Elon Musk Disliked His Kids’ Schools — So He Started His Own
Is he quietly revolutionizing education?
“So you want to keep your kids away from regular schools?” a reporter asked Elon Musk in an interview.
You know Musk’s mindset: If he doesn’t like something, he builds his own versions — cars, rockets, highways, energy companies.
Musk replied: “I just didn’t see the regular schools weren’t doing the things I thought should be done. I thought, let’s see what we can do. Maybe creating a school would be better.”
In 2014, Elon Musk asked Josh Dahn, a former Teach for All Fellow and his kid’s teacher at the time, if he’d start a better school with him at SpaceX. Dahn agreed. The school Ad Astra, Latin for ‘to the stars,’ was born.
Ad Astra School’s Two Core Principles
Musk reimagined education on First Principles thinking: boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there instead of reasoning by analogy.
Instead of accepting the prices of rockets, Musk asked himself, “What’s a rocket made of?” He listed the components and calculated the costs. He found that raw materials were nearly 100 times cheaper. He decided to build his own rockets instead of buying some.
For education, Musk came up with these two principles.
1) Batch children by ability instead of age.
Regular schools batch children by age, assuming it’s is the most important denominator. Traditional school systems expect students of the same age to learn at the same speed. Musk disagrees with age segregation:
“Kids have different abilities at different times. It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities.”
2) Don’t teach to the tool. Teach to the problem.
Ever asked a teacher why you learn something? Most answers don’t go beyond you’ll need this..someday. If the relevance isn’t clear, learning feels irrelevant.