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Looks like survivorship bias, all the way down....

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"I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?"

I started on a community college, so open admissions.

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> I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?

I was homeschooled K-12 and had no problems with the college application process. Obviously nowhere was going to take "4.0 from mom" seriously, but I can't imagine they take the grades from St. Middle Of Nowhere's High School & Cannery very seriously either.

Obviously having some kind of hard numbers to point at is valuable, if you're a homeschooler applying to college. For me that was lots of math contests, plus the usual AP/SAT/PSAT/etc suite. I'd also sat in unofficially on quite a few college classes at the local university, and had letters of recommendation from the professors, which presumably helped.

When I was applying to college, around 2010, I still occasionally had to clarify that I was homeschooled because my parents had weird educational theories, not because I was in a cult or something; these days I rarely even have to bother with that. It's gotten a lot more mainstream than it used to be.

There are many, many (many many many) online forums where homeschoolers trade tips on this. The Well-Trained Mind forums are the big hub for serious academic homeschoolers; if you're interested, I'd recommend checking them out.

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"I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?"

I finished homeschooling about 12 years ago but still have my transcript because it's attached to an email in my gmail inbox. Some of it was cringey to look back on. I actually did put "grades" and "credits" in my transcript with a little explanation of how I computed them, but they were in all honesty meaningless. Probably more important was having very good standardized test scores. I took 7 SAT subject tests in a variety of subjects (looks like those tests are no more) as well as the PSAT and SAT.

I didn't really get advice on what to do throughout homeschooling / college admissions; my mom mostly stopped being involved as far as curriculum/"teaching me" anything by the time I was 12, although of course she did pay for books. Some of which were infamous A Beka/Bob Jones books (feel free to Google), but those were actually pretty good in terms of being self-study-able. I remember frequenting "College Confidential" which was a forum for anxious highscoolers and their parents about college admissions so I kind of knew what to expect with the process.

I don't think it was a terribly successful portfolio -- I got rejected and waitlisted/rejected at 2 semi-competitive private universities, but did got a full ride at my state university. I also did end up getting a PhD but didn't pursue that field further.

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"And partly it’s because a lot of the service being provided is (taking David’s description seriously) something like “your home environment sucks, we are going to make you spend time with normal people in a normal environment in the hopes that some of it rubs off on you”."

Sadly, those kids most in need of contact with "normal people" are forced to schools with the least amount of "normal people" either as peers or as teachers / other adults. My wife teaches special ed for k-2 at one such school. I'm not teacher bashing at large. But damn a lot of those teachers and faculty I wouldn't trust to mow my lawn without either flaking out, stealing my lawn mower, or burning down my garage. If you want to find normal people in a public school, you need to drive to the suburbs or find a charter.

Segregating schools by geogrophy leads to ghetoization of schools and of neighborhoods.

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> I’m grateful that people aren’t as angry at me as they are with this person, but I’m not sure why - I feel like I was making a pretty similar point.

That person was being completely insufferable for reasons largely unrelated to her actual substantive point. I'm fully on the "abolish schools" bandwagon, and her tweet annoyed me as well. (Largely, because of playing in to the power-to-truth "all costs of intrusive covid measures are ignorable, the benefits are never to be questioned, there is no limit to what should be done to fight covid" line.)

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"I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?"

My wife and I homeschooled my child K-12. He went to a California Community College, which is easy to do starting in high school (the principal, Mom, needs to fill out a form saying he is ready to do college level work). The community colleges don't care what you high school GPA was.

And one you get an AA most colleges don't care about your high school experience at all. When son was applying t the four year colleges after CC a few asked for high school transcripts. Once I made it clear that I *could* make up a transcript for him, but it would be for them and what would they like it to say? ... all but one decided to waive this. The remaining one asked for a "narrative transcript" describing what he had done in high school, but without GPA.

Very few folks gave us advice. Lots of feedback while homeschooling, but not really advice.

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An idea in the last post I meant to bring up but didn't was Bryan Caplan's ideas about Unschooling plus math where most of the day kids do what they want but have to do some amount of math studying. https://www.econlib.org/unschooling-math/

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In case it's useful to anyone: in the CS Lewis quote, "games" is being used in the British school sense where it refers to mandatory sports (rugby, cricket, maybe something else).

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The abolish school/pro-homeschool crowd on this blog seems to be largely a product of this crowds demographics and I’m skeptical that the same lessons would transfer to the wider world.

It seems to me that homeschooling would work best for highly motivated, intelligent, introverted, possibly neurodivergent children from well off families (a group that I would guess is heavily over represented in these comments).

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Re. CS Lewis going to a school "where the headmaster was suffering from some kind of mental disorder and only taught geometry:

My bro-in-law was sent to a private religious school, where the headmaster was suffering from some kind of mental disorder and beat the children often. He was confined to an asylum shortly after my bro-in-law left.

My mom's dad was sent to a public school in Poland, where the students spoke only German or Polish, and the teacher spoke only Russian; and his main activity was shouting at the students in Russian and beating them.

Wittgenstein renounced his family fortune to go to Austria and help the poor by teaching public school in a poor district. He soon had to flee Austria for beating one of his students to death.

Positions of authority and power, such as being a teacher, pastor, politician, police officer, or soldier, seem to attract both people who would like to use that power to help others, and those who would like to abuse that power. Or perhaps they transform people who want to help others into people who abuse their power. Or perhaps people who want to help others are inherently more-likely to abuse power in the name of helping others.

(Me? I just want to work in AI. Nothing to worry about.)

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I was homeschooled through high school. I did 2-4 hours of schoolwork a day. I skipped grade 9. I CLEP'd out of most of my gen-eds in college, and graduated college 3 months after I turned 20.

Was it hard to get into college? No, my PSAT and SAT scores spoke for themselves. I took a few dual credit college classes in my senior year of high school, and that might have helped too. Did people in college give me a hard time? Not that I recall, but I didn't advertise it much.

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I don't think all these collections of anecdotes are very useful. I personally found school mostly useless and boring and learned much better on my own. I also practically lived in the LA public library and both got a perfect SAT score and won a television quiz show when I was 12. I don't want to blow myself too hard and I'm not all that special now, but I probably kind of was as a kid. Your readers are not some random cross section of the English-speaking OECD world. They're both academically more gifted than average and also more likely to be somewhat outside the norm socially. I actually look back fondly on school anyway because it's the only time I had friends. I find myself naturally drawn to information and to things, not to people, and school forced me into a room with the same people all the time that I got to know and love and it's the only time that has ever happened to me.

But I'm kind of lucky that I wasn't just academically gifted. I was also pretty athletic, good at sports, tall, lean, never had a particularly awkward phase in puberty where I looked like a deformed nitwit like a lot of kids. I get the feeling that was very much not the case for you and a big part of the reason you hate school is that girls were mean to you when you were growing up.

I've been reading your blog for as long you've had one, so you've earned the benefit of the doubt and I believe you're trying as hard as you can to stick to the data, but it's hard, Scott. Frankly, I try very hard not to express strong public opinions on things I have a personal emotional investment in, no matter how dispassionate and data-driven I believe I can be. There be dragons there. It just seems like you're begging for the less rational parts of your brain to come in and subtly infect the rest, relying mostly on crowd-sourced external fact fanatics to keep you in check. But a lot of your readers are also not dispassionate about this and are extremely invested in their personal pet ideas about some unorthodox way a society should be run based on what worked for them or their family.

Your comment about kids wasting away seems amazingly out of touch. Do you really believe you know more about other people's kids than they do because your mom didn't really know you? The idea that anywhere near a majority of kids spending most of their time glued to electronic entertainment devices are actually learning C++ and doing the most useful thing they'll ever do as kids is prima facie rather unlikely, and the fact that three of your personal friends did that 20 years ago is not meaningful evidence.

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>I forget the content of most books I read years later. Is it not important to read books? No, I say -- those books affected me and had some small impact on my character and thinking.

I actually think this may be a bad thing. You don't remember the specific assertions, but they are now baked into your model of the world. After they affected your thinking, now all the subsequent content you consume about the world will be interpreted through the lens of that model. You can't update the model, because you can't remember the assertions that shaped it, so you can never be persuaded that your model is wrong.

Take someone that read Marx in middle or high school. These are the insufferable people who are convinced of anti-capitalism, and that workers are always being exploited by capitalists. And they can't be convinced otherwise, because they've come to interpret the entire world through this lens, and so you'd have to simultaneously present to them a new lens through which to look at the world for every single piece of knowledge they have all at the same time.

Maybe this is only a problem with totalizing ideologies, and I'm extrapolating too far? It might not be so severe in every case, but I do think there's something wrong with the cultural attitude of "read books to passively consume them and have them shape your worldview." It takes me a very long time to read books. When I read a book, every fact, every assertion, I take the time to roll it through my brain and see what it fits with, what it contradicts with, etc. I have friends that read a book a day, and this blows my mind. What they must be doing when they "read" and what I am doing when I "read" cannot be the same thing. I have heard of speed reading, and I've tried it, and when I do I walk away feeling like I briefly looked at the pages of a book for a while and didn't think about the content at all. It feels to me like this is a form of intellectual LARPing.

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I came from a comfortably middle class family that cared a lot about education. So I would have been academically fine if I'd been homeschooled.

But I *loved* school, and it makes me sad to read about so many who didn't. Perhaps it's because I am an only child, and my parents hated each other, so home was unpleasant and school was the only consistent source of joy in my childhood. My parents knew that so well that the worst punishment they could inflict on me was to keep me home from school for a day. They used it sparingly; it was for when I was in *really* big trouble. But it was torture, much worse than a whupping.

But my husband and I don't hate each other, and my kids love school too (they attend an academic magnet). Perhaps you were just stuck in a mediocre-to-terrible school?

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If 1) a major benefit of school is clandestine social services for poor children in the form of "we are going to make you spend time with normal people in a normal environment in the hopes that some of it rubs off on you" and

2) this rubbing is inevitably bidirectional, ie "you become the average of the people around you" then

3) it makes sense that a typical public school education is less and less valuable the more exceptional a child is, as becoming more like their classmates would be more and more of a downgrade. You can see threads of this lots of anti-school sentiment, which tends to come from high achievers, eg Paul Graham's anti-school essay, the CS Lewis quote, Scott's own positions, David Friedman's position on unschooling, etc.

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A bunch of ACT readers smart enough to get PhDs didn’t really conventional K-12 schooling to be successful. I’m shocked I tell you. Shocked.

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I'm writing in support of Scandi hobby horse riding. Sure you can just jump on your hobby horse and tear around the room, but when its organised and with competitions and you dress up for it, and look after your horsey, it's a whole new world. Now, you don't need to go to school to do that, but you need some sort of association to organise events, set criteria etc, and you need socialisation for kids to see that there is an ultra-point in progressing from tearing around the lounge room to going to a hall and doing the whole hobby-horse dressage. So perhaps there's a metaphor there for schooling too - that the socialisation and competition of "more than one" is a good thing? Schools may give you a chance to explore and find activities and interests that expand you. On the other hand, I do remember spending heaps of time looking out the windows at the wind in the trees.

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The comments about school being bad for kids in bad homes, and the comment that "things could turn out really bad in the long term for elementary school kids from families with non-helicopter parents", puzzled me, until I remembered that parents today are legally required to be helicopter parents. I've noticed that kids today don't seem to be allowed to manage their own play time themselves--parents think they're supposed to arrange, attend, and supervise any occasion where their kid steps outside. And I guess this is so, because I've heard numerous cases of the police being called to detain kids as old as 13 for walking around their neighborhood without an adult.

I don't think being forced to stay in school for 6 hours a day is NEARLY as bad for kids as being kept under lock and key 24 hours a day. Old-school school might have taught kids to be drudge-workers; the new continuous-supervision method teaches them to think of themselves as prisoners, and of society as a prison.

Zoom school may be worse for parents than for kids. One I spoke to about it said she has to stay in the zoom room with her son for the entire school day, because he doesn't pay any attention unless she's there with him.

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"actually, school isn't that important" is my take too.

If I accept the analogy: I could spend 12 years becoming as athletic as possible but if I don't train whatsoever for 5 - 10 years, I'm going to revert back to about the average. When you leave school, you are no longer training. Adults are unable to recall a lot of what they learned in school.

I do not think it is a very good analogy because "training" is one thing while the information learned in school is actually a bunch of different things. The other students forget what they learned in large part, so other students can catch back up when it gets reinforced at a later time. If it's never reinforced, then by the time the students graduate, the information retained for that particular fact will be near zero. The training is not one homogenous thing.

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I'm not advocating that public school is social services for poor kids and the rest of us go along with it as some sort of ruse. School is important for my kids, too, it's just also the case that I have more resources to make up for its absence academically. They were still struggling socially and emotionally a great deal, and because we structure our lives with the assumption that they'll be in school during the day, that part wasn't great, either. I know this is a crowd with a specific set of schooling experiences, and I have those, too. But it was bad that we closed schools for all kinds of reasons.

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I think it's a perfectly reasonable and defensible take to say "of course we have forgotten 90% of what we learned in school because we don't need it. The problem is that when we were at school, we didn't know which 90% it was".

I suspect that if you went to a high school reunion 20 or 30 years after graduation, took all the people with robust middle-class incomes (ie the reasonably successful people) and asked them what they still used that they learned in high school, then I'd expect all of them to have a very short list. But also that the combined list would be very varied and probably cover a large fraction of the curriculum. And at least some of the stuff no-one uses would be things that are now outdated but could not have reasonably have been predicted to have been so 20/30 years ago.

There is an entirely separate question of whether high school is the right way to learn that sort of thing.

There is also another separate question of what age it is appropriate to narrow the curriculum and start dropping subjects. For instance, a typical English student would cut down to ten subjects for Year 10 (at the age of 14, equivalent to US Grade 9) - always including English Language and Mathematics, and then from a list looking something like: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Combined Science (this can be a single or double subject), Geography, History, various foreign languages, English Literature, Art, Music, Design and Technology, Physical Education (also known as Sports Science), Religious Studies, Computing, Business. You would normally be required to do at least one science (ie single-subject Combined Science; you can only do the separate sciences if you do all three), one foreign language and one "essay subject" (History and English Literature being the most common). Then at the end of Year 11 (grade 10), you cut again to three subjects with no restrictions at all. For incomprehensible reasons, Economics is only taught starting at year 12 (grade 11). A typical example might be to do Maths, Physics and Chemistry. English universities do single subjects, where you literally do not study anything else at all, so that would restrict you to degrees in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and plausibly some other scientific/mathematical subjects, e.g. some Economics or Computer Science courses, especially the more theoretical ones (a practical software engineering course would want someone with some programming experience; a theory/maths heavy computer science course wouldn't). Doctors will usually do Chemistry, Biology and either Maths or Physics. Lawyers will usually do at least one "essay subject" (examined by writing a number of essays), e.g. English, History, Politics, Government, but no other restrictions.

For those of you who have read Harry Potter, the "OWLs" and "NEWTs" are analogies of the English GCSEs and A Levels; so you sit 10 GCSEs and three A Levels.

Yes, you can ditch maths at the end of year 11.

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> during the time when they would otherwise be inventing these things, they will come up with things so much more brilliant than this.

What my son will do with time off is gorge Youtube videos, until he learns to scream like a goddamned banshee if there is a problem with the Internet.

There's a lot to hate about school if you're smart. But I don't just *imagine* my son is bored; he says so, loudly.

I was abnormally smart, but my kids have reverted to the mean. Without school, they turn into dumb little shits. I already let one "decide on his own what he wanted to be" and that's been a fucking disaster we're trying desperately to recover from. No way in hell is the second getting that chance.

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The whole "public education as sub rosa social services for poor people" thing implies heavily that the two income trap is in full swing. If mom and dad (or, in many cases, either mom or dad doing a solo run) both need to work full or part time just to keep their heads above the water, then public schooling is a social necessity, because without somewhere to dump their 10 year old off every week day at the family is fucked.

Also, from first hand experience on the childcare side, such a family is also fucked during the baby/early toddler stages. You get ridiculous shit where the dad works overtime to keep up with expenses while mom works full time *to afford childcare so she can work*, because that marginal slice of pay leftafter paying for daycare is needed to pay off the car or what have you.

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Contra some of the quoted comments, the last year was a bit of a disaster for my three kids. The hybrid and zoom (MS Teams actually) classes were awful and I would not do them again.

My teen daughter is in counseling (plus meds) for depression and to head off a potential eating disorder which we're seeing early signs of; my oldest son is ADD and remote learning was worse than useless, even though we were with him during the day and available to help. We ended up moving him to an alternative school in the district that had in-person classes and a program that offered a more structured environment that focused on social skills and self-discipline as much as academics - and he's thriving there. My youngest son in elementary school had similar remote learning issues but fortunately, most of last year was in-person in our district. But the couple of months of trying to zoom was a shit-show.

A couple of years prior to settling where we are now, we lived in an RV for almost two years traveling across the USA, and did a combination of virtual school through a State of Florida program combined with supplementary homeschooling. That wasn't easy for us parents, but it worked fine for the kids and was far superior to the zoom nonsense. One huge benefit for my youngest is that he fell in love with reading and is now at a high-school reading level in 6th grade. There were similar benefits for our other kids in other areas from a loose curriculum combined with travel, new experiences, and spending lots of time together as a family. But it wasn't without a lot of challenges.

But overall, giving our kids the opportunity to find a path that worked for them and giving them a chance to focus on what they enjoy worked for us a lot better than the virtual/hybrid classes. If our schools ever went to all-virtual, we'd pull them out and do our own thing instead.

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One way to think about the weaker vs stronger claims issue is that your strong-claim beliefs are evidence about the truth of your weaker-claim statements. If [weak claim] were false, how likely would you be to still make it? So, if Medicare For All were bad, you'd still expect communists to believe it's good (and say so); and if MFA were good, you'd expect libertarians to still believe it's bad. Or, if a Republican endorses some tax cut, that's par for the course, but if Vox.com also writes favorably about it, that means something.

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RE: The parable of hitting ourselves in the head with a bat.

I don't necessarily disagree with the point this parable is intended to make. But, at the same time, if hitting ourselves in the head with a bat had been around for a century and baked into the social fabric to the degree that certain parts of the community/society are RELIANT on people continuing to hit themselves in the head with a bat, then it becomes a lot harder to convince everyone that hitting themselves in the head with a bat is all that bad.

Similar to the arguments on the FDA, we have a certain expectation (on the whole) of what primary schooling looks like. Most American parents have built their lives around the expectation that their kids will be in school for a certain period.

I'm not against home schooling, per se. But consider that the home schooling option relies on at least one parent being available to plan and execute some level of school curriculum. This is not an option that most parents would or could choose.

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> I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?

Not one of those three, and I didn't previously share my story, so first my homeschooling: my parents were fundamentalist Christians with a slight rationalist bent. I and my three siblings were homeschooled our entire childhood. Early on (until my oldest sibling was 16 or so and I was 11) that was somewhat structured, and probably took 5 hours per weekday. We practiced a combination of passion-driven and 'x minutes per day per subject', and generally enjoyed our time.

When I was 11, my dad became self employed, running a machine shop. The shop almost never employed anyone, and gradually grew until it was eating all of our school time in working there (and for those who had graduated and were in undergrad, it also ate about 30 hours per week.) I had essentially zero schoolling from age 14 to late age 17 (though I DID become a fairly skilled CNC machinist, which led to me knowing necessary bits of trig, drafting, programming industrial equipment, etc., and my parents did pay for all of our college free and clear, as payment for our involuntary work as children and in college.)

Late age 17, when I was getting ready for the ACT, I spent about 3 months cramming in high-school, with work-in-the-shop time reduced to maybe 30 hours per week (from 60+.) My siblings followed somewhat similar trajectories in the same years.

We were all very successful in college.

My oldest sibling got two four-year degrees (Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics) in 3 years, and a masters in ME.

My next-oldest sibling got two four-year degrees (Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in 4 years and a masters in ME.

I got 3 four-year degrees (Mechanical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Mathematics) in 4 years and a masters in ME (but really robotics).

My youngest sister got one 4-year degree (Teaching) and two minors with a bunch of coop experience in four years.

I think catching up on high school in a quarter really didn't hurt any of us noticeably in the long term.

Now to Scott's actual question. My parent's created a transcript for our homeschool for each of us which showed we had 4.0 GPA, so technically we had something to put in that field, but I doubt that the colleges put much stock in that. We each scored very high on the standardized exam of our choice (I remember my oldest sibling got a 1600 on the SAT back when that was the max, and I got 35 on the ACT.) With those sorts of standardized testing scores, middle-of-the-road colleges were delighted to have us, and we all got huge scholarship offers from most schools we applied to. We didn't try for any of the Ivy league ones, etc. though, so I don't know how their admissions would have viewed us.

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> It sure is lucky that this institution, created by long-dead Puritans to teach reading and arithmetic, coincidentally ended up having all of these totally different benefits, any one of which would be sufficient justification for keeping it around!

I realise that this is meant flippantly, but it ignores that schooling systems weren't just invented once out of whole cloth in the early united states, but are a social innovation that has been independently invented in several places and are replicated in other places that don't currently have them.

Look at developing countries and the history of development over the last century. Countries spend a lot of money on putting in place school systems, and the increase in educational provision tends to correlate fairly heavily with future economic growth.

Now it could very well be that schooling is some societal equivalent of a peacock tail, or tulip mania, and its a side effect of development not its cause. But were that the case you would expect some society that did all the rest of the development stuff, but didn't waste resources and schools, to grow notably faster and outcompete the others. This doesn't seem to have happened. So either all these different societies are universally making the same mistake, or the benefit is real.

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Both my children attended a SUNY school after being homeschooled. They had no trouble getting in after they took the GED to get their high school diploma. Not entirely clear that a private school would have required that, but the government school required a diploma from a government school system. Unsurprising, that.

The son got a BA and MA in math in four years. He also completed most of the requirements for a BA in computer science, but some technical requirement wasn't met so he doesn't actually have the degree. He is now employed by a hedge fund in NYC.

The daughter never got any grade in college less than a 4.0, and .... has a PhD.

My mother would have homeschooled me, because I was badly served by the local government school. She didn't have the self-confidence to do so, however. Dang. I skipped from the middle of 2nd grade to the middle of 3rd grade, but it didn't help. I was still bored as hell. I always had a science fiction book that I was reading in class. One teacher grabbed it from me and whacked me with it. Another confiscated it on my way into class and returned it on exit. Another teacher said "Russell is going to read his book, so he can sit over in this other section of seats."

Seriously.

Taught myself electronics, and juggling. Didn't need schooling.

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Okay, maybe a historical take would be helpful here, from someone who knows more about education history.

Back in summer 2020 you would read lots of "police were created as slave patrols and strikebreakers" claims and people would raise their hands and ask why then, exactly, every city on earth has a police department. The Stockholm police were not created to catch American runaway slaves. Likewise, you read takes to the effect that standardized tests were created to promote white supremacy, but then you have to ask why they arose in 1st millennium China, and why other countries' education systems tend to be more test-determined than the US's.

School is pretty similar, as far as I can tell, in pretty much every country on earth. Maybe that's because Puritans did a thing and it got exported everywhere (the education equivalent of Crazy Like Us). That elite madrassah in North Pakistan where the Taliban big shots all learned is somehow the product of the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647. I could on some level believe it, British imperialism touched the whole world. But if education independently evolved in the same direction in many different places, it's a sign that this is just the way most human children learn and we should be careful of tearing down Chesterton's fence down.

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Sometimes I feel like Eleizer Yudkowsky has a knack for coming up with the most terrible possible analogy for any situation. Analogies should make reasoning about things easier, but his make them a whole lot harder.

If you want to get specific, then the big difference between "school" and "hit yourself on the head with a baseball bat eight hours a day" it's that head-hitting is intuitively a terrible idea whereas schooling is intuitively a pretty good idea ("children are born not knowing things, knowing things is good, how can we most efficiently teach children things? How about a building where they all go to learn things?"). Or if you feel a compulsion to phrase it in Bayesian terms... "school is good" has a much much higher prior than "head-hitting is good".

I also feel compelled to point out that schools weren't invented by long-dead puritans to teach arithmetic, they were invented independently by even-longer-dead ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Indians, and undoubtedly independently invented by other civilisations too (the Aztecs and Incas seem to have had formal schools of some kind).

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On the other hand I was watching my 14yo do zoom school, and in his free time he was exclusively watching things like "funny youtube videos". No cool activities, coding, or learning of any kind was ever observed. He never left the couch either, unless forced to.

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Why is it concerning to you that some readers (correctly, based on your past writing) interpreted you as being more anti-school than that specific post was? The post presented an opportunity for people to challenge those other, stronger views of yours.

I don't doubt that a fairly substantial number of people would be better off with unschooling/non-standard education. I just seems to me that, on this topic, you might be losing sight of just how atypical you and many of the people who participate in the rationalist community are. I'd venture to say that ~90% of students are better off receiving a "traditional" communal education. (Forgive me if this is already close to your view and I've just misunderstood.) With that said, I'm very open to big ideas on how to improve that communal education system.

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I don't like how the "bat" example is applied here. I can see that the homeschooling is not working. It takes way more effort and time and provides same or worse results than an average school. And I don't see a clear reason for that. Because, indeed, average school is boring and time is not very effectively spent there. So homeschooling in theory should have way better results, but it does not.

So saying things like "social aspect of the school", "learning how to work as a team" etc is a way to try and explain why is this happening. And not a way to ban homeschooling just because "this is not the way our fathers did it".

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The people talking about how you NEED public schools to serve poor/dumb kids or whatever are very opposite my own experience - my poor first grade experience is why I was taken out of public school and homeschooled instead.

Given the relatively flat statistical variation in a person's lifelong behavior from parenting styles, I also don't think I'd expect teachers to have a much stronger effect. Intuitively, I'd think the risk is greater - a non-zero portion of school faculty are child molesters, and they're going to target the poor/dumb kids disproportionately because they'll have an easier time getting away with it, and CSA has many long-term negative sequelae. Some quick googling (https://www.nheri.org/child-abuse-of-public-school-private-school-and-homeschool-students-evidence-philosophy-and-reason/) suggests ~10% of kids at public schools are victims of sexual mistreatment by school personnel. A one-in-ten shot of your kid getting raped seems like it's going to wash out any theoretical positive effect of a teacher noticing your kid has ADHD when you don't.

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The Yudkowsky parable is a complete strawman. None of those reasons sound like remotely good reasons to hit yourself over the head with a bat for 8 hours a day, and the idea that any society could genuinely be confused about that is absurd. I thought the examples about the overlooked benefits of school provided by the commenters were all pretty good.

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"Framed that way, it sounds pretty offensive, kind of adjacent to “you are unqualified to raise this kid, so please turn them over to the government”.

Okay, I am going to bitch about this.

First off, I worked in a DEIS school. This means kids from all kinds of backgrounds, where the best-performing ones may indeed go on to apprenticeships or vocational educational courses (the kind of one to two year courses to get qualifications in childcare etc.) One of those courses is a very highly-regarded award to become an accounting technician, which opens up a path to a good job or going on to university to get the magic degree that will get you even better jobs.

There isn't really a path that goes "my parents went straight to college, I'm going straight to college, this was never in question". Some of the kids? Sure!

But most of them are struggling with some kind of a problem. Be that simply living in poverty, to having behavioural and learning difficulties. The twelve year olds who want to start in that school all get an assessment before they apply, just to make sure that any such problems get identified and so can be supported.

And the parents are struggling themselves - some of them have poor literacy, regret the wasted time in their own schooling, and want their kids to do better - stay in school, get an education, have a chance. There's a lot of single parents (and that's a whole other rant for another day), there are broken families, there's the whole gamut of "and little Johnny has a social worker" to deal with.

There are provisions of breakfast club before school, the Behaviour Support Classroom (before, when a kid had a meltdown, they were left to sit on a seat in the corridor. Now there's somewhere they can go, be monitored, be supported), a Home/School Liaison Scheme, a specific programme for the ages of 12-15 for the kids less academically able and more at risk of dropping out, and so forth.

Now, if anyone wants to be snooty about all this, let them do so. The parents appreciate it and are grateful for it, because it gives them support when trying to do the best for their kids. The parents who don't give a flying fuck, well, the government will not actually come take their kids away until it's too damn late and the kids have been screwed up monumentally, so yeah - I never thought I'd get to that point, but between DEIS and social housing, there were situations where I went "for the love of God, why is nobody GRABBING THESE KIDS AND RUNNING AWAY WITH THEM???" The foster care system is awful, but it would *still* be better than some of the home situations.

That xkcd cartoon makes me want to burn down the joint. You know *how* you get to the point of "one weekend messing with Perl"? First, you have to be aware that such a thing even exists. You have to have the hardware and software to mess around with it (unless you want to write it all down with paper and pencil, and some homes don't even have these). You have to have parents who are able to support your interests, don't need you to mind your younger siblings over that weekend, or look after the house, or do something else where you have an after-school job to help earn money. There is so much underlying "just able to mess around with Perl" that is taken for granted there.

Yes, if you're a smart kid from a good home with smart parents who can afford things to let you 'mess around with Perl', then sure, a weekend doing that is probably better than school. At least you're not relying on the school to make sure you get something to eat in the mornings, right?

And to end up this rather disjointed ramble, there were plenty of 'ordinary' parents who wanted the schools opened because they wanted childcare, to be blunt. They worked, they needed somewhere to park the kids for a minimum of six hours, they weren't "dysfunctional families" but they weren't going to let their kids ramble around unsupervised while they were out of the house, and they don't seem to have believed that their kids would all be doing Junior Genius Self-Tutoring if left on their own.

So yeah, school has been forced into taking over a huge chunk of parenting and other duties that are not part of education, strictly speaking, and should be provided by some other means, be that government services or parents rearing their own kids.

But also yeah, school is providing social welfare services for the deprived, the struggling, the dysfunctional; the parents who are doing their best but are limited by their own problems, and the parents who are like the dogs in the street just littering pups and letting them run feral. It's a very damn imperfect solution, but it's better than nothing - and if you take away schools, that is what the people on the lower rungs of the social ladder will get: nothing.

(As for Yudkowsky and his baseball bat, don't bloody tempt me. Hey, friend, so how would *you* deal with two sisters, thirteen and fourteen, who on the face of it appear to be perfectly nice, ordinary girls - and then you get told in confidence to keep an eye out for them, because they're suicide risks, both of them have attempted it before, and here's the number for their social worker if you think anything is going on. School was an attempt at giving them some kind of normal life. Would it be better to leave them at home? Put them on the locked ward of a hospital? What? I think a baseball bat to the noggin would have been *simpler* for those girls to deal with).

I'm very nearly sympathetic to "take the really bright kids out of school" argument and let them run free-range, because then we might get an end to all the pissing and moaning about "school is a torture machine! I was held back because the teacher was trying to deal with the thirty other morons in the class not as smart as me! I wanted maths and computers 24/7, why did they force me to write da English gooder?"

C.S. Lewis did hate school, and if you read his autobiographical study, you'll know why. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynyard_School But he still ended up in an academic career, so he couldn't have hated the entire concept.

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Some anecdotal observation from an educator, though not at the school but for the first year of college. Comparing the "remote learning" Covid year with previous years, I'm seeing is that the stronger students have no decrease in results at all and I'm absolutely not surprised that all the quoted stories that end with "... and then I got my PhD" don't find an issue with missing some or much of schooling. However, they are not the target audience of any schooling systems at all - those generally are the type of people who could learn from school or from tutoring or from books or from peers or in any other way; schooling systems have to target the majority of people who would *not* get an appropriate education or skills if left on their own. And for the weaker part of students I am clearly seeing a big decline in average skills at the end of the course compared to on-site learning. They apparently do need all the extra structure and support and motivation-affecting tweaks that have been missing in online education. The new learning environment is leaving them behind.

So my point is that we shouldn't expect the same effect of schooling/unschooling from different groups ("capability levels"? But not really, motivation and maturity and social aspects perhaps are just as relevant for this distinction as pure innate capability) of students, so evidence that it can result in great success does not imply that it doesn't harm all the people who likely wouldn't have gotten great success anyway.

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>> Our teen (and tween) carjacking sprees certainly aren't being helped by not having kids in school.

I don't understand this comment at all. The solution is obvious - just put the kids in jail, the institution specifically intended to prevent people from doing what we don't want them to do.

If that's not the solution.... how is it supposed to be different from putting them in school?

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Model for the great athletes: Being good at a sport is a stock whereas practice is the flow (similar to income and wealth). Great Athletes tend to start out with a larger stock and can generate higher flows. Thus, by the time they are great they already have a much larger stock then everyone else (So when they miss out they are still ahead of everyone else) and if they fall behind they are able to build back up faster (because they have faster flows). Education clearly works a similar way and this is why people are really harping on why disadvantaged kids get harmed more. Not only are their stocks already lower, but their ability to add to that stock is lower as well thus their opportunity costs are higher.

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I'm no fan of school overall, but I think it has legible benefits that people are reluctant to endorse because they sound bad, so they get covered with the veneer of academic learning and illegible but better-sounding benefits. It sounds bad to say that a whole group of people should be preemptively imprisoned to prevent some of them from committing crimes; or that parents want their children taken off their hands even if the kids have a bad time; or that success in the workplace requires quietly performing boring and arbitrary tasks, which is contrary to our natural inclinations, and habituating children to those norms is inevitably unpleasant.

"It doesn't matter if the kids learn anything; what matters is keeping them locked up and off the streets, and breaking their spirits so they learn to be useful, and if they don't like it, too bad for them!" isn't a winning proposition, but without the justification of other benefits, people are afraid of opening the floodgates of impulsive criminals and unemployable low-conscientiousness extroverts.

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I'd be careful of extrapolating too much from that CS Lewis quote. It's a relatively unique complaint about schooling that it was too long on games and sport and socializing with other kids your own age. For a lot of kids, that's the only redeeming part of the day.

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If you want to argue that missing some months or even years of school is no big deal, I can understand that. If you want to argue that for many kids being home schooled, or even unschooled, is perfectly fine, then I'm still with you.

But let's go back to first principles. There's a strong correlation between literacy rates and availability and affordability of schooling. Countries with poor access to schools have poor literacy rates. It seems pretty indisputable to me that on a societal level schools are important.

I can't dispute that a lot of the arguments you make sound very convincing. But it still feels like someone trying to convince me that two plus two equals five. I might not be able to find any flaws in the arguments, I still know it clearly must be wrong.

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Regarding this:

<blockquote>And partly it’s because a lot of the service being provided is (taking David’s description seriously) something like “your home environment sucks, we are going to make you spend time with normal people in a normal environment in the hopes that some of it rubs off on you”. Framed that way, it sounds pretty offensive, kind of adjacent to “you are unqualified to raise this kid, so please turn them over to the government”. If you openly asked parents in dysfunctional families to do this, they would probably revolt. But forcing everybody get your social service, even the people from functional families who don’t need it, is a pretty neat trick for looking less sinister.</blockquote>

I would reframe this slightly.

I think it is healthy for people to be exposed to an economically-diverse cross section of our community. To some extent it is inevitable that people who are born to wealthy, educated parents are more likely to grow up and join the elite who have outsize influence over how the world runs.

I think it is _really good_ for those people to have some exposure to kids who got less lucky in the parent lottery, in a controlled environment where they are somewhat equalized and can be friends, and where they're even likely to encounter some really smart kids from those backgrounds, as well as some where you can tell they're "smart but troubled" and develop some sympathy.

This is certainly not a _perfect_ method for instilling some kind of empathy for those who are less fortunate than you, but certainly for myself, having gone and hung out in the homes of other folks in my school who did not have two parents who'd earned graduate degrees helped me develop an instinct for "there but for the grace of G*d go I."

This is also a huge part of why I'm in favor of zoning reform. I _want_ the folks who do min-wage service jobs in my community to be able to live here and rub elbows with the lawyers and engineers and doctors, and I _especially_ want all of our kids in the same schools. It is very hard to have a functional democracy if everyone's silo'd off; we stop making arguments to appeal to each other, and just turn into tribes.

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I think the school closure issue has simply become a place where liberals who are uncomfortable with extreme COVID policies (Covid Doves) feel like/hope they can win a small victory. Liberals have always been vehement advocates for the importance of schools and I think a lot of well meaning people are simply trying to remind liberal Covid Hawks that there might be some things more important than trying to reduce Covid risk at the cost of everything else.

School closures and universal masking of asymptomatic children under the age of 12 are something that a surprising number of people have supported in the heat of the moment but will probably realize later on they were overreacting (kind of like the Iraq war and the Global War on Terror).

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“It sure is lucky that this institution, created by long-dead Puritans to teach reading and arithmetic, coincidentally ended up having all of these totally different benefits, any one of which would be sufficient justification for keeping it around!”

This seems like a few logical fallacies bundled together.

1) I think Scott makes several good points about school. But I f you assume arguendo for a moment that school is good, just because it was invented by Puritans isn’t a counterargument. Baking bread was invented in antiquity, but if all leavenings disappeared for a year we could come up with many reasons it’s good to restart bread making, and “but it’s analogous to beating yourself with a stick for 8 hours” wouldn’t be a good argument.

2) Many things from Puritan times haven’t survived, but if one has, perhaps one reason might be its fitness to survive competition - if it was, at least partially, a good idea as opposed to their many bad ideas.

3) Most of all, school isn’t the same as in Puritan times. It’s evolved. Now, I think we have a long way to go to make school the best it can be, and so am not defending the way it is.

What I would primarily argue, however, is that having children get together with each other and knowledgeable adults from a young age, and focus on building their intellectual and social skills as opposed to working in fields, is an innovation that has stood the test of time and is still worthwhile, for most of not all children.

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Re: the twitter comments, I think people have such strong feelings about education that it's difficult to mention it without opening Pandora' box. We only need the slightest prod to perform a complete brain dump. An innocuous question about the geology curriculum will quickly spiral into discussions on school as slavery vs panacea.

I do wonder why it inspires such passion. Maybe it's one of the few topics to properly split the community? I see about as many in the prosecution as the defense.

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I was one of those kids who unschooled from first grade through 12th, and then went to college. Admissions was non-trivial. This was due to a few causes:

1. My background was largely illegible to bureaucracy.

2. Bureaucracy was largely illegible to me.

3. I applied at the very last minute... I want to say I had my applications in around May-June of 2003, intending to enroll that fall.

I'd say that these 3 things probably carried equal weight. The general feedback I got from the admissions offices is that they were concerned I would not know how to handle a formal school environment. After all, this is something the other kids had been training for 12 years to handle -- it could be a pretty big shock to just walk in and have all that responsibility! A lot of schools made this into just a hard "no," by stating that I could not document that I met certain requirements like a foreign language credit. One school had a significantly higher SAT requirement for homeschoolers, and I didn't meet this. Another school just absolutely buried me in documentation requirements -- picture "The Waltz of Treachery," except with essays instead of fees.

I'd have done a lot better if I understood how to present the stuff I'd done on my own in school-speak. One place asked me for a high school transcript. I clarified that I did not go to high school, or any school, and therefore had no transcript. The admissions lady pulled out a transcript she had on her desk, listing course titles, terms and grades, and told me I needed something that looked like that. Stupidly, I again clarified, I don't HAVE that, because I didn't GO to school. Now that I've learned bureaucratese, I'm pretty sure that she was telling me to go home, write down the stuff I'd learned as if they were courses, and self-assess how well I had done in them, and then she could process it as if I were a normal high school student. Whoops.

The place I got into initially wanted to sign me up for a sort of limited enrollment program for dubious students, where I could only take a half-load of credits until I proved that I could get acceptable grades. After some brief lobbying of the admissions office, they waived that.

Based on my admissions experience and the repeated warnings of all the grown-ups, I expected my first year to be exhausting. And I did have to learn how to deal with school bureaucracy and social dynamics and stuff, and these things really did take me a couple semesters to get a firm grasp of. When I bought my school books, somehow I had this notion that I was expected to read all of them ASAP so that we could spend the semester discussing them, or that professors really wanted me to go above and beyond and make up all kinds of extra work for myself to show them how cool I thought their subject was. So really, most of the learning process for me was about learning how to chill the fuck out.

But for many of the traditional students, they'd clearly NEVER been expected to be responsible for themselves at any point in their lives up until then. They routinely made decisions that struck me as batshit fucking crazy.

I did NOT get a Ph.D. I enjoyed my time in school and got a B.S. in Applied Math, doubling in CS. I would never have found or succeeded at math outside the structured environment of a school. In fact, prior to college I was awful at math, and had to take remedial math classes when I got in. Having an external motivator to provide meaningful feedback, a good peer group, and a curriculum with steady milestones was invaluable. Frankly, for as much as I love math, I've never been able to learn that much about it since I graduated.

-- THE SEQUEL --

So I'm a parent now. My kid is in public school. I am not a fan. It's not as bad as I expected, but I had a low opinion of K-12 schools as a kid, and college only lowered it further. Kindergarten went great -- every single morning, my daughter was excited to wake up and go to school. First grade was a decline. By second grade, I knew we'd finally reached real school when she came home telling me "my teacher is LITERALLY Joseph Stalin."

The reading material is insanely boring. There's no way anyone would be interested in these books, because they're completely inoffensive to all major voting blocs and were written to tick off various learning objectives mandated by the district curriculum, which is itself based on Common Core. The math assignments are repetitive. I've seen them give kids the same sheet of 100 addition problems, every single day, for the entire school year.

In the beginning, she was excited to learn and tried excelling. She is highly motivated by attention from adults, and she kept telling me how proud her teacher was going to be of her. Unfortunately, the teacher has 27 other kids in that classroom to pay attention to, and my daughter quickly learned that the high-performers are the ones that need the LEAST attention. One time in second grade, she spent all night every night for a week getting as far as she could in the self-paced online math curriculum the school assigned. The teacher didn't say a word.

Since then, my kid hasn't given a shit about schoolwork. She's figured out that the only prize for doing your schoolwork is more schoolwork, and it never becomes more interesting, so she seems to put forth the bare minimum she can without the teacher getting involved; and then she does the maximum amount of socializing and goofing off without getting in trouble.

When the pandemic hit, I was pleased as punch to take her out of school. I'm divorced, and my ex-wife is not really convinced by this whole unschooling thing, but this gave me the perfect excuse. At first we tried the school district's online option, and having found it to be a disaster, we pulled her out completely.

This resulted in what struck me as a highly productive year in which she basically just did whatever the fuck she wanted. Every now and then, I'd assign her homework as punishment when she got in trouble. (I caught her lying, so I forced her to play through Papers, Please, which then served as the basis of a series of conversations about ethics, mostly led by her.) She decided to play Undertale all on her own. She spent hundreds of hours on Minecraft, and wound up setting up some sort of public house, and then wrote rules for it and recruited moderators to help her enforce them. She played Breath of the Wild, and binged on the complete corpus of Zelda lore. She was angry about Taylor's abusive ice cream machines before it was cool.

Sadly, she's back to school for 5th grade this coming year. She hates being home alone, and her mom is gone all day at the lab since she's working on getting her Ph.D. Besides, she does REALLY enjoy the other kids. Personally, I'm going to miss unschooling her, but I'm happy to send her back to school knowing that it's her choice. I worry that her mom may not agree to pull her back out if she gets frustrated again, but I'll cross that bridge when we get there.

From my vantage point now, it seems to me that schools do a LOT, it's just that they have nothing to do with education or assisting high-aptitude kids. But just off the top of my head, I can think of 8 functions that they serve, each of which will be valued by significant numbers of voters, and each of which has a higher priority than education:

1. A social program for kids in bad situations

2. A law enforcement program to arrest those kids when they're not cute enough to help anymore (this seems to be deprecated now, but school-to-prison pipelines are still a thing)

3. A daycare

4. A place for kids to learn to navigate social systems, and/or their place within those systems

5. A place for kids to learn how modern bureaucracy works

6. A community for conformist parents to feel like they're conforming correctly

7. A public employment program for women

8. An advertising program for colleges

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Interesting.

I was homeschooled for multiple years in elementary school, and I felt that the consequences were real and severe, but also mixed. I was bullied for years and it was clearly - then and now - because I simply didn't have any social skills. In other words, I was an awkward fucking teenager.

Homeschooling was trivially easy - it was a Catholic homeschooling curriculum and I'm not sure how rigorous it was even compared to public school (which is no great edifice.) I spent most of my time reading fiction books, which ended up being a *lot* more educational than the actual curriculum.

Academically, I think that's what saved me - I was reading 2-3 adult level books per week as a kid, and when I came back to school my English skills were miles ahead of my peers (as I lagged in many other subjects.)

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I was "homeschooled" but really unschooled most of my childhood. I did some community college courses via dual enrollment in what would have been my high school year junior and senior years. I also did a bit of math via an online program called ALEKS where you just teach yourself and solve some problems in order to advance through algebra and geometry. The way my parents schooled me is theoretically giving me a lesson plan, me not actually doing anything all year but reading books and goofing off, and then a week before we'd have to report to our umbrella school, we have a huge fight and they'd for me to do a bunch of test prep and write a couple of essays. This continued until the last couple of years of what would be high school.

I ended up becoming a national merit scholar (SAT test prep book helped -- took about a week to prep). I also took AP tests in English, Bio, and Comp Sci and got 5s, again with test prep book help (about a week of prep per exam). To help with college I took a couple of SAT II subject tests and the ACT. Basically tests are stupidly easy with prep books because I hit 90th+ percentile on everything and even got a few 800s, and overall averaged 99th percentile on the SAT and ACT. I probably spent about two full years on schooling in my entire childhood, between the dual enrollment in community college and all the test prep, plus as stated a few online not-classes that just kind of gave me a little guidance for math. English just came from reading lots of fiction and spending lots of time online. I got a full ride at a public university (due to national merit scholar status) and graduated with honors 5 years later (out of laziness -- I hated the classes and so only took 12-hour semesters, and switched majors a bit). Now I'm in my late 20's and in senior management at a bank. School does not seem to have helped my employees or coworkers succeed in life or achieve greater satisfaction. But maybe I'm just the genetic ubermensch, idk.

I should note my parents fought constantly, separated once, went through multiple bankruptcies during my childhood, we got evicted once, we moved halfway across the country when I was 14 and I lost touch with all my in-person friends and non-parental family, my dad was an alcoholic who hit me, and my mom is a former cocaine addict diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety and she hears an audible voice which she believes is god. One time the voice told her to abandon me with no money or place to stay, about 800 miles away from home, with no family or friends in the vicinity. She did what the voice told her told her for a few hours, before finally answering my frantic calls to her cell phone, and returning to get me only after I tearfully apologized for telling her I thought maybe evolution was true. So I'd challenge anyone who accused me of succeeding without school only due to a privileged upbringing, or due to the benefits of my parents involvement in my education or our socioeconomic status. We had very little and my parents were neither stable nor particularly healthy, and I actually had to pretend to them not to believe a variety of the things that I would need to regurgitate on various tests and papers, or else I'd get in very serious trouble. Honestly, I think I was basically exactly what the pro-mandatory schooling crowd conjures up in their mind as the lurid image of homeschooling gone wrong -- kids not doing any work, raised creationist/supernaturalist, bad home life, unhealthy parents, etc. But it turned out fine. Survivorship bias, I guess, but I knew a variety of other kids in kind of similar situations who also turned out fine. Seems pretty common in the homeschool community -- start out weird, turn out ok. Of all the other homeschooled kids I knew, literally none of them turned out to have problems academically or with lack of social understanding. Unless they were specifically homeschooled due to mental problems. It I doubt they'd have done any better in regular school.

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I was homeschooled all through high school, as were all of my friends. I was pretty far from the unschooling side though. Most of us took at least a few college classes to show some grades from actual institutions and to get started on college credit. Most homeschoolers I know scored well above average on standardized tests, and quite a few scored in the 90-95th percentile range. The combination of a good gpa on college classes and very high standardized test scores led to scholarships, even full rides, for most of us, especially if we didn’t go to a prestigious school.

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> I’m wondering whether people who knew my opinions elsewhere used them as context, or whether I failed to restrain myself and stick to the topic as well as I’d hoped.

FWIW, I am pro-school so I am biased, but IMO it was the latter; that is, your article came off as anti-school. The overall sentiment was, "school is terrible anyway, so missing a year of it could only be a good thing".

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I was homeschooled, got a GED when I was almost 30 to apply for a job and that was the first time it popped up. As noted by Pepe in another comment, community college didn't require it and the shitty online universities I went to after that just assumed I had it because I had college transcripts, I think.

I think if there's any big hit in terms of "missing school" it's more likely to show up in the hard-to-test for "has learned to learn" category as opposed to the easily tested "has learned X" category. Have been homeschooled and around homeschoolers the majority of my life, I can confirm there's often really big gaps in what their parents are able to teach them (I know basically no geography or chemistry, for instance) but it doesn't seem to actually hold the homeschoolers back any. If they need something, they can just go get it - that's the learning to learn in action. If there's harm to be done here, it's to that facet.

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As always, I maintain that school is absolutely terrible and worse than useless... for exceptionally gifted children with exceptionally gifted and dedicated parents.

For mediocre dullards like myself, schooling served more than just day-care; it taught me valuable skills that enabled me to have a semi-decent career.

I hate to go all "think of the children !" here; but please, before you move to abolish schools, think of the children with average IQs -- not just of the geniuses who (admittedly) constitute the majority of ACX readership.

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The extremely negative experience the author (and some readers) seems to have had with school seems odd to me. School was boring sometimes, but just busywork? 'Review worksheets for material we had learned five times before'? This doesn't match my experience of school in India, or that of anybody I know. Could this be more a problem with the American school system (which seems very lax) specifically ?

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You can put me in the "School is mostly public daycare" camp. Of course, its not only daycare, but daycare isn't only daycare either, so its not really a difference. They let you paint and run around and all that good stuff at daycare.

Also, IMO the most potentially valuable part of having mandatory schooling is wasted: Physical fitness. It should not be possible to be enrolled in a state school and be an unhealthy weight.

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This should have been a comment on the last post, and hopefully no one has made this point yet, although I’ll be surprised if that’s the case.

In the studies showing that when schools had to close down for some period for test strikes or disasters, test scores got worse when they reopened, were they tracking the kids or the schools? In other words, can we rule out the hypothesis that when the school closed down, all the most engaged parents put their kids in other still-open schools, so when the school opened back up, it had lost those students? Presumably this would cause the school’s test scores to be worse, since the students with the most engaged parents would test better than those with less engaged parents.

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Not about anything to do with Scott's thesis at all, but:

Is anyone else massively frustrated with both sides of Nate Silver vs Dr Ellie Murray for BOTH being completely irrelevant to the core question of "School or COVID?" Here's my analogy-parody:

Alice and Bob are in a car when the brakes fail just as they're heading towards a solid concrete obstacle.

Alice says: "Lets jump out of this car because people have been fine without cars before."

Bob responds: "Cars are great so I'm staying in the car."

The car is going 25 mph.

Alice unbuckles her seatbelt and jumps free, breaking her arm on the ground.

Bob wasn't wearing his seatbelt and suffers a concussion.

Who was right?

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The original post led to some interesting discussions with my friends. After some back, this came out as a proposal that was fairly acceptable to all:

1. The government allots some amount of money per school age child (5-18 or so)

2. The money follows the student to anyplace that will watch them from 8am-5pm. Leaving early and arriving late are fine. There are criteria and inspections for places that want to be able to get this money to ensure healthy ventilation, no abuse, etc. There are no criteria for content or activities.

2.a. This place can be home, perhaps with similar home inspection.

2.b. This place can be virtual, or online.

3. The money follows on a day to day basis; you could go to 5 places a week, they all get 1 day's worth of money.

4. All students must pass a basic test by age 12. Passing is demonstrating literacy, math, and some basic knowledge at or better than the median adult in your country.

4.a. If you don't pass by 12 you have to go to cram school, until you pass or age out.

5. (Most debated point) The student gets to choose where they go. The debate was around until when parents should choose, and at what age a student should choose for themself.

I see this as allowing for many forms of "keeping the kids off the streets", "letting parents have a job", "socialization", "equal opportunity for rich and poor", and so on. Of course it isn't perfect, but I'd love to see how folks here would steelman this proposal.

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I think the thing about the original post -- and this post-script -- that rubs me the wrong way is what seems to me the unconscious "First World Problems" elitism that seems to infuse it. We see a lot of people with very smart parents, from pretty well-off backgrounds, who are themselves very smart ("...and I ended up with a PhD!") saying that the regular free public school experience was tedious, stultifying.

Well yeah. It's not *designed* for you. There's no *need* for it to be. You're smart. Your family has resources. You're going to do just fine even if there isn't any school at all -- you'll learn on your own, or some of the adults around you will teach you. Furthermore, you have the initiative and resources to seek out some better form of school if you want -- you can go enroll in a private school that does it any way you like. Waldorf, Quadrivium & Trivium, Great Books, Python boot camp -- whatever floats your boat.

But what about all the people on the *other* side of the bell curve? What about the half of the population with IQ 99 and below, and the multitudinous offspring of exhausted or indifferent or incompetent and poor parents? These are the people for whom the entire institution of free public education is mostly and properly designed, because these are the people for whom some kind of top-down externally designed educational experience is most likely to move their personal needle. Left to themselves, and their family, they're not going to creatively explore scripting Roblox games, or check out Gradshteyn & Ryzhik from the library and teach themselves calculus at age 12, they're going to sink into (or never escape) ignorance, superstition, tribalism, just like a thousand generations before them.

And the social costs of failing to educate *those* people to the best of their abilities well exceeds the social costs of failing to educate the smarty-pants to the best of their abilities. We have much more to lose from failing to prevent a potential future car mechanic turning into a drug pusher and wife-beater instead, than we do from failing to ensure a future middle-class CPA actually fills out his potential much better and founds a billion-dollar Wall Street hedge fund. Maybe writes a best-selling book about unschooling while he's at it.

So C. S. Lewis hated school. Big deal. The man was brilliant. It would take a rare and exceptional school, and set of teachers, to teach C. S. Lewis anything much more than he could learn on his own. Einstein also found school tedious, and indeed it would be hard to excite that mind with the amazing new thoughts of a teacher with 75% of the student's IQ.

But where are all the stories of the barrio and slum kids who went to school and say "God damn it, all they did was teach me discipline and patience and how to reliably add columns of numbers, and so while I am now a gainfully-employed cashier in a Costco, with my eye on assistant manager (because the school also taught me to show up on time), what REALLY chaps my hide is that I wasn't given the intellectual freedom to think unconventional thoughts and explore the possibility that I might be the next Ezra Pound (even though by every objective measure known to man that is a biochemical impossibility)."

I don't seem to read those stories. I don't hear about them. People on the left side of the bell curve, and from squalid and unfortunate family circumstances, are in my experience generally exceedingly grateful for free public school. They appreciate the basic discipline and predictability -- because their lives are *scarily* and not excitingly random. They appreciate being taught bog-standard skills, like reading and writing and basic math, slowly and methodically, even pedantically, because their other experience is being left behind after the smart kids get it -- and they're grateful they *aren't* left behind, in this case. It's true the smart kids are bored out of their minds hearing how to collect terms for the 55th time, but the unsmart kids don't much care, because they need it, and it's hard to see why they should care about the First World Problems of the talented and lucky. "I was so bored today!" isn't nearly as sad as "I just didn't get it today, I'm so stupid, maybe I should just drop out and help my cousin run his chop shop."

We don't really have a big problem in this country with smart and capable kids with good family resources not reaching the apex of their potential. I mean, it happens, I guess, and so maybe the cure for cancer is therefore 50 years away instead of 40. But we *do* have a significant problem with the not smart and not capable kids, with wretched and broken family resources, ending up dependent and disruptive, even criminal, and doing outsize damage to the social contract. Where do "low information voters" come from? People marching (under police protection!) for defunding the police? Where does the inability to even *comprehend* the idea of climate change come from? If you think the failure of the bottom 40% of the bell curve to grasp basic rationality is a real problem -- in no small part because in a republic each of them wields the exact same vote as a Nobel Prize winner -- then it's the public education of *those* people that should be optimized. If that means smarty pants kids from good families get bored a fair amount and grow up thinking geez the free public school is just kind of a dumb institution, you know? I can live with that pretty easily, for the same reason I can live with Bill Gates having a stiff chunk of the 150th $million he earns this year taxed away to provide free prenatal care for some IQ 90 migrant farm worker with a 5th grade education.

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Regarding the mandatory schooling being a century old point from twitter:

My understanding is that the main reason schooling became mandatory was industrialization. We needed fewer farmers and more factory workers. Farmers don't need as much education as factory workers.

These days our economy seems to be shifting more from manufacturing towards the online services. This makes me wonder if we need a different kind of schooling that teaches kids things like:

* Vetting and processing online information

* How to create a website or a million other Internet related tasks that most people cannot do.

* How to avoid algorithmic rabbit holes

* Rationality and cognitive biases (of course).

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One other point about C.S. Lewis, however atypical he may be: In later life, he credited that private tutor for almost all of his real education. The man taught Lewis how to think, and that was as valuable to him in the long run as all the university prep work they went through day after day.

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It's funny because the tweet of "well, our great-grandparents did well without school" is essentially a totalizing own of the entire school system. Yeah, our great-grandparents didn't have school, but the lives they lived weren't totally awful and MAYBE had a few good points over our own modern lives. A lot of education minded libs who are pushing for school closures will probably go back to saying that school is the most important thing in a child's life, which is the really infuriating thing to me.

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There is historical evidence that generations can have lifelong struggles after calamities: babies born during the 1918 pandemic had less schooling and lower career earnings than babies born before and after. School graduates entering the workforce during recessions have had less successful careers than others. None of these cases point a finger directly at public schooling. Maybe the pandemic babies had unhealthy parents at birth, and maybe the recession graduates struggled because they started their careers from a lower run on the ladder. It wouldn't surprise me with our current societal upheaval if there is some group that will face a subtle lifelong struggle that we'll only notice decades later.

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School wasn't just useless for me, it damaged my curiosity. I used to really enjoy reading, but now I have so many bad memories involving books that I mostly stopped, and although I've been recovering its been slow.

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C. S. Lewis went to boarding school. This is an extreme version of the institutionalization experienced at a five day school. I also went to boarding school and always am ready to testify to the terrors of having one's entire experience to reality channeled by one institution. But boarding school is an extreme example, and schooling is a sliding scale between boarding school and unschooling. Different five day schools exercise different levels of control. I work at a three day school which has more control and accountability than a homeschool or co-op, but less controlling than a five day school. There are options here outside this stark thinking. And schools are only going to be educational if the teachers are decent.

Just as schooling comes in different levels of institutionalization, different students have different needs for structure, and different levels of "home resources" for education (read: cultural poverty). I definitely needed school in order to learn in any type of structured, cumulative manner, and relied upon the institutions Kindergarten through college to hold me accountable. I think **clearly** most students (over 55%) are like this.

Teachers and administrators have seen some heavy hits this past year. My father-in-law's public high school had around a 40% failure rate (meaning 40% of students failed at least one class). In one friend's district the AP Macro test failure rate for in-person vs distance learners was 27% vs 81%. While many students didn't even bother to take the AP test, nationwide 37% of students received 1%, the greatest major failure rate in its history. Around the country consensus seems to be that the failure rate was somewhere around 22%, up from 11%. But at the same time the number of homeschoolers doubled to around 12%, which means the failure rate was even worse! Now you might be optimistic that in two years this will all shake out... but really? Are you so sure? Note also that teachers were streamlining classes and making it easier to pass, as much as they could (in good conscience and bad conscience, too.)

Even in a very pure Caplanian signalling model of education, this great increase in failure rates is tragedy for all those students. You might think the rebound will occur as soon as those nonconscientious students get the physical systems back in place which force them to pass through school with Cs and Ds, but I would not be so sure that those habits will return immediately. It could be several years before the old expectations and habits return. My bet is at least four years of lower graduation rates than in Spring 2019.

In a bullish Raj Chetty model, we can expect today's second and third graders to have great disparity within their cohort in twenty years based on whether they had 'good' or 'bad' pandemic schooling. In any case, if you are looking to higher students, find out how well they did during the pandemic and that will tell you a lot about their conscientiousness.

For myself, I think whatever disparities exist already between schools, students, and families are exacerbated by school cancellation. The mediocre become wretched, and the good suddenly look great. A student who is reliant upon a good school for their education is screwed by closures. A student who is not reliant, is not screwed. What percent of students do you think belong to the possible categories here?

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The way Scott talks about worksheets makes me suspect he might underestimate the difference a good school can make for many students compared to an average or poor one. I went to public elementary school in an upper-middle-class neighborhood and then switched to a non-Montessori private school. I’ve also heard from friends who switched to my private school after a longer time in public school. Our public schools seemed to have way too many worksheets and restrict the freedom of students unnecessarily. The private school gave even elementary schoolers more freedom of movement. It also gave much more interesting assignments, eg letting us write fictional stories about whatever we wanted in class instead of assigning five-paragraph essays. The middle and high school teachers had a lot of discretion over the content of their classes and would also combine topics in interesting ways like teaching about the First Amendment by showing how it has been violated in recent Chinese history. There was also a great variety of choice in classes in high school. The last 2 years of high school we could take English and history courses structured like college seminars. Basically many more students might like school in an environment with more subject choice, interesting classes, and freedom. Some students still wouldn’t be well served even by a great school, but the question becomes how to justify funding school through taxes if it isn’t required for everyone.

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If school really _is_ as bad as Scott thinks, then I guess it means we can be happy about the Taliban taking back Afghanistan. Just think of all the girls who will be freed from school attendance!

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I remember exactly where I heard this argument (maybe TheZvi?), but I am interesting in hearing what you think of it:

If you think that the main benefit of school is as daycare / interacting with normal adults / learning how to act in a (particular type of) job, wouldn't these goals be better served by giving children jobs?

The laws against child labor come from an age when jobs were mostly dangerous industrial work - or farming, which wasn't covered by this law. This isn't true anymore. There are many jobs that could be done by older children. This is better than daycare - it also provides extra income. This is probably neutral for interacting with normal adults. This is better at preparing children for "the workplace".

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I believe that Tyler Cowen's point against Dr. Ellie wasn't that he believed education to be particularly important. The problem of public health experts he speaks of is that these experts are unable to think in terms of balancing trade offs or any sort of cost-benefit analysis, an oft-repeated point.

Having actually done this cost-benefit analysis (and not being a public health expert), this criticism definitely wouldn't apply to your position.

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A guess for the training riddle:

The performance of many elite athletes is primarily limited by injury risk.

Most people can just train more to get better. But as you get better, there are diminishing returns to training. Not because the training itself gets less effective, but because you have to carefully limit yourself to prevent injuries. Someone who didn't have to worry about injuries (say they have healing factor) could train all day every day and improve much more quickly than real people.

So when a world-class athlete misses a year of training, it just requires effort to get back to close to where they were. Trying to push beyond that means balancing effort and injury risk.

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founding

myparents decided not to homeschool me or have me miss school. so instead they sent me to school for 6 hours a day until i was 18... and now i have a phd.

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I wonder how well any sort of home/un-schooling would scale with regards to college admissions- how many of the people with success stories here benefit from being considered "unique"/"diverse" in the admissions process? My impression is that sort of unquantifiable factor is a big positive for admission- if there were a large number of people in that boat such that it was no longer rare, would they have the same sort of success? I guess what I'm thinking is maybe home/un-schoolers get something equivalent to affirmative action, where deficiencies are overlooked in favor of other qualities.

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I am mostly with Scott on "why go to school if you forget everything anyway" side, but given that long division was mentioned, I've tried to remember how to do it. My brain returned nothing. It was completely blank. Then I've written two random numbers on a paper and tried to divide them. Et voila, it worked! It's interesting that such a intellectually complex activity can still be as automatic and not conscious as riding a bicycle. And it makes me wonder how much of what I learned in school and though to have forgotten is still there in some form.

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Thanks for this. I certainly understand the argument with the baseball bat. Scott's right that we shouldn't look for squirrelly excuses if the main argument doesn't work.

So I'd like to find a way to make the main argument work, and I think I have it. In the USA, in some states, education is only mandatory up to age 16. It must be possible to do some kind of intra- or inter-state study on 18 year olds to see if those who dropped out are better at stuff, or those who didn't drop out (imposing a bunch of socioeconomic controls as necessary).

I stand by the suggestion that education does lots more for you than test scores. But I'm sure it's good for test scores as well, and I would think this is the way to prove it.

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I actually think it is a *very bad* thing that schools can identify kids “with ADHD” and “treat” them with Ritalin. ADHD is clearly local to modern life and schooling and technology, and doesn’t exist in agricultural or HG populations. “Kids don’t want to pay attention in school, so we give them low doses of drugs that make you hyper motivated to do anything, the ones that at the extreme make you re arrange the dust on your floor for eight hours straight, and then they’re interested” is more a demonstration of how awful school is than “treating ADHD”. That the drug makes the kids work better in school is about how the modern school (AND life in general) fails these people, not how it helps them.

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I feel that your "hitting yourself on the head with a bat"-answer is dodging the object-level concerns expressed by the comments.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe historically one of the reasons for the development of (mandatory) schooling has been (state) indoctrination with the values of civilization, christianity, nationalism, modernity, etc. Which is, on the whole, good, I think. Perhaps smart, nice and worldly parents could give their kids something better than the institutions would cook up. But so many couldn't.

For example, my girlfriend is from a poor Islamic immigrant family. If not for school, she would not have got in touch with the world. If not for forced university living arrangements, she would have stayed home until being wed off to one of her cousins in the country she's from.

I am Dutch, and the reason many Dutch people are opposed to homeschooling (and they limited options for it in France recently) is that we're dealing with ~10% of our children growing up within a religion that supresses homosexuality, teaches girls to be submissive, in which arranged marriage is the norm (do americans even know this? Same thing goes, to a lesser degree, for cousin marriage. Its hidden from the outside world unless you know them well.) and which is generally hostile to many facets of Dutch society. There is something of a parralel society. Maybe it's my European lack of libertarianism, but I and most of my countrymen are in favour of some mild domestic neoconservatism, in which we actively break open these segregated communities, forcibly mix population groups in housing, schools, etc and expose children to the variety of Dutch society. Homeschooling is a tool for self-segregation, and giving space to it would be counterproductive.

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C.S.Lewis's experience of a British boarding school in the early twentieth century has very little to do with the experience of ordinary schools 100 years later. Even in the late twentieth century, some British boarding schools had widespread, institutionalised bullying and abuse, as discussed in this article published on Sunday: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19529579.neil-mackays-big-read-boarding-school-survivors-reveal-horrific-stories-childhood-abuse-metoo-moment/

That kind of abuse is scarcely relevant to the question whether a modern-day classroom provides the best way for kids to learn.

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Bringing forth "hitting yourself on the head with a baseball bat eight hours a day" as response to comments "school is important in other ways" sounds like missing the original point. The compulsory government-regulated K-12 school is not the Puritan institution for teaching reading and arithmetic, nor "kids gets exposed to things they otherwise would not" is a post hoc rationalization that came from nowhere; it is a Prussian invention called "Humboldtian education" and its explicit purpose is to government organize school that socializes all people of all ways of life to be productive members of the same society by virtue of ensuring they all the similar knowledge and framework looking at it. It is kinda integral component how a 19th-20th century nation state manages to be a cohesive nation state.

Obviously someone libertarian-adjacent would oppose such purpose, but it'd be better to be explicit about it.

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Some rhoughts here though not all directly engaging with this piece:

- The choice between wasting time in a unchallenging classroom and doing interesting things on your own seem a false dichotomy to me. Lack of sorting according to learning abililty in the American school system seems to be part of the underlying issue here. Learning 5 times the same thing in class and not being chalenged is quite alien to my experience in a Belgian/Flemish school, which traditionally has had a very aggressive sorting.

- The thing you advocate for in these articles seems somewhat related to "inquirey-based learning". There is quite some research showing that this is less effective than "direct instruction", which is more similar to classical schooling.

- More engaging with your article here: Hitting yourself with a bat argument ignores the historical effect of the schooling system in moving from a farming/industrial economy into a knowledge-based/service economy. If your (grand)parents are very adamant for you to go to school, maybe this is because schooling did make a large difference in their lives. My (grand)parents where (very) adamant for me to learn french, which was essential in historically francophone dominated Belgium, less so today. I think the schooling issue is more a case of something historically very effective becoming less effective over time. Home-schooling is maybe a viable alternative now (for part of society/the world), but i would argue this is thanks to historical schooling.

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I agree with so much of what Scott says, but he seems to think that "school" consists of filling in piles of "worksheets." It often does, but it need not be like that. His parents (like mine) did not send him merely to "school," but to a bad school which wasted his youthful life.

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You can to some extent tell what kids would do without school by observing what they do when out of school or when they have free time at school. What they mostly do these days is surf the net, socialize, and then surf the net some more. Then they send text messages and read text messages. Repeat. The athletic ones do a sport, and the artistic ones do their art, often with the involvement of a teacher.

Of course there are exceptions, but if you think the average American kid is spending summers and weekends creatively, I think you are mistaken. They are down in the basement playing video games (and, often, looking at porn).

It's not perhaps as hopelessly grim as that, but the generation that had to make its own fun is not relevant any longer, because in idle hours they don't have to make their own fun.

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"The points above argued that closing school might increase inequality (I think all the cool people are calling it “inequity” these days, but I am not that cool)."

I realize this isn't a main point of your post (as evidenced by the parentheses), but in my ideal world where I could control what words people use to describe things, "inequity" is different from "inequality." I try to use "inequity" as "unfairness" and "equity"* as "fairness." To me, some "inequality" might be "inequity," but not all, and things can be "equal" without being "equitable."

I realize, of course, that people are going to use the words in the way they're going to use them, regardless of whether I approve. But I think there's a potentially useful distinction there.

*Unless we're talking about the value one has accumulated in their real property from mortgage payments....

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Scott used my comment to argue that adults overvalue school experiences. This may be the case, but when I mention kids wasting away at home during the pandemic it has more to do with the home environment vs the school environment. As a middle-class family, with both parents working, my home environment is actually pretty boring. It doesn’t matter that I buy enriching toys, or have a nicely decorated and spacious house with a pleasant view. My kids want a social scene. They want to do art and music with other kids. They want to gossip and make friends and fight about stupid stuff. School is chalk full of wasted time and adults talking at kids about respect and school spirit and lining up. But school is still something they need because both parents are working. If I didn’t work, I could devote my life to curating an awesome environment for kids. Driving them to and from play dates and paying for music lessons and hobby horsing classes. But I really don’t have the money, the time, or even the desire to do this.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but that village is long gone. We’ve replaced the village with school. It would be nice if my kids could wander around and explore and play in the streets with other kids, but in the world of locked doors and freeway overpasses I’d probably get arrested for child abuse if I did this. So like a lot of middle class parents who have their kids in a “good” school, I am actually pretty grateful for the free childcare.

If you remove some high-minded aspirations about schooling and start to think of schools as “free daycare” they seem pretty good. They are supposed to provide daycare, good nutrition, loving environment, social services, indoctrination, life skills, counselling, nursing, psychological testing, college counselling, team sports, music, arts, tech skills, and job training. We have far too many goals for our system of free childcare. In Korea they use hagwons, but in America schools are supposed to do that job too. In France schools are more of a sorting mechanism, and if you don’t rise to the top of your class it is your own fault. In America we expect to “raise the bar” in order to lift everyone up. These are unrealistic expectations for a system of free childcare. But schools are still patronized by most families, because free range parenting or being part of a kibbutz, or whatever alternatives Scott has in mind are really hard.

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"There’s also an ethical issue here: is it okay to make the weaker point “you can recover from missing some school” and convince a lot of nice conventional-minded people that I’m on their side, when secretly I believe the much stronger claim that school itself might not be too valuable for a lot of people?"

I've wondered about that, too, from when I was more active on the blogosphere than I am now. I would sometimes write a post that makes a certain reasonable (or at least arguable) point, but then feel the need to disclose that deep down, I believe something more extreme, on the theory that I needed to be upfront so that people could judge for themselves any ulterior motive I might have. Of course, that often backfired, because people see the disclosure and not unreasonably decide it's something they'd like to comment on.

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> I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?

I was homeschooled through middle and high school and it wasn't too hard to apply to colleges. We found an independent service that basically did what a guidance councilor does for kids in school (as far as I understand it) and really streamlined the process. They told us what form to put my "transcript" in, which included a GPA. Let us know what dates we should take the ACT and SAT tests, and even had some quiz-type programs to help decide a college major.

I had taken community college courses my junior and senior years (generic writing classes, spanish classes) both as a way to skip some generic classes once I was in a more expensive state college, and I think that plus my excellent ACT results probably helped.

I did have to take a math test on campus a few months before the semester started in order to prove I could skip into more advanced calculus classes, but other than that I don't think there was anything special I needed to do vs a public school student.

I got an excellent academic scholarship as well, based on my ACT score. Some parents were worried options like that weren't available to fully homeschooled children, but it wasn't a problem for me/my college.

I would definitely recommend homeschooling, and fully intend to homeschool any children I have, IF the parent has the time, and is prepared to put in the effort. It is a lot easier to ship a kid to school and assume their socialization needs are taken care of vs. a parent finding or organizing a half dozen or more different weekly- or semi weekly social groups. But, as discussed, school is a very uneven social experience, and the compulsory nature of it often does more harm then good.

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From an earlier era

“What are our schools for if not for indoctrination against communism?” ~ Richard Nixon - 1962

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About section (I), I find the "...and I ended up with a PhD" part to actually invalidate the sample. School or no school, the kind of people who end up doing PhDs are not very representative of general ability to learn and find knowledge "interesting". More so considering that IQ has a strong genetic component. (Admittedly IQ is not the same as "passion for knowledge", but I'd be surprised if there isn't a strong correlation.)

I attended school without interruptions, hated nearly every hour of it, often got in trouble for refusing to do my homework... and ended up with a PhD too. So yeah, most of it was a waste of time for me, and probably a lot of it is a waste of time for everybody. But I think we should be specially careful about the long-term effects for those who end up with shorter straws (not just economically, that is what (II) and (III) mostly address). Which doesn't mean the schooling system is OK now - far from that, it's just that we ought to be vigilant about the "inside view" often being biased by strictly personal experiences.

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To combine the part quoted about C.S. Lewis and the responses from everyone re: Caplan and the necessity of teaching maths, here's an expanded quote about that first school, which he disguised under the name "Belsen" (nothing like naming it after a concentration camp to let you know how he felt), and how the one good result of the teaching there was - geometry 😀:

"Everyone talks of sadism nowadays but I question whether his cruelty had any erotic element in it. I half divined then, and seem to see clearly now, what all his whipping-boys had in common. They were the boys who fell below a certain social status, the boys with vulgar accents. Poor P.--dear, honest, hard-working, friendly, healthily pious P.--was flogged incessantly, I now think, for one offence only; he was the son of a dentist. I have seen Oldie make that child bend down at one end of the schoolroom and then take a run of the room's length at each stroke; but P. was the trained sufferer of countless thrashings and no sound escaped him until, towards the end of the torture, there came a noise quite unlike a human utterance.

...The curious thing is that despite all this cruelty we did surprisingly little work. This may have been partly because the cruelty was irrational and unpredictable; but it was partly because of the curious methods employed. Except at geometry (which he really liked) it might be said that Oldie did not teach at all. He called his class up and asked questions. When the replies were unsatisfactory he said in a low, calm voice, "Bring me my cane. I see I shall need it." If a boy became confused Oldie flogged the desk, shouting in a crescendo, "Think--Think--THINK!!" Then, as the prelude to execution, he muttered, "Come out, come out, come out." When really angry he proceeded to antics; worming for wax in his ear with his little finger and babbling, "Aye, aye, aye, aye...". I have seen him leap up and dance round and round like a performing bear. ..."Lessons" of this sort did not take very long; what was to be done with the boys for the rest of the time? Oldie had decided that they could, with least trouble to himself, be made to do arithmetic.

...I can also say that though he taught geometry cruelly, he taught it well. He forced us to reason, and I have been the better for those geometry lessons all my life. For the rest, there is a possible explanation of his behaviour which renders it more forgivable. Years after, my brother met a man who had grown up in the house next door to Oldie's school. That man and his family, and (I think) the neighbours in general, believed Oldie to be insane. Perhaps they were right. And if he had fairly recently become so, it would explain a thing which puzzles me. At that school as I knew it most boys learned nothing and no boy learned much. But Oldie could boast an impressive record of scholarships in the past. His school cannot always have been the swindle it was in our time.

...Intellectually, the time I spent at Oldie's was almost entirely wasted; if the school had not died, and if I had been left there two years more, it would probably have sealed my fate as a scholar for good. Geometry and some pages in West's English Grammar (but even those I think I found for myself) are the only items on the credit side. For the rest, all that rises out of the sea of arithmetic is a jungle of dates, battles, exports, imports and the like, forgotten as soon as learned and perfectly useless had they been remembered."

So it is not school as such that Lewis disliked, as much as that first the small, private, fee-paying school he attended at the age of ten had run down so much, and the principal was so crazy, that it taught him nothing and would have permanently ruined him to learn anything if he had stayed there longer.

The second school was better, but again, it wasn't the school work he disliked as all that went with it - the games/sports and the attitude (again, for Edwardian-era public schools in Britain under the influence of Arnold of Rugby) that "Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton". So sports as character building and indicative of virtue, and sporting prowess rewarded as it enabled the school to triumph over local rivals, is something unspeakably wearying to those of us who are not sporty. Lewis was a clumsy child who was useless at sports, and an introvert who was bookish, so he naturally delighted in the chance for a private tutor where he wouldn't have to mix with other kids or play games and could just work on academic subjects.

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Responding to your request for information about homeschooling. I and my siblings were all homeschooled from an early age through HS graduation. All of us attended college, and I got a Master's degree. Ironically, I now work at a public school.

None of us had trouble getting into college or providing enough information to do so (though in fairness none of us went to an Ivy League school either). We completed a certification program through a homeschooling co-op that was state recognized, and accepted similarly to a typical HS diploma. My mom thought it was silly and would be ignored if she provided a GPA, so we never submitted that. It's been a while, but my memory is that there were a few logistical issues with submitting information, but that it was pretty easily handled by filling out forms and doing the normal orientation testing (which all of the prospective students did, and helped determine if they met the Math/English/Foreign Language requirements of the school).

My experience was filled with a lot of atypical learning, where a trip to the beach could suddenly become a tracked learning experience. We made fun of my mom for writing down normal activities in her log book if she thought they were educational enough. The amount of time per day we spent on schooling varied a lot, but was generally four hours or less of structured schooling, and a lot of time reading or doing semi-structured learning activities. One year we tried doing school every day instead of the normal September-May calendar. Some of my days were really short once all the coursework was spread out - as little as 15-30 minutes a day on occasion. (Side note, we hated schooling all year and switched back). As mentioned, my mom liked to track non-formal stuff so I guess it was part of school. The structured schooling was pretty similar to what you might get in school, but obviously it wasn't delivered in lecture. We would generally read our textbooks, answer the assigned questions about them, and ask for more information where we got stuck. There is some really good self-directed curriculum out there if you want to find it.

Homeschooling definitely cannot be done by everyone. You need a stable household and enough parental support to fill in the gaps. You also need curriculum, which often comes from a packaged service online or through a company, but can also be piecemealed from various sources. Schools are required to provide the same textbooks you would get if you were attending there, so you can at least use the same materials public schools use.

Feel free to ask additional questions. I know well over a hundred homeschooled adults, and many of them homeschool their own children now. Most did not go to public school for much or any of their education.

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Socially speaking I think large schools force kids with underdeveloped social skills into a large hierarchical system that they can't escape, which adults can mostly only regulate the excesses of and not the basic dynamic

Fine for many but I feel confident it's not anywhere near to ideal as we could get. I think my classmates were great and unusually good and I generally loved school. But it's in my bones that I'm not a cool kid. For many of them it's in their bones that they're not a smart kid. I think it will be looked back on some day with some degree of shock

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The "hitting yourself on the head with bats 8 hours a day" thing is dangerously idiotic in that unique rationalist way - an extraordinary straw man of tradition that assumes that one/we could simply invent new communal ways that would be immediately functional and net positive.

If a society functions over generations with something in place, even apparently wildly inefficient, be wary of ought but iterating.

That said - school was pretty brutal for me, and the next steps no doubt include some viable exit door or something like it for kids for whom it does not work. (Unschooling and the like seem to be offering just that.)

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I can't defend this empirically but I want to be in a society that forces us into 12 years of indoctrination into the Church of Reason. The freedom of my fellow citizens to wallow in ignorance and irrationality looks too similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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A personal anecdote on missing school: My son attended his freshman year of high school almost entirely virtual last year. During this time he became severely depressed and suicidal, and refused to attend classes or do any of the schoolwork. Prior to the lockdowns he was a straight A student and active in multiple sports and after school activities. Both my spouse and I worked from home during this time and provided him with lots of encouragement, engagement, and support, but to very little effect. We sought help from multiple therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, put him in IOP, got him a 504 plan, and enrolled in family therapy. Through all this he refused to admit he needed help and became increasingly unstable to the point we had to have him admitted to the hospital multiple times. He's now in a residential treatment facility.

We are an upper-middle class household, both parents highly educated with masters degrees, so this isn't a case of being poor, uneducated, or uninvolved. There haven't been any incidents of trauma or hardship in our children's lives. Our son also has a twin sister who is also a straight A student, and while annoyed at the virtual school situation she didn't have any trouble making it through the school year. Both our kids have had more opportunities and support than most other families get.

What does this say about the value of school? I think school is a nexus of our community, a common point that allows kids and their parents to make connections with other community members, and a jumping off point for clubs, sports, and other social activities. When school was locked down, all of these other social connections were also severed. Our son has a harder time making and maintaining social connections than our daughter, and despite our best efforts he became increasingly isolated and entered a self-destructive feedback loop. It's entirely possible he would have gone down the same path at some point, perhaps when he went to college (other parents we've talked to had this happen and said it's better it happened while he's younger), but it's hard to say. I think the environment of school was enough of a forcing function to keep him engaged with his peers and encourage him to keep moving down the path of "the typical student."

I am not saying that school is good/bad or that it is an optimal solution for community engagement. However, I do think there's value there that can't be easily replaced. And I am certainly claiming that shutting it off suddenly, even temporarily, can have significant negative effects on kids regardless of their income or home environment. I still have hope that my son can recover and lead a fulfilling life, but given the current state it is highly unclear and may take years to make that recovery--far longer than one year of missed school.

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Scott if you don't endorse the word "destroy" in "wants to destroy the FDA", what do you mean by "FDA delenda est"?

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People go to school and get 16 years of indoctrination about how great school is, from the self-serving bias of their instructors. I think that explains a lot of the resistance to updating on the evidence that school doesn't actually have the much of the legible benefits it was created for.

I hated school so much, in the early years. An elementary home room in lockstep wastes the time of everyone who is outside of the center of the bell curve. Recess is Lord of the Flies. It became more tolerable as I grew more accustomed to it, classmates grew up and learned to behave themselves, and I got more choices about which classes to take, but even by the last year of high school I was not at all enthusiastic about it.

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The strong/weak claims problems reminds me a lot of animal welfare activism.

In France we have an NGO called L214 that is openly against any form on animal exploitation.

But they know perfectly well that they have no chance of being heard by institutions about abolishing meat and diary production. And so a lot of what they do is shorter-term stuff about animal welfare, pushing for better conditions of farming or even slaughter, or even for a better compliance with existing laws (they are known for infiltrating slaughterhouses and farms with cameras, to expose illegal mistreatments of animals).

People who are opposed to them love to play the card of "they say they just want decent slaughtering conditions, but their REAL SECRET AGENDA is to reach into your throat and pull out the steak you just ate, then cut every last farmer’s throat as retribution"

I don’t really know what to think about it because, as with schooling, I agree with both short-term and long-term endeavors (though not the homicidal steak-grabbing version to be clear). Generally, I feel like I can recognize that people make some good points even when their opinions are way too strong on others, but maybe I’m fooling myself.

Anyway it seems pointless to try to avoid people accusing you of Trojan-horsing your crazy ideas

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Would rather live in any current society with compulsory education than any society past or present without it. Lot's of confounds to making that claim, I realize. Also suspect that if we look at what societies today have happier citizens with better outcomes on most measures, education is a factor.

Not sure if the opposition is coming from a libertarian perspective but, like with socialism, there is no post-industrial example of successful societies in either case. They both have a lack there f understanding of human nature. People will corrupt governments, industries, labor unions... wasn't that the brilliance of our founders in aspiring for checks and balances? Those guys also saw merit in an educated populous.

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To answer your question about getting into college, since neither of my kids has...

Our home unschooled kids applied only to reasonably elite schools. One or both were admitted to three. Two of them, Oberlin and the University of Chicago, were schools where they had a strong family connection through both parents and grandparents, which I think gave them a significant advantage. The one school that accepted them where they did not have any such advantage was Saint Olaf. We concluded from our interaction with them that they were deliberately targeting home schooled kids as a potential pool of top students that other schools were missing.

Our general impression of other schools was that they were not hostile to home schooling or unschooling, they just didn't know how to evaluate such students, having developed procedures which depended on the information provided by conventional schools. Our kids had SAT scores well into the range for those schools but didn't have grades or teacher evaluations, other than from their parents.

I should add that the total number of rejections wasn't that large, since our son withdrew all other applications once Chicago, where he wanted to go and where his sister already was, having transferred there from Oberlin, accepted him. Given that elite schools are hard to get into, I can't say with confidence that our kids would have done better if they had had a more conventional education.

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On getting into college when unschooled:

I was unschooled during my high school years (mid/late 2000's). I was in a lower-middle class family. We did not know the concept of unschooling but both my parents had to work so no one was at home during the day or able to teach.

One downside of unschooling in that era is that it was much less organized. I received no guidance on how to game... err I mean "navigate", the college admissions system as you might at school. At least at that time, being unschooled was not looked upon well by colleges -- or pretty much anyone else.

But in my case, my extreme ignorance about colleges worked in my favor. Like many people in this thread, I found out that you could be "done" with much of school at a pretty young age. So I took the SAT and enrolled at a local state university at 15 to start taking college courses of interest.

Then I transferred to my target school when I turned 18 (a well-ranked private university in a major metro).

The first university never asked me for a high school diploma because I was an "early admission" student who was nominally still "in high school". The second university also didn't ask me for a diploma, *because I was already in college* and had good grades.

Hilariously, this all caught up with me during my final year of university. I was set to graduate with a very high GPA. The university called me and said "we don't have your H.S. diploma on file and so we can't issue your degree". I told them that I didn't have one.

I don't think it had ever happened to them before because they had no idea how to handle it. I asked whether it really mattered, since I had clearly been capable of doing all the work. But, oh yes, it did matter.

Thankfully, my university credits were able to be applied retroactively as high school credit (sort of like a reverse AP course...). But I still didn't qualify for an HS diploma because I needed a Gym credit.

So as a college senior who was about to graduate with high honors I had to take a remedial high school course in *bowling* and *cycling* through the University of Texas Online High School.

After my competence in bowling and cycle was firmly established through proctored exam, I was awarded my high school and college diplomas at the same time.

A final note: I would never have gone to college if I had stayed in school. I spent my teenage years *working* so I could save money to leave my dead end hometown. People who think that school is always the friend of the lower classes have no sense of the opportunity cost that schools generate for students from less advantaged families.

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For my part, I never missed more than a week of school, remember it largely as a living hell, and am struggling to pull together anything vaguely resembling a successful life.

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founding

This whole discussion feels like the tale of the blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there.

Nobody can agree on anything. Not even what the terms mean. You can't throw a rock without hitting someone making casual logical error via comparing education (the process of learning things) to schooling (the state of being in a school classroom).

And what should be taught? Not only does nobody agree, there's a faction that claims we shouldn't "decide" what is taught at all. Somehow, the evolved system must be best.

It's logically obvious that we have a school system not designed to incorporate the educational benefits of technology. We will certainly have to change it.

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Doing the thing where we enroll our kid in public school for the first time and there's literally a warning they send out to all the parents saying "If your kid isn't going to come to school for some reason, you have to tell us why, and if we don't like your answer we'll send the police/CPS to your house." The school seems lovely and all, but as someone who felt similar to Scott during most of my years, it gave me the creeps.

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If you want your future offspring to be imaginative and capable of amusing themselves then get rid of your television and don't give them a smartphone or computer either. Instead, rely on books, either fact or fiction and plenty of fresh air.

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> I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college.

Count me as one of those kids homeschooled through highschool who now has PhD.

> Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative?

This is maybe boring, but I had a GPA and a transcript. The homeschool groups I participated in had something like a teaching co-op and everyone had grades recorded for classes taken. Every year you could take a (voluntary but encouraged) standardized test, I believe the [Iowa Test of Basic Skills](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_Assessments). We mostly all took SAT/ACT when it came time to apply to colleges.

This was still the 90s when homeschooling was fairly unusual, so some colleges still looked at all this suspiciously, however I think the SAT and ACT scores increased confidence.

I had friends in both the homeschool world and the "regular school" world (the latter from my neighborhood or church), and it seemed that a major difference was simply time spent on things. Homeschool friends "time in classroom" was much lower than "regular school" friends, and experiences were consistent with:

> My parents tried homeschooling, rigorously followed a bunch of curricula, and discovered I could finish *all* the assigned coursework in 2 hours/day and spend the rest of the time reading my favorite books.

People I knew did different things with their extra free time. I read all the time, some of my friends fished and hiked a lot (one generous friend lived in rural outskirts of town, had land access), some of my friends practiced their favorite organized sports a **ton**. There was a joke that the homeschool varsity XYZ team wasn't allowed to compete with the public school circuit because all the extra practice time meant they would win a lot ... then years later (after I graduated) when the doors were opened to the homeschool teams, they ... won a lot. Not like completely dominating everything forever, but highly competitive. NCAA scouts started scouting homeschool players and homeschoolers started getting sports scholarships and playing at D1/D2 levels. (If you're homeschooling and want to explore this route, here's the [homeschool registration page with the NCAA](https://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future/home-school-students).)

> Did people give you advice on what to do?

Up through (and including) *getting into college* I got good advice from the people running the homeschool group. As I progressed through the academic ranks beyond undergrad I had to rely on new sources of advice, which was surprising to me at the time ("my sources of good advice had always worked up to now!") but in retrospect shouldn't have been.

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I feel like the takeaway here is that different children need different things and it's hard to generalize from one person's childhood experiences onto another. Customizing the experience on a child-by-child basis seems like it would be incredibly resource intensive. So how do we solve the problem? Obviously parents who are at least somewhat invested can probably find a way to navigate to an at least "acceptable" solution, but then what do we do for the children of parents who don't care at all?

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I think the original comments got it right. School IS important, but you're right in that so are hobbies! But this is more of an argument to say that school shouldn't give a ton of homework that takes up an entire kid's day besides like their soccer practice or dance classes. You can go to school, come back, and then spend your time messing with PERL, y'know.

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Just because you preemptively call “chesterton’s fence” (“8-miling”? Where you say your opponent’s likely critique before he has a chance to make it) doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply.

I think conventional wisdom is always on a spectrum between chesterton’s fence and QWERTY keyboard. Things stick around because they’re adaptive, which sometimes means they’re local optima or ruts, and sometimes means they have some utility that’s illegible-but-true. To me deciding between burn-the-boats and the lindy law at an axiomatic level misses the point. It’s about which applies more in a given situation.

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"Great athletes miss a few months of training all the time, for injuries or something, and nobody ever says “oh, she missed six months of training, now she’ll never catch up to all those other athletes who have six months more training than she does”

How confident are you about this? I think there are probably plenty of athletes who fail to hit their window of opportunity because of a poorly timed injury that slowed down their development enough that they don't hit the intersection of their knowledge and their physical prowess. The fact that some athletes overcome such obstacles doesn't mean that everyone can or does.

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I *am* a programmer (https://github.com/bugsbycarlin). I am excited about my daughter learning the things she wants to learn, programming or dinosaurs or whatever. And I was pulled out of school, homeschooled for a year, then sent to early college, with initially mixed and ultimately very positive results. But I *still* want to send my daughter to regular old public school for part of her childhood.

So I think this:

---There’s this weird trap a lot of adults fall into where anything a kid does on their own, however interesting, is “wasting away”, and anything they do at school, however ridiculous, is Exciting Prosocial Learning Fun Glowing Childhood Memories. I think this might be entirely a function of whether the parents can spectate and take pictures that look good on a mantlepiece: easy with hobbyhorsing, harder with learning C++.---

is *just a bit* reductive. And maybe even not that nice.

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Are we really supposed to take seriously the claim that Scott doesn't know how to do Gaussian elimination, but yet did fine on algebra at school? I think he's just forgotten what the word refers to.

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One might also consider the substantial amount of sexual abuse that occurs in public schools, both from staff/faculty of all categories as well as among students themselves. There was a statistic about California public schools that perhaps 1 in 10 students would be subject of sexual abuse/harassment by the time they finished high school. For all the media interest in the Catholic Sexual abuse cases (many going back decades) there is little mention that year after year, an order of magnitude of new victims is being produced by the public education system. It has always baffled me that this was never more closely studied but it seems like there are many limiting factors about under-reporting faculty/staff behaviors and an inability to record student-on-student forms of sexual abuse. I've only seen a handful of really horrifying studies on this and most were about a decade or so old by the time I came across them.

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I am grateful to have been homeschooled K-12. My school day was much more efficient and I could get all my work done in 4ish hours. My mother kept records of my classes and grades, which my college accepted (without grades, I would have assumed a B+ average).

Some readers are concerned about exposure to extracurriculars. Through the public high school, I was able to join the marching, concert, and jazz bands, to fulfill a specific interest. But public school isn’t the only opportunity for group activities. In middle school I was in a private children’s choir which accepted kids from any school. It was self organized and frankly better than any of the school choirs.

I really like homeschooling, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. It’s essentially unpaid work for at least one parent which may be economically difficult for some families. Some homeschooling friends ended up going to a charter high school and enjoying it. On the other hand, my younger sister opted to spend junior and senior year at the public high school so she could have more social interaction, and now she says it probably was not worth it.

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Regarding the question about getting into college:

I was basically unschooled thanks to religious extremism and neglect. As such I’m perhaps an interesting example since my poor education took place without the benefit of involved parenting. The one thing I had was math textbooks, but only as far as algebra and geometry. It would have been great to have had more advanced topics, but as a general principle, learning math as a thing I had to figure out on my own seems like the best possible math education. Most kids are taught to memorize steps in math. It’s terrible!

I got a GED and spent two years taking community college classes- most importantly the basic science labs which you can’t make up for with just reading. I then transferred to a four year college. After working a few years I went back to grad school. Sorry to bust the trend- no PhD here. I got a masters in engineering. And I still LOVE math.

Because of my own rough start, I’ve spent nearly a decade tutoring kids at a local homeless shelter. Many were told by teachers in school that they weren’t smart. No school would definitely have been the better option for them. I’ve worked with several kids who developed their own systems and nomenclature for working multiplication and division problems. They were usually embarrassed since they were doing it ‘wrong’. My two favorite things have been 1- when I get them to teach me their way and can tell them it is right and 2- when they tell me that they have started teaching their siblings or friends.

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I had once written a post in defense of school, which my husband forbid me to post anywhere publicly on the grounds that it's not worth pissing that many of our friends off. I sorta think that childless geniuses who reason that *they* would have been better off without school, and then use examples from their tech-savy elite friends who put huge parental investments into their children, are not in touch with the rest of humanity. Look, I'm not saying I love the school system as is - it has a lot of horrible things in it and would benefit from huge reforms, but I think for many (most?) kids it really beats their realistic alternatives. Not everyone can have a parent stay home or a nanny who lavishes attention and books on what are already high-IQ, emotionally supported children. Not everyone can get ahead without a good looking path and strong story for college. My immigrant nanny agreed that remote schooling this year was torturing her daughter, yet said it was necessary for her to get into the elite high school she was aiming at in order to become the highly paid professional she wants one day to be. Not everyone can just sit down and get a perfect SAT score and impress the world with their natural acumen. You keep *your* kids home. Understand that most of the world can't.

In my own practice I have had a lot of parents complain of their children developing depression during the pandemic. The children who did in person or blended learning faired much better than the ones who were fully remote. A few parents changed from fully remote to blended halfway through the year, and expressed profound relief that they had done so, noting immediate psychological and behavioral changes in their children. How much of this was due to the social advantages of seeing other humans and how much was due to how terrible remote learning is, is unclear, however I suspect the social aspect was a very large factor, especially in the younger children for whom 'remote learning' was really a big nothing burger anyway. And to be honest, my practice has a lot of highly educated professionals in it, so it's not just what I wrote above. And going back to my nanny, she said over half of the kids in her daughter's remote class were depressed, and the school was having guidance counsellors reach out to everyone on a weekly basis because of this.

My own experience with sending my kids to school has been mixed. There are definitely large positives, which you seem quite quick to dismiss as 'hitting your head with a baseball bat builds character.' Just because *you* did not experience these things does not give you grounds to dismiss the experiences of huge portions of the population that tell you this is a thing.

I should probably write up a new article on my thoughts, but it does miff me when childless genius tech adjacents declare this stuff. I also have thoughts on the damage that being left alone with unlimited screens causes quite a few children, including gaming addiction, social media addiction, and depression (again - you not being one of them is not evidence). I also have thoughts on some of the social damage that my now grown home-schooled patients have reported to me. Anyway ... /rant

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"I’d be interested in hearing stories from some of these people about getting into college. Was it hard without a GPA? Did admissions officers treat your unschooling or homeschooling as a positive or a negative? Did people give you advice on what to do?"

During the first half of high school I took a few accredited online independent study courses, and during the second half of high school about half my course load was community college classes, so that gave me some independently verified 'A's to back up the ones from my parents. I took a few AP tests, SAT subject tests, and of course the SAT, so those certainly helped as well. This is pretty far from pure unschooling, but I think I still had more freedom and less drudgery than I would have had in a typical high school. I don't know how the admissions officers viewed my homeschool classes, but at the very least it didn't stop me from getting into the college I was aiming for. (I'm at that college now. Based on my performance there so far I'm above average for the school, but not extremely. So I didn't just overpower the homeschooling question by being ridiculously good, but I also don't know what would have happened if I'd been more of a borderline case).

On the extracurricular benefits of school question, I'm overall satisfied with my route but I'm sure there are things I missed out on. For example, I'm naturally not an athletic person, and because of homeschooling I was able to exercise in other ways. I'm overall happy about that, but it also means that I'm abysmal at anything resembling sports. That can be embarrassing at times.

Socialization really depends on your luck with who lives nearby, is roughly the same age, and is homeschooling. You don't have as a big of a pool, but I don't think you need to have dozens of friends to have a fulfilling social life. Also, because I wasn't always in groups based on grade level I got the chance to interact with kids of varying ages and even adults. I think that's at least as good for learning to socialize in the long term as hanging out only with people of the same age is.

The hobbyhorse thing seems really odd to me, since I found one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling to be the flexibility to pursue hobbies. In my early school years I had time for lots of creative projects since I wasn't doing busywork all day, and in my later school years I was able to focus my education to align with my interests. I think the reason I spent my time as a kid on creative projects rather than social media has more to do with my mom limiting my "recreational" computer time than anything about homeschooling. Fortunately programming didn't count (I'm a computer science major).

All that being said, I have a hard time imagining a world where the majority of kids are homeschooled. My dad worked from home and my mother was a stay at home mom. My mom almost became a teacher (she decided she couldn't handle a room full of rowdy children all day), and they're both very intelligent and good at explaining things. I was very receptive to homeschooling. That's pretty much ideal conditions for homeschooling. Also conservative Christian/otherwise ideologically motivated homeschoolers concern me. Still, I do think that there are children in public school right now who would benefit from being homeschooled. There's also a wide range of possibilities in between public school and unschooling, and even between public school and what I had. Some charter schools, for example, have students only come in a few hours a week. I certainly think we can improve on the status quo, and that improving on the status quo means less traditional school not more.

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Kids who are analytically inclined, are introverts, and end up doing a PHD in some hard science, those kids are much more likely to hate school, enjoy being on their own, and call their imaginary friend Perl.

They're also a lot more likely to be reading this blog. This is me, I hated school and skipped as much of it as I dared.

What about the other kids? Since being a highly efficient nerd is currently rewarding financially, nerds tend to think that being math-smart is all there is.

We're here not in the context of making schools better (or making something better than schools). We're here in the context of banning children from interacting with each other save on a screen. Somehow this aspect was left out of the conversation. Pretend play - unless you count Perl as your friend - is harder to do over Zoom.

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While I wasn't homeschooled or unschooled, I can guarantee I missed more than 18 days of school per year from about grade 8 on.

I remember barely attending highschool. I swear I slept in class, or just skipped class most days. I managed to pass highschool, with only one pitty pass class (I got a 51% in physics 20 that I don't think I deserved, 50% was needed to pass).

I got in to a University bachelor of science program 9 years later without needing to upgrade anything. I'm currently maintaining above 3.0 GPA despite my continued dislike of school. I just started my third year of study.

I think the biggest thing I lack right now is just good study/homework habits. Especially since a lot of school is online/hybrid for me right now.

I recognize not every kid was me in school, but I can imagine there were many smarter kids beside me who could have also skipped a lot more school than they did.

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Something to pay attention to when it comes to that other person that posted "your grandparents didn't go to school" and the reaction. That conversation was not in any way about school, it was about whether or not we can and should do whatever Pandemic Alarmists declare we should just because Pandemic - regardless of the potential consequences.

Think of it this way - on the one hand, we have school in which we pay teachers to force children to beat their own heads with baseball bats, but baseball-bat-beating is an obviously required skill to enter modern life (seriously - the number of jobs without a baseball-bat-to-face related requirement is declining faster and faster as more things get automated and (more likely) outsourced to people in China. We largely do this because the historical power structures that be *absolutely demand it*. People are worried that their kids will be behind in the baseball-bat-to-face arena if they don't get their eight daily hours of training - and people have found all kinds of unique ways to make that process much better and more interesting and include more things that are intangible but important. Still, it's largely power at play.

On the other, we have people who come from highly educated places making the demand that *they* be put in charge of whether or not people go to school, or really do anything at all. Gyms? Closed. Schools? Closed. Public life of any sort? Closed. And if you read current Pandemic Twitter - the cases for these just get wilder and wilder as more and more people get vaccinated.

People are reacting to him and not you specifically because he transparently was making the power-play case, not the "it's not the end of the world if this happens" case. People can smell this kind of bullshit *miles away* and will reject it *just because*.

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For anyone interested in this subject, I recently wrote about our experience (in the UK) of discovering unschooling. I found all the comments in this thread and the previous post really useful. https://nickasbury.substack.com/p/the-opposite-of-school

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