The Increasing Irrelevance of Schools – Freedom Philosophy

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The totality of human knowledge is so freely available that all of it now fits into a thin box in your pocket. In spite of this, leftists still demand that billions of dollars go to increasing access to academic institutions. Further still, the government administers this far more poorly than people who do it for free with Coursera, EdX and the like.

A year ago, I met up with an old friend from high school who was asking for tax advice. He was one of many underperforming students at school. His grades were below average, and he barely made it through high school. He attempted university but was quickly rejected.

He was in desperate need of tax advice, due to his business being highly successful and his need to shelter the income. After we finished, he asked me a few philosophical questions (I have a philosophy degree) as he was curious and wanted to start learning about it. He began to ask me about specific passages in Plato and Aristotle. His comprehension of the great thinkers was well above average, and it took him less than a year to gain this understanding — in his spare time.

As it turns out, it wasn’t he who was an intellectual underperformer; it was our education system that underperformed for him. He’s quite intelligent, and our school system failed to recognize that or encourage him in the areas in which he could excel.

Education is at a carrefour. We spend four years learning Shakespeare and zero years studying personal finance. We will be called upon to file a tax return and plan for retirement but are much less likely to be called upon for an exegesis of Hamlet. Why not substitute one of these years for a year of something practical?

We spend four years studying line bisection and zero years studying logic. We will be called upon to think critically on religion, politics, even something as simple as a billing dispute. Meanwhile, we may or may not be called upon to bisect lines. Line bisection is necessary for higher mathematics, but so is logic. They’re both parts of higher mathematics, so why not teach the field that’s useful to individuals even if they don’t pursue higher mathematics?

We will be called upon to do home maintenance and auto repair. These aren’t taught. We’re instead taught painful, cluttering irrelevancies.

My formal training is in philosophy and mathematics. Both of these are learnable via independent — yet guided — study. I know people who have formal training in philosophy who possess a minimal understanding of it. I know others who are passionate with no formal training and posses an in-depth understanding of it.

My most insightful mentors, who possess remarkable financial acumen, had no formal training on the topic. In my last two job interviews, I was asked about my degree zero times.

My career is in finance, which was entirely self-taught. It baffles me to this day why anyone would pay for a business degree when banks will pay you to learn this knowledge. H&R Block trains their employees — you can get paid to learn the Tax Code while others are paying to learn it.

The education system is poorly implemented. It’s a promise of future debt. It’s a promise of taxation. A pedagogical theory that demands a nine-year-old capable of coding has zero association with a 14-year-old who has the same abilities isn’t sufficient. The private market makes no such distinctions. Our society promises a better life and fails miserably at delivering. Standard models of education are becoming increasingly irrelevant. As society continues to evolve at an exponential rate, education improves at an arithmetic rate.

The answer to education is liberty. Let people learn their passion. Let people study. For me, I want to make money. If I were a child again, a proper education would involve teaching me about money — I would be happy to learn. My nephew wishes to learn gaming, and a proper education would teach him about gaming.

The path forward is freedom.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree with the University of New Brunswick. He works for a Cayman Island hedge fund service firm, owns a real estate company, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada. He is a member of the People’s Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Canada.