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The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy

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Elon Musk (the real-life Tony Stark) has become a technological icon of our era, and he represents the pinnacle of both big thinking and the successful execution of game-changing ideas. So we shouldn’t be at all surprised that recently, he decided to disrupt traditional education, in his own backyard.

Now, we can’t all go out and design our own school, and hire our own personalized teachers, but here are 3 things we can all emulate, as students, when it comes to educating ourselves:

1. School should focus on problems, not subjects

“It’s important to teach problem solving, or teach to the problem and not the tools.” ~Elon Musk

As Socrates discovered long ago, true discovery happens when we present ourselves with intelligent questions, rather than adhere to pre-determined answers- and this couldn’t be more true for students.

As Elon recognized, teaching students by giving them answers to problems that they haven’t yet had a chance to explore (or even understand) destroys creativity, narrows the mind, and leads to boredom.

This is why he’s designed a “problem focus” into his Ad Astra school’s principles. I call this the Goldilocks Principle:

Give yourself a question or set of answers that are too easy and you’ll get bored.

Give yourself a problem that’s too complex or difficult, and you’ll get overwhelmed.

But give yourself a tough problem- one that you can see yourself ultimately solving- and you’ll unlock endless motivation to find the answer.

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2. Schools should be student-paced

“Some people love English or languages. Some people love math. Some people love music. Different abilities, different times… It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities.” ~ Elon Musk

The complexities of the human mind make it such that students don’t fit into a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all mold when it comes to learning. This is why you can have one student in class who is disengaged because they’re light years ahead, and one student in class who’s disengaged because they have no idea what’s going on.

But that DOESN’T mean that their potential for learning is any different – and in order to make the most of that potential, a student’s education should ideally be individualized and paced in a way that takes advantage of their current interests and ability level.

Without a huge bankroll, though, this can seem difficult to execute within the context of traditional grade school and college education…

But with the advent of YouTube, MOOCs, and other flexible learning arrangements, try to think of some ways you could customize your learning experience to fit your interests.

Super interested in Quantum Physics? Take a dive down that rabbit hole.

Not so thrilled with 19th century British history? Nothing wrong with just doing the bare minimum and moving on…

3 . Schools should be so interesting that students WANT to come every day

“The kids really love going to school.” ~ Elon Musk

Instead of watching the drudging droves of unsatisfied children walking into school each morning, imagine a world where kids ASK their parents to take them to school, and sprint into class, brimming with energy for the day’s activities…

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Well this is what Elon hopes to maintain at his school, and it’s a model we should try to emulate. Just think of how much FASTER you learn playing your favorite game or sport, than listening to a boring lecture in a class you don’t care about.

And it turns out, from a psychological perspective, the first two component’s of the Ad Astra model, contribute to this level of educational enjoyment. The more you can (1) focus on interesting problems to solve, and (2) cater the process to your interests, the more exiting you’ll find learning, and the more productive you’ll be.

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Featured photo credit: Heisenberg Media via flickr.com

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