I was browsing through some of Paul Graham's
essays a couple weeks ago. I enjoy the blend of technology, design and humor in his writings. He speaks mostly from a computer programming perspective, but he has definite views on education as well. Scattered throughout his work, I find little snippets of an attitude towards school. His comments seem pessimistic at times, but he's not out convince anyone to drop-out
. (He's earned a Ph.D. himself.)
Dr. Graham talks about our "miserable high school experiences" in an essay about essays
. He claims that in most homework "the students are imitating English professors, who are imitating classical scholars, who are merely the inheritors of a tradition growing out of what was, 700 years ago, fascinating and urgently needed work."
I resonate with a lot of what he says. I should note that my high school teachers did have high standards for me - one "favorite teacher" trait which he lists
elsewhere. He's posted an essay about high school
which actually applies more to my disappointing college
experience: "Most people like to be good at what they do. In the so-called real world this need is a powerful force. But high school students rarely benefit from it, because they're given a fake thing to do."
As an undergraduate I've felt more than ever that I am *still* only expected to be capable of working on fake problems - the ones that already have answers in a teacher's manual somewhere. "So what do you do?" he asks, responding, "What you should not do is rebel. That's what I did, and it was a mistake."
When I read this admonition, I had already realized the sin in rebellion
, albeit three years too late. Dr. Graham isn't sure what to do to fix the system, although hopes that someday, somehow, schools can teach students "how to choose problems as well as how to solve them."
In the meantime, his advice for dealing with the situation is to keep chugging along in school, but to find interesting things to do away from the education machine. It's becoming a common theme here on my website, but once again good books get brought up: "A key ingredient in many projects, almost a project on its own, is to find good books. Most books are bad. Nearly all textbooks are bad."
Well, we've been warned. It's time for me to stop posting and start reading.