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[liberationtech] Thiel Fellowship

Aaron Wolf wolftune at
Sat Feb 27 23:38:13 PST 2016

On 02/27/2016 11:29 PM, Carolyn Santo wrote:
> Laughing as I read this Aaron.  I agree that a lot of homework is
> unnecessary if you truly understand the subject.  That said, in this
> particular case, within the International Baccalaureate program,
> completing your project homework is where you show you have mastered the
> content.  Ironically, my son does the simple BS stuff without effort or
> question.
> Until the entire world runs on the "Thiel Fellowship standards", bright
> students in a competitive environment still need to suck it up and
> complete the assignments since grades are such an important measuring
> device.  Even though it may not be the most efficient use of time and
> effort, allowing bright students to only do what they "feel like" can
> lead to narcissistic and destructive tendencies.
> So much of life is living up to obligations and having the grit and
> self-discipline to slog through setbacks and difficult demands.  In
> addition, we've forgotten that failing is one of the most important
> parts of learning.  In my son's case, failing to turn in his final
> project (even if he did the research) should have natural consequences
> so that he makes better choices in the future.  The skill to push
> yourself to do things that you DON'T want to do is the key to success
> because you fail 100% of the time if you give up too early.
> As a parent, I see others doing too much for their children and taking
> away all obstacles in the rush to make sure they get into the "best"
> schools, etc.  When the students are away from home, they haven't
> developed some crucial life skills and maturity because they were
> brought up to think that they were "special snowflakes" and personal
> development was overlooked.  Many don't have the confidence that comes
> from achieving things through hard work and consistent effort.  Some
> don't even have the ability to articulate their own goals since they
> were taught from an early age that they need to get into the "best"
> schools to have a shot at a decent life.
> In some ways, it would be easier to let my son do only what he wants and
> pursue his interests at the expense of being a more aware and
> well-rounded person.  Since I'm not sure he has what it takes to be the
> next Steve Jobs, I think it's best to hedge our bets and insist that he
> do his homework, even though a portion of it could be BS.
> Since he's only 14, he has some time to build up to a Thiel Fellowship
> application.  Hopefully he'll be more mature by the time he's 18 or so.
> Sorry to ramble on.  This has been a hot topic at our school recently
> since the Book Club is discussing How to Raise an Adult.
> Happy weekend!
> Carolyn
> On 2/27/2016 7:43 AM, Aaron Wolf wrote:
>> On 02/26/2016 11:38 PM, Carolyn Santo wrote:
>>> Thank you for sharing this!  I'll keep it in mind for my 14 year old
>>> son.  He is definitely an out-of-the-box type of thinker.  132 IQ, but
>>> doesn't do his homework. . . ugh!
>>> Happy weekend!
>>> Carolyn Santo
>>> CO '81
>>> On 2/26/2016 8:06 PM, Yosem Companys wrote:
>>>> From: *Amrit Kandel* <amrit at <mailto:amrit at>>
>>>> I'm looking for a Software Engineering student that would be
>>>> interested in submitting an application to The Thiel Fellowship. The
>>>> applicant must be 22 years or under.
>>>> I will help with every step of the application.
>>>> To learn more about The Thiel Fellowship, please
>>>> visit <>
>>>> Thanks
>>>> AmritÂ
>> Sorry to go tangential but…
>> If his homework is like *most* homework, it's at least half bureaucratic
>> busy work that just tests whether people follow all the rules of the
>> system and isn't at all the most productive way to spend his time…
>> There's some moves in our society to end the insane trends of so much
>> homework. At the very least, anyone wanting to get their kid to do their
>> homework would have the best start to the discussion by acknowledging
>> the degree of bullshit it includes rather than pretending it's valid
>> top-priority activity. Of course, it depends on the exact case.
>> I went through school getting A's on all my math tests and basically
>> doing zero of the homework. Instead of reflecting my understanding of
>> the subjects, my grades reflected the variations in how much portion of
>> the grade the teachers made homework. Some teachers agreed to count only
>> tests for me and drop the homework portion of the grade as long as it
>> was clear I understood all the lessons and passed all the tests.
>> The best way to actually practice skills is to put them to use on
>> real-world issues that matter, not to just do tedious busy-work.

I wasn't saying anything about any of that stuff. I am totally opposed
to just indulging kids in doing whatever they want and becoming total
self-absorbed narcissists. I was just saying that most homework,
*specifically* is busy-work bullshit these days. I don't know if your
son's homework is that. A responsible parent will look at the homework
and evaluate for yourself if it's valuable or bullshit. And if it's
bullshit, you will tell you kid that you *recognize* that it's bullshit.
But then, you will evaluate, with the kid as a participant, whether
doing the bullshit still makes sense given the ramifications or whether
there are more valuable things to do with one's time. Valuable is *not*
"whatever they feel like", it's what offers actually valuable growing
learning experience. Sometimes, learning to suck-it-up and do bullshit
is valuable skill, but not always.

Real problem: kid doesn't do valuable things they don't feel like doing

Maybe problem maybe not: kid doesn't do homework

Depends whether homework is actually meeting the first item.

Anyway, this is off-topic for Liberation Tech, except that if the thing
your kid was doing instead of his homework was building software to help
political protesters in China or something, then more power to him,
screw the homework. If he's skipping homework to play escapist video
games, that's another matter. It's all relative.

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