoid the corruption of sinners.  The school is a handy meetup place, though, and as some have mentioned has some nice resources.  Perhaps one could send their children to public school with the understanding that they are free to pay as little attention as they wish and skip as many days as they wish as long as they make some friends and participate in whatever else interests them.  I suppose ‘No Child Left Behind’ would cause some havoc re: testing.

  • http://mattheweagen.com Matt E

    James Altucher is a Great Inspiration! This is by far my favorite blog to read!

    One day I am going to buy you a beer, James. You have changed my life.

  • cindyluwho

    Outstanding post!!! Thanks again;)

  • Dgarber

    sigh…

    Ah, well, somebody has to be able to design, build, and repair your toys. And aircraft. And just about everything else that makes your complex world function on a day-to-day basis.

    Not to say that the current feel-good know-nothing stuff that is taught in many schools today produces much that is relevant to the real world. It’s more important to build self-esteem and social awareness than to produce persons capable of building a better tomorrow. Better to produce persons who learn to despise learning, and to berate and defame the accomplishments of their forefathers rather than supplying them with the tools to surpass them.

    We are falling further into irrelevance because the current system has all the faults of it’s predecessors and very few of their virtues. We have to import our scientists and engineers because math isn’t cool and we repeat endlessly the failures of our past because we elevate ignorance and indolence into art forms. Lay on that couch and play that video game! Watch that TV for extra credit!

    Aaaaaargh!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Wishing My kids would read stuff more interesting than shakepeare is not “despising learning”. It’s the opposite of that

      • Dgarber

        I remember calculating pi by measuring cans on the floor with a string when I was home sick with the mumps. It thrilled me that there was a consistency in the form and that someone was smart enough to grasp this essential. I think I was five at the time and I then learned about e and other transcendentals and  the golden ratio because of that interest. (I was an odd child and haven’t changed much in the many intervening years.)

        Shakespeare introduced me to the rythm and cadence of dramatic and poetic speech. His works made his age understandable and exciting. Far from the dusty and dry histories, his works defined the lyrics of modern music and of classic satire. He taught me about moveable feasts and nymph-draped fantasy.

        Your world view is valuable and your bully pulpit is very large. -There are so many things that are very wrong in our schools that it takes almost no thought at all to come up with valid criticisms, and yet you choose to make it a popularity contest.

        I have had the fortune to teach electronics to our young sailors and marines and was greatly impressed by their lack of basic knowledge. It gave me a sad glimpse into the effects of our tinkering with education. Mind you, these were in the top 10% of our enlistees and of the general population.

        – Most could not do basic calculations without a calculator.
        – Most could not write grammatically in a formal setting and without numerous spelling errors.
        – Many could not balance a check book.
        – Most were ignorant of symbolic and mathematical logic.
        – Most were ignorant of history, even as it pertained to their lives.

        I don’t use them to imply that they were stupid. -Far from it. They were the best and brightest in every sense, but they were let down by their schools and their parents. It is shameful to me that somebody can recite (proudly) all the characters on the many reality TV shows and cannot name the last 4 presidents or the three branches of government.

        James, use your power for good. -Cry out at the shameful lack of real learning going on in our schools, but don’t disparage what little real curriculum still exists because you find it boring. -Better still, show what can be done to make this quagmire better. Use your practice to do so, invent and think up new ideas. Above all, teach your children to love learning even when it is hard or dull.

        Else all they will have is the easy and the quick.

        That is what I am telling you, James.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Wishing My kids would read stuff more interesting than shakepeare is not “despising learning”. It’s the opposite of that

    • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

      Well that math isn’t “cool” is really something you learn in school through being picked on by your peers, right? And it stays that way, you don’t really command a lot of respect as an Engineer or Researcher or Software Developer. A bartender or scuba instructor probably gets more ladies than a Software Engineer or a Researcher or whatever (I might test that theory in the real world soon) ;)

      • Dgarber

        When the paycheck arrives, the worm turns. A software engineer or a chemist makes far more money than a scuba instructor or a bartender. For the more rugged, a directional driller or a measurement while drilling engineer (which doesn’t require a degree, but does require a lot of math and stamina) makes more than any of them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

          I suppose that is a cultural difference, in the US you command respect for making money, in many parts of Europe people despise/envy you instead. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

          I suppose that is a cultural difference, in the US you command respect for making money, in many parts of Europe people despise/envy you instead. 

          • Dgarber

            Ah, but you still have the better lifestyle that money can give you… -And there are plenty of places with people who admire accomplishment, even in Europe.

            There’s plenty of that sort of feeling in the US too (sadly).

            In the end, you just have to give up caring what some people think in order to succeed. Reverse snobbery is no better than plain old snobbery. Besides, being envied is to be desired far more than being pitied.

  • Allsatarzeke555

    I can’t express how much I agree. Every day that I attend school I feel like it’s killing a bit of what I could have been. I’m passionate about two things that I can make a career out of: Music and Psychology. I’m in the school band, but the director has to worry about 200 other students as well as me. There’s one psych class offered. The rest of the time I’m spending in school is 100% useless. Not a minute of it is worth my time. I shouldn’t have spent a day on math past third grade. I’ve forgotten more useless science classes than I remember. English is too subjective and pushy. We don’t all benefit from reading the prescribed texts. Ugh. I could be more successful homeschooling myself honestly. 

  • TripleB

    Even the rocket scientists at Google lost when they bid pi for Nortel patents.  How precious.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/02/us-dealtalk-nortel-google-idUSTRE76104L20110702

    “It became clear that they were bidding with
    the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous
    mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi,”
    the source said, adding the bid was $3.14159 billion.

  • TripleB

    Even the rocket scientists at Google lost when they bid pi for Nortel patents.  How precious.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/02/us-dealtalk-nortel-google-idUSTRE76104L20110702

    “It became clear that they were bidding with
    the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous
    mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi,”
    the source said, adding the bid was $3.14159 billion.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right, reading Shakespeare is boring. Shakespeare, I’m pretty sure, did not write his plays so that thousands of unfortunate 20th century teenagers could be trapped in a room with an adult whose sole objective for 45 minutes was to analyze his plays to death, thereby sucking the life right out of them. Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be SEEN, PERFORMED, LIVE! Take your kids to see his plays. They’re about all of the people that you describe in this blog with their ambition, greed, love, jealousy, passion, lust, violence and stupidity. I saw The Royal Shakespeare Company perform “Cymbeline” and “Richard the Third” when I was a kid. It was a life changing experience, as transformative for me as chess was for you. It was indescribable. No words can do it justice. It was magic.

  • http://twitter.com/Kadorito Arnaud Ladrière

    Hi James. I like your point of view, I am a huge supporter of your blog like most followers. But stating that letting kids decide for their education is a massive mistake IMHO.

    First because kids are LAZY as hell, all of them. Or you should find 1% that’s not willing to play all day, and most of the kids games won’t get them educated any way.

    Second because kids have no common sense of what’s good or not. Not necessarily good for them, but just good for somebody or some purpose. And they don’t know what they’re good at, because then just tend to stay in a zone of comfort, therefore they can’t discover their own talents by themselves. Some might be good at maths or physics or writing or dancing or some sport, but they won’t discover it without a bit of pain and headaches.

    With a world full of “do-what-you-like-only” educated people, you will end up with a bunch of stupid guys, the end of science and arts, the end of human race because as you know the worls is living kind of a “situation”.

    That might be a good end, anyway.

    PS : I’m french, hence the possible typos, but stil I would have never learned english if wasn’t forced to, I prefer videogames.

    PPS : education doesn’t involve debt. American bullshit, here you can reach the highest possible levels in science, arts, etc (if you’re good at it) for a low annual entry fee. One exception : business schools are expensive, but this is normal, those salesguys and mbas need to learn that you won’t get anything for free.

    • Tanya

      “With a world full of “do-what-you-like-only” educated people, you will end up with a bunch of stupid guys, the end of science and arts…”

      You just made the assumption that given a choice, children/people would not choose science or the arts.  And you couldn’t be further from the truth. 

      • http://twitter.com/Kadorito Arnaud Ladrière

        Not really what I mean. If you’re part of the few percent of educated parents leaving in a protected environment, your children might have the opportunity to do the right choice for them, but for the rest of the people ( basically more than 95% of the world population ), most of them will be contaminated by crap tv ( if they have access to tv ), crappy life and actually get no education at all.

        James theory is “good” for $100k+ families in the US and a few other countries. not a lot of people. All the recent revolutions in the Arab world for example took source in the student movement in Tunisia. Those people finally got access to education, that freed them from dictatorship.

        • Kim

          “With a world full of “do-what-you-like-only” educated people, you will end up with a bunch of stupid guys, the end of science and arts…”

          Have you researched this or have experienced it first hand on a large scale? I’m curious, because in my experience as a teacher and in my quest for better educational approaches for my children and other families, I have found the opposite. 

          These are just some of the schools that give a great deal of freedom to the children (from all income brackets) with remarkable results:

          Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, MA
          Manhattan Free School in Manhattan, NY
          Summerhill School in Suffolk, England
          Givol School in Givat Olga, Israel

          Some have been around for decades and the children are learning. 

          I understand what you are saying about “lazy” children as I work with youth in foster and detention facilities. We have been taught for years that children will try to get out of anything that requires thinking or learning. However, the children are trying to get out of a broken system. A preceived “lazy” child may be displaying a symptom rather than the disease. We shouldn’t fix the symptom or perceived laziness, but take a look at and fix the cause of the behavior. For example, giving my at-risk youth a voice in some of the educational decisions has made a world of difference in their education.

          I just think we can do better with educating our children rather than continuing to implement the traditional, curriculum-centered approach. But what’s most important is that we are talking about it. Because your ideas and thoughts are important, too. Many parents feel the way you do. So we start talking about it and learn from those who have tried something new. 

          • http://twitter.com/Kadorito Arnaud Ladrière

            I don’t have access to large-scale data but I have experience with
            children, I know a lot of teachers at different levels. But still this
            is my opinion only.

            I agree with you, some experiments might give excellent result, but just
            think of the “distance” between those schools and a ghetto in mexico
            city. And don’t forget that these ARE schools, therefore the educational
            process was elaborated, that “freedom” is in a controlled space, and
            out of the street or family space).

            Homeschooling is a good option for 1% people, not 100%.

            But of course, the traditional academic education is far from being the
            best way, still in France, in a 3 centuries timeframe, illiteracy has
            evolved from  ***70% *** to nearly 0. Nowadays, school is mandatory
            here. Of course most of those kids won’t use PI or Molière (our
            Shakespeare), but they will be able to read, write, calculate even for
            the dumbest, and the clever ones will find out what they are gifted for
            if they are curious.

  • http://twitter.com/Kadorito Arnaud Ladrière

    Hi James. I like your point of view, I am a huge supporter of your blog like most followers. But stating that letting kids decide for their education is a massive mistake IMHO.

    First because kids are LAZY as hell, all of them. Or you should find 1% that’s not willing to play all day, and most of the kids games won’t get them educated any way.

    Second because kids have no common sense of what’s good or not. Not necessarily good for them, but just good for somebody or some purpose. And they don’t know what they’re good at, because then just tend to stay in a zone of comfort, therefore they can’t discover their own talents by themselves. Some might be good at maths or physics or writing or dancing or some sport, but they won’t discover it without a bit of pain and headaches.

    With a world full of “do-what-you-like-only” educated people, you will end up with a bunch of stupid guys, the end of science and arts, the end of human race because as you know the worls is living kind of a “situation”.

    That might be a good end, anyway.

    PS : I’m french, hence the possible typos, but stil I would have never learned english if wasn’t forced to, I prefer videogames.

    PPS : education doesn’t involve debt. American bullshit, here you can reach the highest possible levels in science, arts, etc (if you’re good at it) for a low annual entry fee. One exception : business schools are expensive, but this is normal, those salesguys and mbas need to learn that you won’t get anything for free.

  • mousketeer

    You can homeschool James if you really want to.  You CHOOSE not to home school and use “time” as an excuse.  Perhaps the real reason you dont, is because you are scared to fail them and have to take the blame.  FEAR envelopes all of your writing.  It is sad sometimes because you really are a bright individual.

    • JoeSchmoe

      Exactly.  Tough talk about doing something, then tons of excuses why he doesn’t.

    • JoeSchmoe

      Exactly.  Tough talk about doing something, then tons of excuses why he doesn’t.

  • C Pennybrown

    So true about passion being the only important thing in learning.  I could have gone to a college where we read only the “great books”.  Instead I went to place where I got to design my own program of reading.  

    Okay, maybe I missed some important classics.  On the other hand, I learned how to learn.

  • http://twitter.com/oliviertomat Olivier TOMAT

    Here’s the thing : even when I (rarely, but this is the case here) completely disagree with what you write, this is done with such talent that it does not matter

  • Chuck

    I think kids should go to college if they don’t have to take on any debt for it.
    Isn’t that what you mean too?
    You and Claudia should homeschool them. It will be awesome or send them to a high school where they don’t have to do anything against their will. I read about one of these sometime. Probably on Robin Hanson’s blog. 

  • Chuck

    I think kids should go to college if they don’t have to take on any debt for it.
    Isn’t that what you mean too?
    You and Claudia should homeschool them. It will be awesome or send them to a high school where they don’t have to do anything against their will. I read about one of these sometime. Probably on Robin Hanson’s blog. 

  • Sve

    Maybe pi is not that essential for running mainstreet businesses. But did you know that knowing how to use pi would let you do something so outlandish and farfetched as sending a camera to Mars or Jupiter and sending pictures back? How cool is that?

    • James Altucher

       Very cool. See, I would be super excited if my kids were excited about that. But, they might be excited about other things equally important but NOT taught in traditional schools. So they might get too tired or bored in their traditional school and not have teh energy left over to pursue their true passions. The only ones who win are the kids who are naturally attracted to the engineering skills that need to use pi, e, etc.

  • Lori

    Please do all homeschooling parents a favor and write a post about how stupid it is for people to say that homeschooled kids aren’t socialized. Homeschooled kids have *more* opportunities to socialize — they have tons of free time for activities, clubs, co-op, classes, organizations, or whatever, not to mention free play — the time when kids learn the most from other kids. They’re in scouts, 4-H, etc. They also mix with a wider variety of kids and adults on a daily basis. My kids are better socialized than most adults I know.

    • James Altucher

       I agree with you

  • acorn

    Try Waldorf schools – really a nice option for the tentative homeschooler.

  • TDL

    James should we discount all knowledge because it is not immediately practical?

    Regards,
    TDL

    • http://www.facebook.com/Jythexinvok Nathan Weyer

      Or even more narrowly, because it is nor practical to the OP?  I know plenty of people who use PI and imaginary numbers on a daily basis.  Wouldn’t have computers without them.

      • Mike Periboob

        Just a minute Nathan, James is NOT useless. I will agree with your blanket assessment of most market traders–they have the same value to society as professional poker players. Nada. But James is as entertaining in his own way as a rock band or a movie star, or a politician, and being entertained is one of the cornerstones of a good life.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Jythexinvok Nathan Weyer

          I guess I could see some entertainment value ^_^

          Though I am still boggled by calling pi and imaginary numbers useless while blogging on a computer.  Just… the ignorance really floors me.  He comes off as a good example of why people should have nice broad educations, he doesn’t even seem to know what he is not aware of.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Jythexinvok Nathan Weyer

          I guess I could see some entertainment value ^_^

          Though I am still boggled by calling pi and imaginary numbers useless while blogging on a computer.  Just… the ignorance really floors me.  He comes off as a good example of why people should have nice broad educations, he doesn’t even seem to know what he is not aware of.

  • TDL

    James should we discount all knowledge because it is not immediately practical?

    Regards,
    TDL

  • Anonymous

    As the new school year approaches for my kids, I begin to feel a kind of
    dread as I subject them and our family to the vicissitudes of another school
    year. The boredom is a large part of the problem, but also the dysfunction
    within the school, which takes up so much of my time as a parent and theirs as
    students as well. The biggest problem by far, though, is the CRAPPY
    PEOPLE, both the other kids who are, as you have previously noted, often evil, as
    well as many of the adults.  Some are truly evil (I won’t get into the details here) and some are incompetent or just don’t like kids and therefore treat them badly. Disclaimer: not all of the people in
    the school are crappy. Many are doing the best that they can and some are
    WONDERFUL PEOPLE who have impacted my kids’ lives in positive and life altering
    ways. Unfortunately, they can’t mitigate the crappy ones.

    Anyway, you have mentioned previously that you think that homework is a
    waste of time and I agree. Most of it is mindless busy work aimed at placating
    the parents who are victims of what I call the “my kid is going to Harvard or
    else” syndrome.  Our kids even have
    homework over the summer.  Having
    read your blog for a time, I refuse to nag or punish them into doing it.  There is only one homework assignment
    that I think should be required for all school children – your blog posts, “How
    to Deal with Crappy People” and “The Crappy People FAQ”. These should be
    required reading with a quiz to follow. 

  • Benatwood1983

    James I still like you but this is not a good post. It’s almost like your celebrating being ignorant about the world.

  • http://twitter.com/shoukry_kattan shoukry_kattan

    Here is something which will make you proud James .. a  7 year old starting a company http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Toaster-Pop-iOS-Connor-Zamary-Craig-Zamary-LLC,news-12238.html

  • Anonymous

    Homeschooling the Altucher way is just spoiling your kids.  A natural instinct in everyone and therefore not very different thinking.  I hope your girls have a strong mother.  Let them be bored, let them find their own way when every day is not Christmas.

    By the way, my daughter knows 136 digits of pi from memory and celebrates pi day every year.  She sees pi a little different than you.

  • JB Morch

    My 10-year-old used pi recently to convert a cake recipe that called for 2 9-inch circular pans to use the proper size rectangular baking pan instead. 

  • http://twitter.com/KevVigil KVigil

    Open up a school. My kids will go there.

  • Demian Farnworth

    Find the time to home school your kids. Or hire someone to do it. 

  • Mike Morin

    James, you need pi, pistils, cumulus clouds, Shakespeare, and Charlemagne for life’s color and texture, and so that you can write grouchy one-off rants about how useless they are.  Otherwise, all you (and your kids) can say when confronted with these later in life is “Wut?”

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      what if instead of those things one had comics, fantasy, ping pong, science fiction, and painting. wouldn’t that make life more fun?

      • Mike Morin

        I hear you on that – why not replace some of the old boring things with something more appealing, but illustrates more applicable skills too?  This is something I’m trying to do with my 3 and 1 yo.  We currently have the same situation as I describe above but in reverse: when asked about painting and ping pong, I say “wut?”  To me, you are quite a creative individual, railing against our society’s seeming intolerance of life’s goodness, and perhaps looking for that creative outlet for yourself and your kids there too. (Ralph Waldo Emerson said the same thing – how’s that for proof that such reference, however boring, is useful; I could never respond to you without it!)  Perhaps a more rounded approach to education would work, as you describe, but certainly not complete replacement of the existing system: it all sneaks back in unexpectedly creative ways!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      what if instead of those things one had comics, fantasy, ping pong, science fiction, and painting. wouldn’t that make life more fun?

    • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

      You have to choose to read/learn it to appreciate it. School got me to hate a lot of good and interesting things, granted most teachers I had were horrible individuals. You don’t need to learn everything you need to know in the world in the first 20 years of your life. 

      • Mike Morin

        I completely agree – if at the time you are learning it you haven’t chosen it, then it is hateful to study it.  I had the same experience, except that it took over 25 years for me to be able to use it (in rebuttal to James, no less) and so now I can appreciate it.  When else would one learn this stuff if not the first 20 years?  And now that I’m a dad, I can’t wait to tell corny jokes when my son finally comes of age: Pie are _round_, but cake are square!

        • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

          Granted there are a few essentials (like reading and basic arithmetics). Everything else you could learn it when you want / need it in your life. You don’t need school to teach you when you have the Internet (I am really surprised that nobody mentioned Khan Academy). You also have the advantage that you can possibly learn from the best instead of some teacher who you can’t choose and who might just be bad. 

          I’d also venture to say that a lot of stuff that you learn in school you forget for some reason or another. I can remember a lot of random things that didn’t affect me one way or another but most of it I forgot after a few months in the real world. With most skills it’s really “use it or lose it”. 

  • Mike Periboob

    “If you’re forced to read things that are boring to you, you won’t be able to narrow in on the things that really excite you.”? Just remember–you dont know if you know all you need to know, until you know all there is to know.

    I suspect that getting your ass kicked in school every day was an important motivational factor in the creation of the ambitious, driven, never satisfied James Altucher of today. Did you not think “I’ll show those guys… They will still be flipping burgers ac McD when I am … ” ? I thought that, and I was not even picked on very much, because it was not allowed in my day–teachers ruled with a stick back before lawyers were allowed to roam unregulated. If I had been beaten-up every day, I might have developed more enthusiasm to get “more”.

  • http://harrietmay.com Harriet May

    This is easy.  You learn that stuff so you can answer crossword puzzle clues.  Especially when you’re sitting round the kitchen table with your in-laws and someone says “do you know a five letter word beginning with ‘T’ for…” and you want to look smart.  Other than that I don’t know.

    I do know that in fifth grade I wrote the best paper on Francisco Pizarro.  Did you know he’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the largest ransom ever?  (it was 1532 and they held Atahualpa hostage until his people filled a large room with gold and silver. They complied but Pizarro still had Atahualpa executed– I guess they hadn’t yet learned not to negotiate with terrorists)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Haha. I forgot about that very important reason. No wonder I’m so bad at crossword puzzles.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Haha. I forgot about that very important reason. No wonder I’m so bad at crossword puzzles.

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    This makes sense.  I didn’t discover my favorite authors until after college, until I had a passion for writing.    

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      It was amazing to me. At age 22, suddenly, the world of writing and reading opened up. it took 4 years post-HS before I “got it” and I think it would’ve happened faster without the “help” of standardized education.

  • http://www.redwooddesign.com Liske

    Public School is a great resource and vertical door for kids who’s parents are deadbeats. It’s these families where schools really can do a part in equalizing the playing field. It’s one thing for educated / savvy internets to say home schooling is the answer, but if that was put in place at every level of the socioeconomic ladder there would be some kids in a really bad place.

  • Caroline

    James, I’m still loving your post.  A lot. 

    Today a veteran homeschool parent posted this on a message board I follow and I thought it was relevant over here:  “We don’t know what our children will need 20 years from now so filling their heads with knowledge is hit or miss.  But to instill them with a love of learning, and the skills to learn whatever they or desire to learn  – that is the gift I want to give my son.”

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Those simple words are the most important of all.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Those simple words are the most important of all.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    If you think your children are being harmed, or not reaching some level of potential that you believe they are capable of, then it’s your parental responsibility to reconcile that.

    Take out your short-order notepad out and write ten ideas of how you could teach them, then write down ten more, and when you can’t think of anything else, write down ten more. :)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, very true

  • Laury

    Perhaps one important lesson we learn from schooling is to do what has to be done when it has to be done whether or not we may actually want to do it.

  • http://fontwords.com Mitchell Powell

    Quit making excuses and homeschool the kids already. We both know how much you want to.

    I was smiling right along with everything until you dissed Shakespeare. Shakespeare is awesome. Or maybe only people whose childhood was steeped in archaic English from the King James Bible feel that way. I dunno.

  • Matt

    James, I think maybe you did need to get beat up every day of 7th grade. Then again, I guess by staying home and reading Maus you could have learned what it feels like to be attacked because of what you look like or what you choose to do on Friday nights. Playing chess all day would have taught you how to pick yourself after your 1,000th venture failed.

    I bullied a coworker yesterday. Maybe if I had never experience bullying I wouldn’t feel guilty about it now. I’d be happier, right? Maybe you’re right, James, exercising the imagination and avoiding interaction with all but those who love you is probably the way to go.

  • Gil

    Geez you’re a grumpy gus J. Altucher, when comes to literacy, science and mathematics, the people of ye olde times didn’t need much then again they lived in squalor.  Likewise your children won’t need much education to become factory hands.  If anything excessive education will simply delay their ability to gain seniority.

  • Anonymous

    shakespeare is boring…i read french and german philosophers instead.  and as far as math, i was lucky at university and was allowed to do formal logic instead, which i find much more usefull in everyday life.  though i hear a lot how engineers are in high demand these days.  something to consider if you have a talent for math.

  • Vsm

    for whatever is worth, I decided on a baking experiment the other day, but had no idea how to adjust the quantities for my much smaller ROUND baking pan. I have to admit I had to google the formulas as I had forgotten myself, but after a quick refresher, I was able to adjust the amounts correctly thanks to PI.

    Also it would come in handy for other things, such as someone wanting to know how much land they are buying if the terrain is not square, etc… but you probably will never need it, if you are planning to stick to interviewing hookers

  • mickeyray

    James – you are not an idiot…

    “…the things that pass for learning, I can’t understand…”

    I’ve been on both sides of the (de)education machine.  Stuff I “learned” pursuing my 3 degrees (all more worthless than a bag full of radioactive turds) has mostly proved useless.  Many other people I went to school with who did poorly are more successful in life.

    I’ve been an apparatchik as well by teaching what I was supposed to.  I mean WTF difference does it make if someone knows a flower is hypogynous (cf. your reference to pistil).

    School is mainly about conditioning kids to obey orders.  Sit down, shut up, get to work….

    Another issue is that many new ideas come from inductive learning de-coupled from dictatorial educational regimes.  Many scientists learned about phenomena by actively fiddling with the elements (hands-on).  Learning this way is interesting.  And, it helps you to see the value in tools like math (but you need to view the math in a practical way…something that will help you solve your problem, not some abstract game).  This type of learning is totally foreign to education today. 

    • Kim

      “School is mainly about conditioning kids to obey orders. Sit down, shut up, get to work….”

      Although I have not looked at other sources on the subject, I found this YouTube video interesting on the history of compulsory education: http://youtu.be/fBNh543A81U. It did get me thinking.

      I also share it with other parents in hopes of provoking thought and creating conversation. 

  • mickeyray

    James –

    get your kids together with a native speaker of a foreign language for 4+ hours a day…no agenda but to communicate in that language.  then send them to an immersion course overseas when they’re a little older…. (they might even decide to pick up something to read in that language along the way, but leave that up to them).

    also, get them a musical instrument…let them pick a melody they like (just the melody) and learn it by ear on their instrument.  If they like it they can try another melody and so on….(no boring music lessons, though…maybe a “consult” here and there with a professional musician, but that’s all).  After they know around 100 melodies, then they can start to learn to read music…if they want to.

  • Jake

    I use pi daily for various engineering design work. There’s a lot of area and volume calculations required for engineering designs (bridges, buildings, cars, electronics, etc..). It’s very handy. I can see how it’s useless for non technical folks. But keep in mind that pi is “in” all those everyday gadgets and other stuff you use, need, and  maybe even love. 

  • Lester Holliday

    Man, you definitely need to pause and think for a moment! The whole reason one may want to start a business is to make enough money to be able to spend one’s entire time contemplating amazing notions like Pi! 

  • Lester Holliday

    Man, you definitely need to pause and think for a moment! The whole reason one may want to start a business is to make enough money to be able to spend one’s entire time contemplating amazing notions like Pi! 

  • Lester Holliday

    Man, you definitely need to pause and think for a moment! The whole reason one may want to start a business is to make enough money to be able to spend one’s entire time contemplating amazing notions like Pi! 

  • Concrete Dovetail
  • http://zeropointplan.blogspot.com

    It’s taken me a while to comment on this because I’m a busy homeschooling and freelancing mom, but I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve got to put in another vote for unschooling (which is what we actually do here). I’m not sure how much of your post was hyperbole, but it seems like unschoolers are always having to defend why kids can learn a lot from watching TV all day (if that is their passion) and why they shouldn’t be forced to learn math.

    My son watches a whole lot of TV, and occasionally I worry, but on the other hand he has tons more free time than a kid in school – time to watch hours of TV and also do whatever other interesting stuff he can think of. In his case (he is four) this actually does involve arithmetic, which he really likes right now.

    Another cool thing about unschooling is it doesn’t necessarily take tons of extra effort from the parents…of course, the more you can help the kids out with their interests, the better, but it’s nothing like the time commitment of sitting down to make them study textbooks for hours every day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristy.roberts2 Kristin Roberts

    At my BF’s insistence I took yet ANOTHER stab at reading this unreadable essay.
    Now I am blind in BOTH EYES! I can just imagine him trying to interview New
    York transsexual prostitutes! He would talk the entire time and the
    hookers would have to rail out to keep from nodding off.

  • Dan

    James, I normally love your stuff, and I am gung ho about homeschooling, but this post is just stupid.

    Just because you don’t understand that utility of pi or imaginary numbers doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Yes, you need to know the square root of a negative number to build a quality bridge. You need to use complex analysis (that is, calculus using imaginary numbers) to find the areas under curves approximated by rational functions. 

    Just because you don’t personally understand something doesn’t mean that no one needs to know how to do it. If you don’t want your kids to be scientists or engineers, that’s fine, but if your reason for wanting to homeschool is because you don’t know the utility of the things that you personally never used, then perhaps you need to rethink your reasons. The real reason that you don’t want your children to learn math in public schools is because they can learn it all for free at Khan Academy, MathTV, wikipedia, and Wolfram’s Mathworld.

    • Jake

      True. Lots of James’ conclusions seem to be based on personal anecdotal biases. But I suppose that’s what blogging is all about. I have to disagree about the homeschooling part too. It may be a solution for certain individuals, and certainly people can express their uninformed opinions on their blogs, but I don’t see how a relevant conclusion can be made in regards to society overall based on anything presented in this blog.

    • http://aeronode.tumblr.com james

      Meh, he’s obviously being satirical. And a bit provocative. I’m an engineer, and used π at work today, but I can agree a lot that it has little day-to-day utility for 90% of the world’s inhabitants. The greater message of this post is, I think; don’t let school get in the way of your education.

  • http://twitter.com/rocoach Ian Simpson

    I read a book once. I didn’t like it…

  • http://aeronode.tumblr.com james

    I was/am a huge nerd, but I was never picked on at school. Nobody got beaten up, we were all so suburban and relatively well-adjusted. My best friend in grade school was a kid all the girls liked because he was good looking and the best at soccer. We got along because we made each other laugh. We sat next to each other at lunch every day, talking constantly. The first day of sixth grade, we didn’t. It was unspoken, but understood that things were different now that we were a bit older; he was to be a handsome jock, I a scrawny nerd, and these spheres seldom overlap. We drifted apart. He became a typical frat guy in college at an athletics-oriented school, I became a pretty typical reserved engineer. Now we’re just “friends” on Facebook and haven’t spoken in years.

  • http://reharmonized.an-earful.com Robert Zimmerman

    Math is pathetic.

    You know what else is pathetic? All this knee-jerk, paint-by-numbers ranting about our failing schools. You’re something special, though — a real contrarian! I like the way you write about education without mentioning teaching or teachers. Who needs that bunch of pinhead buzzkill when you got comic books and movies? Oh, and museums.

    Shakespeare is the most boring writer in history.

    That’s totally unfair. He lived a long long time ago, before they knew the way to really entertain a reader is with how-to lists and random-surprising-fact lists. If he’d only known, I’m sure his stuff would be a lot better.

    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
    So shall these 6 surefire strategies
    Each donate far more profit than before
    And build thy wealth to untold apogees

    And of course the last thing folks need is a bunch of pansy-ass plays. Better to give them something practical — Brown Gold: How to Ride the Tobacco Boom to a New World of Profit, or something like that.

    If he had the formula his work might not have faded into total obscurity. It might still be read today. So you have a big advantage, and I’m sure that 400 years from now How To Be The Luckiest Person Alive! and Trade Like A Hedge Fund will be as fresh and fun and wildly popular as they are now.

    You really are a lucky son of a gun! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://reharmonized.an-earful.com Robert Zimmerman

    Math is pathetic.

    You know what else is pathetic? All this knee-jerk, paint-by-numbers ranting about our failing schools. You’re something special, though — a real contrarian! I like the way you write about education without mentioning teaching or teachers. Who needs that bunch of pinhead buzzkill when you got comic books and movies? Oh, and museums.

    Shakespeare is the most boring writer in history.

    That’s totally unfair. He lived a long long time ago, before they knew the way to really entertain a reader is with how-to lists and random-surprising-fact lists. If he’d only known, I’m sure his stuff would be a lot better.

    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
    So shall these 6 surefire strategies
    Each donate far more profit than before
    And build thy wealth to untold apogees

    And of course the last thing folks need is a bunch of pansy-ass plays. Better to give them something practical — Brown Gold: How to Ride the Tobacco Boom to a New World of Profit, or something like that.

    If he had the formula his work might not have faded into total obscurity. It might still be read today. So you have a big advantage, and I’m sure that 400 years from now How To Be The Luckiest Person Alive! and Trade Like A Hedge Fund will be as fresh and fun and wildly popular as they are now.

    You really are a lucky son of a gun! Thanks for sharing.

  • doug

    James,

     

    Here is
    why I am happy my daughter is non-schooling my granddaughter.

     

    We are
    biological machines programed to absorb information from our environment.  We absorb more information as children than we
    do as adults which like everything else is just the way things are and can’t be
    changed.  So if you place a child in a room full of other
    kids, your child is going to be sucking up information/culture from a bunch of ignorant
    kids.  Why would anyone desire that?

     

    sent from my space ship

  • Skent0611

    Hi, Shakespeare is boring to read….but brilliant to watch.  His plays weren’t meant to be read. teachers who try to force students to read his plays are to blame. watch a good one, see the difference.

  • Kay

    check out Sudbury Valley School, it’s in framingham, ma. but there are others that have started as a result of the initial efforts of SVS, maybe one near you and your kids?

  • Kim

    James, you do have other options if you feel you don’t have the time to homeschool. Check out a great website with information about educational alternatives including democratic schools and homeschool resource centers @ http://www.educationrevolution.org/. What is so extraordinary is the number of alternative schools that are working and have been for decades!

    I’m going to share this post at my meetings with parents. You dare to question broken systems, and I hope it will encourage others to question, too. We desperately need to rethink education, including homework and tests! Rather than change our children’s thinking or dictate what they learn, our children need us to change our thinking.

    “Well, you can say, not everyone is self-motivated to learn things on their own.”

    Maybe not “everyone” as in adults, but children ARE intrinsically motivated! Give them a rich environment to thrive…and they will thrive. And let their voices count in a learner-centered, rather than curriculum-centered, environment…you will have positive change in their lives and the community.

    As a teacher, homeschooler, and mother for over twenty years, (and now facilitator of a “Home School” for other children), I can say, “Children love to learn!” They are so motivated, curious, enthusiastic….the system is what is broken and it’s not good for the kids.
     
    I am now conducting meetings to encourage parents who are or are thinking about homeschooling. I start out by telling them CTRL+ALT+DEL: Time to reboot.
    Take Control of your children’s education
    Alternative Education is not for broken kids, it’s an answer to a broken system.
    Delete your indoctrinated ideas of what school and education should be.

    Anyway, I have much to say about education, but will just stop now and say, “Thank you!” for posting.

  • Steven L Goff

    I love the argument that home schooling is not fair to the rest of the children. Well you know what > Slaves give birth to slaves in MOST cases. It is not my fault your kid is stupid or dumb or lazy or all the above. The apple dont fall far from the tree….they say. And the world needs ditch diggers also. Some kids wont make it in this world…… FACT! I think home schooling is essence social Darwinism. In the fact that those families/parenst that want the best for their child will bestow that on them in teachings at home in both academic and in social skills.

    PayPal founder pays entrepreneurs to skip college!(Reuters) – Dale Stephens was home-schooled for most of his academic life, so when the 19-year-old was offered $100,000 to skip college and work on his startup, he jumped at the chance.His decision was helped by the fact he had already dropped out of a post-secondary institution – Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas – after just one semester to launch UnCollege (www.uncollege.org), a nonprofit that helps other teens educate themselves outside the conventional university system.full read here:http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/24/us-column-cohen-20under-idUSTRE77N4PC20110824

  • Steven L Goff

    http://stevegoff314.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/jail_vs_school.jpg

    about sums it up with the standardized school system in the USA today. Nough’ said!

  • Ccity123

    with a good teacher, kids get how great Shakespeare is.  i did 35 years ago…and my kids also. 

  • http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com isomorphisms

    Also the square root of pi is the area under the Bell curve. Not kidding, Wolfram Alpha it.

    * Electrical engineers use imaginary numbers. If the current is imaginary then the wire heats up but doesn’t transmit useful power.

    * And when you put imaginary numbers and pi together you get Fourier analysis, which is how the EQ on your stereo works, as well as how other stuff works. That’s what e^i pi means.

    Guess why I know this stuff? I majored in math in college and didn’t learn or remember anything, because it was boring and I didn’t get to choose what I worked on. Seven or eight years after high school I started reading math again on my own. Now I can’t stop. I spent Friday night and Saturday night reading about Alexander polynomials and integration with respect to the Euler Characteristic. I don’t 100% understand it, I don’t do any exercises or proofs, and it’s fascinating.

    School sucks. People should focus on (a) creating things other people care about [did you ever notice how many adults go to see school plays? And drama funding gets cut. That’s the only thing anybody actually cares about.] and (b) doing what excites them, so they actually enjoy their life.

    Or maybe we should funnel all of our kids through the exact same process so they can compete for the same schools and then the same investment banking jobs or McKinsey consulting, and not ask what they really want to do with their lives until they’re 30.

    Same goes for PhD’s by the way. One of my statistics professors finished his doctorate before he asked himself who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. Well at that point the choice was already made.

  • http://twitter.com/mluca Luca Manassero

    Your blog is really funny, and intelligent, and profound.
    I am sure you have a few better insights on kids education, thou. BUT your last line surely kills, even if I am not dead sure if your deleted the first and last paragraphs ;-)

    By the way, we learn a lot of things that we find boring only to discover they actually ARE usueful, when you need them. Learning only what’s the fund and useful (who decides what is fun and useful, by the way? The kid itself?) would be a bit risky, especially if your kids decide what’S fun and useful.

    Good luck with THAT :-)

    Education is most probably built on top of a superset of notions everybody could find useful (even if not fun) one day or another. The trouble seems to be that we do not check too often if what we’re teaching our kids is still supposed to be useful.

    In any case “useful” is a dangerous category: maybe you can have a look to what an acient taoist, Zhuang-zi, wrote about being “useful”… And if you’ll find reading Zhuang-zi just f**** boring, then you’re lucky: a great guy in Taiwan has made a fantastic edition of Zhuang-zi in comics: http://www.amazon.com/Zhuangzi-Speaks-Chih-chung-Tsai/dp/0691008825

    Thanks a lot for your humour and your profoundness, thou :-)

  • Anonymous

    I have to admit I’m absolutely disgusted by almost every point you have made, save the issues of social situations having potentially negative impacts on a child’s development and that all sides of history need to be taught.

    Whether pi is important, whether Shakespeare is boring – these are matters of opinion with which I, as a tenth grader, vehemently disagree. I absolutely love school, I love my classes, I love math, and I love Shakespeare; and if I were your daughter, I would be furious with you for denying me these things in my early childhood. 

    Your children are going to grow up, an they’re going to be severely limited. Don’t think they won’t know it, and don’t think they won’t recognize that it ultimately comes from your stubborn insistence upon imposing on them some sort of embittered vendetta against high schools nationwide. Disagree all you want, but that’s how they will see it.

    I’m not against homeschooling, and I’m not against some attempt on your part to try out an educational philosophy on your own children. Bronson Alcott home schooled all three of his daughters using educational methods derived from his life experiences – look how they turned out. The difference is that he truly was acting in the best interest of his children, and although you think you’re doing the same, you’re not.

    You cite the search for things that impassion you as the one truly valuable characteristic of education. What if your children find that poetry, or physics, or math resounds deeply with them? Should they not be permitted to receive due exposure to these things before they have to decide? Shakespeare is the pinnacle of of the power in poetry. Pi, and imaginary numbers, are absolutely essential parts of the science that powers every electronic item you have ever used. You may never have the passion required to pursue greater use of these things. But don’t assume your children won’t, either.

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,whereas imagination embraces the entire world; and everything there ever will be to know and understand,” Albert Einstein.

    On behalf of the kids in the world who care about Shakespeare and write chemical equations of ionic compounds for fun, please, don’t limit your children’s education opportunities just yet. They deserve a change to be an imaginer.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WHQOKW2OXWATHL5NQAGITW7Z6U Muenchow1

    Reading Barefoot Gen on Wikipedia, epic. When your kids can edit and create items on Wikipedia, they are schooled. Let them be like Jacob and claim to be of legal age if need be, YHWH approves. His main concern is that your male progeny continue to modify their sex organs, as discussed in covenant Vav, subsection Aleph Bet.
    Moses was a murder. Jesus befriended whores. Muhammad married a six-year-old. I commend your commitment to truth. While initially uncomfortable, the fact is that even a great man like Hans Solo decided to kill a bounty hunter in violation of libertarian principles, rather than honestly settle his debt with Jabba The Hut. Such is life.

  • caroline

    James. When I watched “Pi is (still) Wrong” just now I remembered this post of yours and how caught up with Pi everyone got in the comments section.  Thought y’all might enjoy it:  http://vihart.com/blog/pi-is-still-wrong/