Jeremy Abroad

School is a Crime Against Humanity

March 26, 2015

If you agree with me that school is a giant waste of time, then it follows that school is one of the biggest crimes against humanity if you take into account all the hours of our lives it collectively wastes. Time is our most valuable asset, and school robs us of our youth.

I don’t remember 99% of anything I learned in school. I was forced to read boring novels and complete pointless assignments, but never taught how to be independent or autodidactic. So what was the point of all that suffering?

School is a relic of a prior era where information was only accessible through books and the minds of the educated. Now that we have the internet, this is no longer the case. Yet modern education has not adapted to the 21st century.

I’m not saying that school as an institution shouldn’t exist (though maybe it shouldn’t), I’m saying that it’s extraordinarily inefficient at accomplishing more than being a combination of a glorified daycare and prison. Although it can give poor kids a chance in life, it can also kill the dreams of those who don’t fit its mold (what if John Carmack hadn’t dropped out?).

First, let’s take a look at the system.

Middle/High school

Here was a typical day for a student at my public high school:

  • 6:00am Wake up at the ass crack of dawn to make it to the bus stop because the bus leaves at 6:30am.
  • 7:45am Go to class and sit/sleep in boring lecture after boring lecture until 2:45pm when classes finish
  • 3:00pm Go to some after-school club/sport, because you won’t get into a good college without extracurricular activities
  • 5:00pm Get home and get started on the 2+ hours of homework due tomorrow

Here are some problems with school:

  • Forced to take every stupid pointless class imaginable. You’re interested in computer science? Too bad, you still have to read Shakespeare and write that 10 page paper on the Ottoman Empire. Needless to say, I don’t remember anything about Shakespeare or the Ottoman Empire.
  • Grades are based on how well you regurgitate trivia-style info on exams.
  • Everybody including (and especially) the straight-A students copy each others’ homework. Nobody actually cares about the material. After the exam, nobody remembers anything.
  • Starting from junior year, half the courses you take are college courses (AP or IB). I have to take college course to get into college?
  • You need straight-A’s to get into a top-50 school. 50 years ago you could get into Brown with a 3.6 and a good essay, now you need a 5.3 and an A in AP Calculus to get into University of Virginia.
  • Cafeteria food is disturbingly unhealthy (and we wonder why America is fat)


Now you actually have a bit of freedom in the courses you pick and can schedule them at any time you want! Feels like heaven compared to high school! But in reality, college still sucks (at least the learning aspect).

You’re still forced to take pointless classes, sit through boring lectures (the professor is an attention whore who grades you on your attendance to his stupid lectures that you stopped going to because they weren’t helpful), spend hours completing dumb assignments and memorizing trivia questions for the exam, etc. You need to carefully plan your classes so that they are easy enough to get an A, yet rigorous-sounding enough to where you’d be taken seriously if a grad school or an employer were to audit your transcripts. Everyone pretends to care about their classes to look intelligent and fit in, but in reality nobody really cares because school does a great job of turning students off to education.

In the past the degree was enough to get a job. Then employers started realizing that college graduates were useless, and so they demanded that graduates have a summer internship prior to graduation. And now to even land that coveted summer internship before you senior year, you need prior internship experience. So you’re basically expected to intern every summer after freshman year.

And now you have to go into six figures of debt to get a college education at a public school. That includes the cost to pay for $500 textbooks that are so expensive despite the fact that the information is 100+ years old because the textbook companies rearrange the chapters every year and call it a new edition.


One of the following:

  • You get a job in a field completely unrelated to your major
  • You get a job in a field related to your major, but realize that you don’t know anything relevant to the real world and your entire education was useless.

Why is education so ineffective?

  • Curriculums are ancient and divorced from reality
  • Lecturing is an inefficient way to teach

I’m a firm believer that the best way to learn is by doing. Lectures are not only ineffective, but incredibly boring. It’s just not possible to sit and actively pay attention while someone talks to themself for over an hour.

  • Forces everyone to learn at the same pace

In a traditional classroom, everyone has to learn at the same pace. This leaves “slow” students behind and bores bright students.

The advantages of resources like KhanAcademy are that they allow the learner to learn at his/her pace.

  • Tests are based on “trivia”-style questions, which are obsolete in a world where you can Google anything
  • College doesn’t teach you how to think independently. People often say that college teaches you “how to learn”. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In a college class, the entire curriculum is laid out for you. You’re given solved problems in a textbook that have an answer key. Don’t know how to do something? Read Chapter 5. If all else fails, you have a professor and TA willing to hold your hand through anything. In STEM classes, there’s typically always a correct answer or correct way of doing things.

On the first day of my first full-time job, I was told to learn X, Y, and Z. It was my responsibility to teach myself through whatever means necessary because my job depended on it. Sure he was willing to guide me or help out when possible, but he didn’t have the time to hand hold me through everything. I basically had to Google, read books, post on forums, and learn by “doing”. Some of the stuff I had to learn was so cutting edge that there weren’t really textbooks or courses on them anyways (I wasn’t working on rocket science or anything, technology just changes fast). And to top it all off, my supervisor was also completely self-taught, having spent 5+ years in school studying architecture of all things.

  • You can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn

Most students, especially prior to college, don’t care about 99% of what they’re being taught. This means that they’re not only miserable, but inevitably going to forget the material after the final exam.

  • Cutthroat focus on GPA is unhealthy and disincentivizes taking challenging courses
  • Rewards conformity and doing what you’re told rather than creativity and thinking outside the box (indoctrination)

Though I guess this may not be a bad thing from the perspective of a corporation looking to hire drones willing to work long hours taking orders and working on mindless tasks.

  • You’re working on imaginary problems
  • Opportunity cost

You can argue about the benefits of college all you want, but it doesn’t mean much without factoring in the opportunity cost. Sure your basket weaving degree might’ve made you a better basket weaver, but could your time have been better spent doing something else?

I majored in math. Math lectures are especially dumb because they’re typically taught straight out of the book (which I loved because I didn’t have to go to class).

The Future

The internet makes modern education as we know it obsolete. It’s just a matter of time before teachers (at least at the collegiate level) get replaced by software. There’s no reason to have a million teachers simultaneously giving chemistry 101 lectures every year when you can just have one teacher record a single video once. I don’t mean to demean the work of teachers (most other occupations will be automated away in the future as well), but that’s just the reality of it.

Despite its failure to prepare students for the workforce, college education continues to remain mandatory because employers still demand it. Until employers stop demanding that applicants have degrees, college education will remain mandatory for those of us who aren’t Mark Zuckerbergs.

When I was in high school, I vowed to never forget the pain and suffering of having to sit in boring lecture after lecture, completing bullsh!t assignment after assignment. It never made sense to me that anyone who had gone through the same suffering wouldn’t speak out against it. After graduating and experiencing the real world, the whole college experience appears even more absurd.

School is a prison. It punishes those with free spirits and rewards those who conform.

I didn’t really start learning until I started doing things outside of the ivory tower, like interning and working. This is largely because for once I was working on real problems, and thus actually cared about what I was doing.

But then again I studied math and work as a web developer. I’m sure there are fields where the four years of education are helpful (medicine maybe?). But for most of us, college is largely time that could’ve been better spent doing something else.

Jeremy Bernier

Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.