A dreadful hoax!

This rang true to me. The education system I was put through did exactly this... (The South Park-ish style also made me smile.)


  1. This must be why I dropped out of college. I had more fun building apparatus for grad students than the grad students were having, using the apparatus to advance their academic careers.

    I have spent my life building stuff for me and for my lovely wife and for our local music scene and for a couple robotics teams and for Burning Man and just for the hell of it.

    1. For everyone as lucky as you, there’d have to be at least a dozen folks who’ve never had the opportunity to get stuck into something that fun.

      Being a first-world maker is a rare privilege.

  2. I don’t blame the schools here. It is up to parents to teach their children that the point of life is not material success. Whatever you believe the point of life to be: religion, charity, having fun, etc. Public school should not teach it to your kids, that’s the parents job.

      1. “leveling up via grind” … that’s not what this video or its audio track are about. i’m not a gamer, so i’m assuming that a non-gamer version fo that phrase would be “getting ahead by working hard”. the video is mostly neutral about that, and merely points out that its the idea of focusing on a goal that comes “later” isn’t the idea. anyone who tries to tell my kinds that you get anyway without hard work gets a kick from me, but that doesn’t mean that i think that hard work should be focused on “and then i’ll …” style goal seeking.

        1. No, “grinding” by definition is not hard work.  It is dull, tedious work but usually quite easy to do.

        2. “the video is mostly neutral about that, and merely points out that its the idea of focusing on a goal that comes “later” isn’t the idea”

          What does this sentence mean?

          1. It means enjoy the journey. (Because, it’s all journey.) Focusing on the happiness that will come in some future set of circumstances deprives us of the opportunity to truly enjoy our lives.

        3. The gamer term “grind” pretty much refers (classically, anyway) to exactly what this video describes, but in game terms. Playing pacman is not grind, even if want to get a high score. Because the entire time, you are playing the game and (hopefully) enjoying yourself.

          The same is true, usually, for unlocks in Smash Brothers – they happen as a result and reward for overcoming gameplay challenges. OR you can grind for them.

          Say, for example, one of the characters is unlocked after a large number of multiplayer battles OR completing the campaign. The most time-efficient way to achieve the unlock is to spend two hours starting a battle with a fake friend, immediately jumping off the edge so you die and the battle ends. Completing the campaign, however, would take at least 3. Now, you’d really enjoy the campaign, but you really want to unlock that guy…

          But by choosing the 2-hour option, you’ve subverted the reason you got the game in the first place (to have fun), and the very thing the reward was trying to reinforce – actually playing with friends and enjoying it!

          That’s grind – focusing on an (often meaningless in context) goal at the expense of the bits that are actually worthwhile, when the point is to be actually playing the game.

    1. I don’t blame the schools here. It is up to parents

      Maybe it’s up to both?  Both are a part of society, after all.

  3. Trey and Matt produced it Jason, thus the South Park-ish style!

    I got lucky.  Early in my 20’s someone pounded this into my head, that the journey was in fact the whole point.  So now, quickly approaching 50, there are no regrets.  Just a lot of amazing adventures, great friends, some truly awesome mistakes, and a whole lot ahead.

  4. I am going to go listen to some Alan Watts now – I just realized that his lectures are the ones sampled in the new Starfucker album Reptilians. I found his thoughts to be rather soothing and look forward to hearing more of him.

  5. I don’t think I ever felt that way.  I mean sure, there was an element of it. But its not like a student without serious external challenges could fail to advance through high school, and any vaguely academically inclined one could fail to gain admission to some college or university.

    There have been times when I have thought that maybe I should have been a bit more that way.  Might have gone to MIT or something.  Instead I have taken a wandering course.

    Of course there are people who are determined to become a doctor of a lawyer from ten years old.  I would imagine that is quite a bit different, and really not great if it turns out you don’t like doing the job in the end.

  6. I went to high school in the 80’s and this idea of having to be successful was shoved down our throats – we had to go the right college, get perfect grades, and make lots of money! Fortunately for me, I only got into my fallback college and ended up in New Orleans, where Jazz Fest landed exactly at the same time as finals week. It took me a while to catch on, but one day I realized hanging out at Jazz Fest was WAY more important than inching my grade up a point or two by studying for a final.

  7. This video also rang true for me. I was that kind of student that did well in school without much effort and was constantly told how smart I was. 

    It was the biggest mistake they made. I was unprepared for the amount of work a university curriculum requires and had a minor breakdown due to stress and the anxiety of not knowing if Computer Science, my chosen high-paying major, was the “life’s passion” everyone was talking about.  So I dropped all my classes soon after that episode and took a few years leave of absence to figure this out. 

    In the interim, I learned I would rather die than work at a crappy job for the rest of my life, started doing regular exercise (which turned out to be more important than I realized at the time), rediscovered a few old interests, and generally grew up a bit. I also figured out the main message of the article’s video, how school atrophied both my work ethic and sense of curiosity and what I could/should do about it for the future. 

    I return to school in January and I’ll probably finish my degree so I can prove to myself I can work hard to complete something significant, but I decided to also play it by ear. A few off-the-beaten-path classes here and there, take up a few hobbies I’ve been meaning to try and generally explore a bit. If I decide anything isn’t working (with as much honest introspection as possible), I drop it. We’ll see how it works out.

    1.  As someone who had similar problems and just forced myself through the last couple classes with a low GPA, I think you made a great choice.

    2. “I was that kind of student that did well in school without much effort and was constantly told how smart I was. 

      It was the biggest mistake they made. I was unprepared for the amount of work a university curriculum”

      Sort of the same for me. I grew up being told how smart I was, and got by just fine without studying in most classes, but then I stopped doing most homework and that brought my grades down.

      I think I was pretty much trained that “I’m smart, and I didn’t have to work in grade school or middle school, so therefore I shouldn’t have to work in high school or college.” And if something *did* require work, that threatened my belief that I was smart, so I’d avoid it.

      I blame my parents and my early schools for instilling these modes of thought. But also myself, of course.

      This article on NPR is perfect at showing what’s wrong with the typical American way of perceiving things that are difficult–


      1. I am 17, graduated HS last year and am now taking a thoroughly involuntary gap year, and wow does this resonate with me.

  8. Doesn’t work for me. I did all the schoolwork because it was fun to learn how to do most of those things and I could see value in the others.  I’m in my profession because it’s something I discovered that I enjoy doing. (You spend a huge share of your life at your job; it had BETTER be something you are happy doing, or at least not unhappy. “Working for the weekend” is a last resort.)

    If you’ve been working toward a goal someone else set for you… why?

    1. It’s an excellent question! And one that the system seems designed to discourage. We allow society, parents, peers, and countless others to define our goals all the time. If only we were told early on that the goal might be as simple as enjoying our very short lives. You sound like one of the lucky ones, or perhaps more enlightened!

  9. IMHO this guy is completely full of shit.  I knew perfectly well why I was in school (at least once I hit high school): I wanted to learn enough to be able to function more or less independently.  I wanted to learn enough to be able to do my own work in physics and science in general.    
    I think a far better musical analogy would be that school (but not ALL of your childhood) is like practicing your instrument so you are able to contribute positively to the symphonic works that will be part of your adulthood.   

    1. I think a far better musical analogy would be that school (but not ALL of your childhood) is like practicing your instrument

      I think you missed his point entirely.  Life isn’t a “practice run” and life doesn’t begin “after school”.

      This might help you:

      1. I didn’t say it was.  There’s a lot more things that happen than just school when you’re a child.  Most of it involves learning.  That’s why we have things like parents to take care of us until we’re ready to join the orchestra.

        1. Right, but school IS a part of life as well and treating that part of your life as a “practice run” isn’t a terribly good idea.  Once again, I think you missed his point.

  10. I think this is the baby boomer version. They promised us we could be anything we wanted, and when we got there, it wasn’t everything they promised it would be. The Gen X version is: They promised we could be anything we wanted, and when we graduated with a ton of debt, we couldn’t find a job. 

  11. I spent my entire pre-college education in the LAUSD, one of the most maligned systems in the country, and I came out with what I consider to have been an excellent education.  I attribute that in large part to the fact that my expectations were set correctly.  

    To be fair, my parents were part of the system, both career LAUSD educators.  So I guess you can say that gave me an advantage.  However, in practice, the only way that “advantage” manifested itself was in the fact that they knew what the real point of the system was and how to work within it to my best advantage. They never got me “special” treatment, they simply taught me how to get the most out of showing up to school every day.

    The GOAL of education is to teach students how to think and solve problems within various subject fields. The TOOL of education is curriculum (the text books, the homework, the tests). 

    Somewhere along the way, the TOOL got mistaken for the GOAL. In that regard I agree with this little audio essay. Tailoring education around teaching kids to pass standardized exams is a failing proposition.

    But I think Watts goes too far in maligning the very concept of tests, grading and grade levels.  While they are currently being implemented poorly, those are valuable tools when used in service of the correct goal (assessing and tracking progress towards the acquisition of critical thinking skills), rather than treated as the goal themselves.

    1. They are valuable tools for certain people.  They are worthless wastes of time for other people, no matter how they’re implemented.  This is public education’s biggest challenge, to treat students like individuals with their own learning styles that have nothing to do with age and which too frequently make grading and grade levels counter-productive.

  12. The ensō at the end credits struck me dumb. I’m not entirely sure I can explain why, given the esoteric concept of an ensō.

  13. Yay! I get to be the guy who posts this wonderful Alan Watts / melodysheep mashup:

    can’t get enough of this…

  14. Holy shit, Alan Watts!!!  Love it!  Here’s another great one:

    Life is a Dance

    And, for the intrepid explorer, my Alan Watts dedicated YouTubes channel(s):

  15. You just got turned on to this video?? Pretty sure this might have been posted on BB before too… I know at least Alan has.

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