Rely on self-learning, not school

By Jonah Sinick
I learned most of what I know on my own, outside of school. This is also true of the most intellectually impressive people who I know.School is rarely well optimized for learning, especially for gifted people. This is what one should expect:

  • The curriculum is a hodge-podge of subjects grouped together by historical accident, that wasn’t developed with a view toward teaching the most useful skills.
  • The materials used in public schools are often determined by fashion (c.f. the “ “math wars”) by political figures who are motivated by ideological agendas and ignore evidence that contradicts their views.
  • Public schools narrowly optimize for improving standardized test scores (to the exclusion of learning) because their reputations and funding are dependent on getting good scores.
  • Public schools’ teacher’s unions prevent poor teachers from being fired.
  • Teaching is a relatively low status job that doesn’t attract many intellectually talented people. (This is true both at public schools and at private schools.)
  • Gifted children are a small minority and not a major focus of schools.

These are things that are immutable, so prospects for substantially improving your child’s education through advocacy aren’t great.

When you learn on your own, you have the freedom to learn

  • The most important subjects
  • From the best materials
  • At your own pace

For gifted children who don’t have unusually good teachers and are self-motivated, school can’t compete with this. There are prospects for dramatically improving education for gifted children – they just don’t come from school.

The magnitude of the benefits hinge on finding the most important subjects to learn and the best resources to learn from. It’s not obvious what these are. Cognito Mentoring has been researching these things (which is one reason why I compiled a list of links to math resource forum threads) for example).

What do you think? Have I missed important points?

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