david perell writing

David Perell: Education Through a Serendipity Vehicle – School Growth Mastery

Check out the School Growth Mastery Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Colleges (and schools in general) are structured for the median student – this poses a challenge to people at the tails
  • The school system is outdated
    • “It’s just increasingly clear to me that the system we have now, even without the internet, has gone past its limit… Now, with the internet, it’s just a system built for a time before us.”
  • Kids need to have more freedom – parents need to be okay with allowing them to experience marginally more short-term risk for long-term upside
    • From the very beginning, parents/schools are hyper-protective of children. Rather than allowing them to go on and achieve serendipitous outcomes, they’re trying to eliminate all risk out of a need for safety.
  • A lot of good parenting is letting things happen that might be difficult in the short-term, but useful in the long-term
    • “The people that I look at, who I think are doing really well, were generally let off the leash by their parents in a substantial way that forced them to grow”
  • “The problem with the college system isn’t that it’s the college system, it’s that it’s the only system that a lot of people feel they can go through in order to be successful”
    • “We need to build a world that is more responsive to the uniqueness of every human being”

Books Mentioned

Intro

Why Can’t School Be Fun?

  • This is an article David wrote in 2016
  • Colleges (and schools in general) are structured for the median student
    • “If you’re at the tails of anything, whether that means not understanding a subject or being obsessively passionate about whatever it is you’re studying, the school system is not well structured for you”
  • David attended college at Elon University
    • “The classes that I took were not entertaining and not educational. I was totally bored in them.”
      • Because of this, David directed his focus away from classes to the internet where he could learn ANYTHING 
    • “When it came to things I was interested in, school wasn’t giving me what I needed”
      • To add – “When it came to things I didn’t understand… school was just way too difficult, so I just opted out.”

The Line Between Learning and Entertainment Will Blur

  • Education used to be = one person talking and one person listening
    • This is similar to media in the 1950-1990s (TV was very one-way)
  • But with the internet – EVERYONE can be a journalist, publish a blog, or have a podcast
    • Everyone can be both a producer and consumer of media
  • Education is also changing – “Whatever it is you want to learn, chances are that the internet is going to be the best place to learn it”
    • (Except for something like law or medicine)

The School System is Outdated

  • Andrew recommends the book, Timeless Learning
  • On the structure of school, sitting in a classroom for hours on end – “For people like me it’s torture; it’s absolute torture”
    • Kids, like David, with high levels of curiosity are constrained by the school system – it largely gets in their way
  • “It’s just increasingly clear to me that the system we have now, even without the internet, has gone past its limit… Now, with the internet, it’s just a system built for a time before us.”

The Agency Problem

  • Check out the book Deschooling Society
    • It discusses how humans have become too dependent on institutions and pre-existing organizations 
  • “We get the motivation sucked out of us by school. School treats us like we don’t have agency a lot of the times.”
    • The structure of school is forcing people to lose trust in themselves and their own capabilities
  • “We have built a system that doesn’t give people agency. It’s REALLY hard in the school system to have the freedom to do what you want to do – to be able to pursue whatever it is you want.”

Schools Have it Backwards

  • The best way to learn a subject is by first getting passionate about it (through obsession comes learning)
    • But in school – they make you start with knowledge and statistics and assume passion will follow (WRONG)

The Problem with Hyper-protective Parents (and schools)

  • Parents are “designing” the childhoods of their children in frightening ways
    • “We have 3-year-olds whose parents are already strategizing to get them into college”
    • Kids need to have more freedom
      • Parents need to be okay with allowing them to experience marginally more short-term risk for long-term upside
  • Parents/schools do an excellent job of training children for excellence (excellence = an area where there are clearly bounded domains, and it’s known exactly what has to be done to be successful)
    • But then there’s “genius” – “What genius is, is hitting targets that no one can see. Genius is the kind of ADD [attention deficit disorder) that we keep medicating for.”
      • David thinks of ADD as a “randomness algorithm for people who are gifted with brains that work in weird ways”
  • Parents (and schools) are like value investors (rather than venture capital investors)
    • Rather than incentive crazy ideas and thinking that have a low chance of success, but a colossal outcome, they’re trying to reduce risk and do everything they can to prevent children from suffering
      • (like choosing to medicate a child for mild ADD)
  • In summary:
    • From the very beginning, parents/schools are hyper-protective of children. Rather than allowing them to go on and achieve serendipitous outcomes, they’re trying to eliminate all risk out of a need for safety.

So what can parents do?

  • “There are a lot of times in life that things are short-term bad and long-term good”
  • “A lot of good parenting is letting things happen that might be difficult in the short-term, but good in the long-term”
    • One way David’s parents did this – sending him to various camps where he was the youngest attendee by 3-5 years
      • “Those were moments that were really not fun for me at times. There was bullying, homesickness, and I just didn’t enjoy it. But, looking back on it, it was really good for me.”
      • David wasn’t in any physical danger by any means, but he was undoubtedly emotionally challenged
  • Kids are coddled too much (as discussed in The Coddling of the American Mind)
    • “The people that I look at, who I think are doing really well, were generally let off the leash by their parents in a substantial way that forced them to grow”

Why is there only ONE K-12 or college education system?

  • People are so vastly different
    • “There are a thousand different ways to do well in K-12 and a thousand ways to succeed”
  • “The problem with the college system isn’t that it’s the college system, it’s that it’s the only system that a lot of people feel they can go through in order to be successful, and that’s really worrying”
  • Many people get down on themselves because they’re not doing well in school (and that’s okay – school isn’t for everyone)
    • “We need to build a world that is more responsive to the uniqueness of every human being”

The Excessive Focus on Higher Education

  • The obsessive focus on getting into a good college is creating unnecessary stress for high school students 
    • Students see not getting into a good college as utter failure
    • “We have built this system of K-12 education with students who are wandering zombies who are terrified of what will happen if they don’t succeed.”‘
      • “And when you’re in a state of fear like that, there is NO way for you to be creative. There is NO way for you to start questioning the system itself because you have to stay focused on making sure you’re not crushed by it.”
  • “My issue with the school system is that there’s only one way to do things in terms of how to be successful… It’s the lack of diversity in the number of paths that you can take.”
    • People are way too different for us all to be competing for the limited spots at top-tier universities

Write of Passage

  • This is David’s online writing course – it’s a 5-week program
    • Most students range from age 25-65
  • Writing doesn’t need to be a solo activity
    • Many people don’t feel creative when they sit down alone to write
    • Instead – “Have incredible experiences, go live the richest life you can, and then have conversations with people and try to structure your ideas. Then, only once your ideas are well-structured, put them on the page.”
  • Typical writing schools teach proper grammar and how to structure ideas
    • “What we teach in Write of Passage is something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one else is teaching, which is how to have interesting ideas and how to recognize that you’ve had an interesting idea”
      • Then – “By the time that you sit down at your computer, how do you have your ideas so well-structured that you know exactly what you’re going to write and how you’re going to write it, so you don’t have writer’s block?”
  • “We live lives that are so much more interesting than we think they are”
    • If you can recognize this and build processes to write, you can spend less time writing and more time living an exciting life

You Should Write Online

  • “By sharing our best ideas, we can become a magnet for serendipity, people, and opportunities”
    • David refers to publishing your ideas online a “serendipity vehicle”
      • “What that vehicle does is work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without you having to put in any marginal effort”
  • “The demand for high-quality ideas right now far exceeds the supply of them”
  • “Writing is a great way to improve your thinking, a great way to reach people, and it’s a skill that will never go out of demand. No matter what people say about automation, writers will never be out of a job.”

Additional Notes

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