Why Alexis Ohanian Being Kicked Out of His High School Encapsulates Everything Wrong With the U.S. Education System
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian delivered an inspiring, profanity-laced speech at his former high school last month. And he was escorted out of the building. No, I’m not making that up. As soon as Ohanian finished talking, Howard High School’s principal, Dr. Gina Massella, told him that his use of language embarrassed her and the school. She then ordered him to leave.
Let the lunacy of this sink in for a moment. The U.S. public education system is in disarray and has been for the past forty years. We’re 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 other countries. Most American high school students don’t know anything about Liechtenstein or Estonia, but the students in those countries can accurately calculate the slope of a banana, and the average American high school student probably can’t.
So, when someone who’s actually “made it in America” — you know, cover of Forbes, angel investor in over a hundred startups — shows up at his old high school to connect with students, of course the school throws him off its grounds! Perfect.
What value could a person like Alexis possibly provide? What does he know about succeeding in spite of our horrid education system? Instead of attempting to understand the theme of his speech, let’s fixate on the fact that he dropped “an F-bomb,” eliminate his scheduled Q and A session, and demand that he leave the school. All good ideas! We can’t allow Alexis to wander through a school, polluting student’s minds with his inventive thoughts and real world experiences.
Here’s what Ohanian grasps that Howard High and most schools in America don’t: hammering students over the head with standardized tests and rules for the sake of rules doesn’t inspirit them. If you want to motivate high school students to succeed, you have to get on their level and relate to them. When you treat high school students like peers, you can more easily influence them. And that starts with speaking in their language.
Maybe if public high schools more closely resembled adult-learning environments than prison colonies, we’d finally pass Slovakia in math and be well on our way to cracking the top twenty. At least then we could somewhat justify spending more money on education than any other nation in the world.
Ohanian presumably won’t be invited back to his high school, and that’s a shame because if we ever want to repair the U.S. education system, high schools need to embrace speakers like Ohanian. Entrepreneurs who embody the American dream and aren’t afraid to say what they mean are exactly the kind of people who should be speaking at schools on a weekly or daily basis.
So, here’s to you, Alexis Ohanian. May American high schools one day understand your worth — your ability to crawl inside a student’s brain and crack his worldview. Because once a student’s worldview is reshaped, he can start reshaping the world. Or, at the very least, he’ll be able to correctly calculate the slope of a roof.
Unrelated Note: If you’ve never seen Enterprise Cometh, I encourage you to check it out right now. It’ll blow your hair back.