Brennan’s vision for a reformed education system: teach kids the skills and mindsets they need to succeed in life – finances, networking, exponential growth, and other basic knowledge1 – until they’re 13 or 14. Then, put them in a sandbox environment to begin their adult lives until they reach adulthood (FARM, Brennan calls it: “Freedom, Ambition, Resources, Mentors”).
“This sounds like parenting,” I respond.
“It does,” Brennan replies. Everybody at Edyfi, the community house where I met Brennan, probably came from an upper-middle class background, with parents who taught us how to do interesting things and get where we are today, he points out. If you’re rich, your parents can provide you with this kind of education. Much of education and career outcome inequality can be framed as parents being unable to teach their children the skills they need to succeed, because public schools sure as hell won’t.
Brennan’s vision for education reform, then, is to democratize good parenting. Huge social repercussions come to mind when framed this way: the relationship between parent, child, and world is one of the most fundamental that there are. The possibilities are exciting to think about.
My previous thoughts on education and education reform have centered around the nature and history of institutional education. At its roots, school isn’t meant to prepare its students to go out into the world. It’s meant to train scholars who spend their lives in academia, working in pursuit of the advancement of human knowledge, only a small subset of the range of activities one could pursue rather than the default. Many of the problems we ascribe to education systems arise from a wild misalignment of our expectations for these systems compared to what they were built and optimized for.
To me, trying to fix education by radically changing these traditional institutions is both inefficient/ineffective and destructive of the academic good that they do provide. Effective educational change will come from programs outside of traditional institutions, like TKS, which lines up with where the highest-impact programs already are: most high-achieving students didn’t get their skills from school, after all, but coding or art camps their parents pushed them into as kids.
Brennan’s vision seems to be inline with this assessment, but much more aspirational. It’s far from empty conjecture, too: Brennan currently works at micro-school company Weekdays, planning to move to Astra Nova, the spinoff of Elon Musk and SpaceX’s school Ad Astra, with other opportunities and his own initiatives lined up far beyond that.
“I will radicalize everyone in this house about education,” Brennan says.2
A tangential thought: what skills do we consider valuable to teach as basic ones? Specifically, to what extent are these values rooted in a capitalistic society? What would we consider basic skills in the absence of a capitalistic society? Are there more humanistic things that would be taught, and if so, should they be taught here? Alternatively, is there a way to shift our society away from unquestioned capitalism by providing different basic educations? ↩