Elon Musk blasts obsolete education system for failing to reach kids—'you don’t want a teacher in front of a board’

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More than a century ago, Irish playwrite George Bernard Shaw wrote “those who can, do—those who can’t, teach.” Well, Elon Musk is a doer with a lot of children, and he’s reached the conclusion he doesn’t want his kids to learn from some has-been or never-was simply because they landed a job in a local school thanks to a lack of competition.

Over his lifetime, teaching fundamentally remained the same experience: an adult standing in front of a chalkboard instructing kids. Why, though, should today’s tectonic shifts in technology that are upending the labor force stop just short of the teaching profession?

“You don’t want a teacher in front of a board,” the serial entrepreneur and Tesla CEO argued during a discussion on Monday with Michael Milken that otherwise veered heavily into the existential risk facing humanity.

Kids instead need compelling, interactive learning experiences that engage them with a subject matter, such as taking apart a car engine to understand how it works and, in the process, learning what wrenches and screwdrivers are used for.

“The way teaching more typically works is we’re going to teach you a course on screwdrivers and a course on wrenches,” he continued, saying the relevance of the subject matter was often not obvious to kids.

As a result, their brains would filter it out as useless knowledge, not retaining what they were taught. 

According to Musk, the system failed them because the talents of the teaching staff tasked with imparting this knowledge to their students were sophomoric at best. 

Teachers like vaudeville before Hollywood

He likened modern-day teachers to the troubadours and mummers of yesteryear who traveled from one backwater to the next, offering their meager services to those desperate for their brand of amateur entertainment. 

“The way education works today is really much like vaudeville before there was radio, TV and movies,” Musk explained.  

“Then came Hollywood, and a critical mass of the most talented screenwriters, directors, and actors joined forces to produce compelling and engaging content that cost hundreds of dollars.”

For the thespians entertaining the locals of Small Town, USA, with their own low-budget rendition of Batman, Musk argued there was simply no competition.

“That’s how teaching works today,” he said. 

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