Homeschooling seems to bring out the best in those with computer passions, as illustrated here. David Kulp is one example, as shown in last month’s sale to Yahoo of the blogging world’s Tumblr collection. Many homeschoolers are asked how they can leave the school system, when they could support the public school with their attendance. It’s always been a puzzle to me why the kids should support, when they are there to be educationally supported. If the premise is to keep the schools’ test scores higher, that seems unfortunate. Kids should be able to follow their passions.
So Beth Harpaz asks in last month’s article making the rounds, including with the Boston Globe: Should we let wunderkinds drop out of high school?
NEW YORK — It’s one thing to say tech geniuses don’t need degrees. After all, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college.
But now we have David Karp, who doesn’t even have a high school diploma. Karp, 26, founded Tumblr, the online blogging forum, and sold it to Yahoo for $1.1 billion.
Which raises the question: When is it OK for a wunderkind to drop out of school?
The Stanford Law School Fellow quoted in the article doesn’t understand the bigger picture of unschooling or such in predicting stepping away from traditional schooling is like “buying a lottery ticket — that’s how good your odds are here.”
David Karp suggests a solid plan if choosing to leave school. We’re not talking about kids so disillusioned and discouraged by their schooling they drop out or are pushed out. I’m not sure why the author continuously uses the stigmatizing word “dropout” throughout the article when the people discussed had a plan when leaving the schools. From the Globe article:
Karp took Japanese classes and had a math tutor while continuing with an internship at an animation production company, but by age 16, he was working for a website and was on his way to becoming a tech entrepreneur. He never did get his diploma. Karp’s mother said she let him leave school because she realized ‘‘he needed the time in the day in order to create.’’
Penny Mills allowed the same for her son, Thomas Sohmers. Thomas won a Thiel Fellowship allowing him to skip college with the $100,000 reward to focus on his passion. Brilliant idea that seems well-earned for him since the beginning of his teen years.
I have to agree with Penny Mills, from my observations of school techniques as opposed to most results in our homeschooling communities. Give them wings and they will fly:
‘‘The part that really bothers me is that there are a lot of Thomases out there and their needs are not being met,’’ Mills said.
Many schools could use the teens as instructors for those types of classes. Public schools aren’t generally known for cutting edge computer technology classes. Despite the interviewed psychiatrist’s opinion, school socialization is not a good reason to hold kids back from following their passions. Danielle Strachman reminds us of this in the Globe:
What also sets the field apart is that computer programming is not taught at every high school, and even when it is, the most talented students often either ‘‘surpass the curriculum or feel it’s not relevant to them,’’ said Danielle Strachman, program director for the Thiel Fellowship. ‘‘They want to move at their own pace.’’
Strachman emphasized that just because someone has left school, it doesn’t mean he or she has stopped learning. The Thiel program provides not just funding, but peers and mentors to help recipients reach their goals. And they can always pursue a degree when the fellowship is over.
20 year old, Palmer Luckey, is another example of ‘free education’ success and I suspect his socializing skills are just fine. With his achievements, it’s well beyond focusing on as a worry. Luckey’s Oculus Rift: Virtual reality 2.0 is the end result of much experimentation. From LA Times‘ Todd Martens interview with Palmer Luckey:
It wasn’t the first time his curiosity ran toward the more destructive side of technology. “For a long time I was really fascinated with high-voltage weaponry,” Luckey says. “From ages 11 to about 16, I got interested in building coil guns. So I built coil guns, Tesla coils, scion chargers — all these fun, dangerous, high-voltage projects. I got shocked a lot. Looking back, it’s honestly a miracle I am not dead.”
Right around this time in the story, it’s natural to wonder what Luckey’s parents thought of these potentially perilous experiments. Born and raised in Long Beach, Luckey was home-schooled by his stay-at-home mother. His father, a car salesman, allowed his son to use half of the family garage for his rudimentary engineering. They may have put a stop to it if they knew how dangerous some of it was, Luckey acknowledges, but good testing gave him a free pass.
“They were like, ‘Don’t shoot your eye out, kid,’” Luckey says. “I did all the standardized state testing just so they could make sure I wasn’t stupid.”
It didn’t escape my recent memory of a Florida teen being suspended and charged with a felony for her science experiment in our ‘school discipline gone amuck’, also known as zero tolerance. We might have another Homer Hicham with Kiera Wilmot. Computer programmers are not the only benefactors of “dropping out”. Thank goodness for home garages and the freedom to learn by whatever means works. I’m looking forward to more thoughts and suggestions examining the various educational style results and our need for “genuine human flourishing.”