Three Things to Unlearn from School

24 responses

  1. Chris
    July 11, 2007

    Good teachers are absolutely appreciated in society but the vast majority of teachers I’ve had have been the same stereotypical crap that is the norm.

    You’re lucky to have someone like Bill. I had 2 – 3 teachers that were really awesome through my experience in public school. One was actually my 4th grade teacher who I’m still in touch with at age 20.

    As for college professors, I’ve thus far had 2 fabulous ones.

  2. Alexandra Levit
    July 11, 2007

    Ben, good post, although I don’t know that I agree with all of Bill’s advice. I think that figuring out how you can solve existing problems is actually a cornerstone of succeeding in the real world. And in terms of earning approval, while you shouldn’t allow your self-esteem to be defined by this, it certainly helps to learn how to persuade others to your point of view, and to be respected and valued in your field.

    The thing that I would suggest students “unlearn” from school is the direct relationship between individual effort and results. Hard work on your part won’t necessarily guarantee you the best outcome because in the real world, there are a lot more factors at play, including the relationships you establish with others and the confines of the system you find yourself operating in.

    Alexandra Levit
    Author, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College
    Blogger, Water Cooler Wisdom

    • wes
      December 31, 2015

      Bravo, I agree whole heartedly. Bill has a little bit of an issue with himself. I would like to see him tell his heart surgeon he wants the “book smart” guy to operate on him because experience means nothing.

  3. Ryan Kellett
    July 11, 2007

    I had Bill for freshman English. Wow, everyday I was entirely captivated. The class was tough, I didn’t do well. But dang, was it an experience…

    Can’t agree more with these three points. And surely, I need a reminder especially about not needing to earn the approval of others. When you go to class everyday, it’s hard to get away from that mindset which is such an ingrained part of the school system, even in college where “independence” rules.

    • Eleanor Howard
      December 13, 2015

      What is being taught in Freshman English these days that you don’t know/never learned the difference between “everyday” (= ordinary) and “every day”?

      • Deborah
        December 13, 2015

        Really! Seriously? Do you feel better about yourself now?

  4. Vince Williams
    July 11, 2007

    I believe we can learn by osmosis, if not by the actual presence of a teacher, then by his writings.

    You know you’re on track when you realize that you’ve learned more than you knew you did.

  5. Krishna
    July 11, 2007


    To be honest, I had never bothered ranking the takeaways from formal education. Now I realize, where `opinions’ stand and why `empathy’ is so high in that order…

  6. Shefaly
    July 12, 2007

    “In a mere 45 minutes he delivered a stunning analysis of the text at hand and ended the class with three really provocative questions for us to chew on.”

    So he gives you an opinion and 3 pre-formed, pre-packaged problems to consider. Then his speech says that you should unlearn these behaviours..

    Further, while Alexandra raises the point re solving problems, I think Bill’s point about unlearning ‘the importance of solving given problems’ may have more to do with the fact that the problem itself should sometimes be questioned. That is how unforeseen perspectives are discovered..

    If nobody questioned the given early premises that ‘slow metabolism makes people fat’ or ‘over-eating makes people fat’, many advances in genetics and the overall complex formulation of obesity may have never come to pass (sorry, an example from a topic close to my heart and the focus on my PhD thesis).

  7. Abel
    July 13, 2007

    That shows how we still stick to something even though we know it’s not working. Another thing to unlearn is the impression that everybody is the same. Teachers expect that if one student can do it, you must be able to do it too.

  8. Nivi
    August 22, 2007

    Peter Drucker has an interesting approach to opinions: there are no facts, only opinions (hypotheses) to be tested.

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      June 28, 2014

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  9. Daniel
    August 23, 2007


    Great post. I get the spirit of what you are saying even if I do not agree with all the specific points. It can only come from an entrepreneur! You’re fortunate to have been shaped by great teachers and I applaud the courage to dismiss the BS.

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      June 28, 2014

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  10. Oliver
    February 14, 2008

    Very interesting. Many thanks for posting this.

    The link to the full speech is broken. May I ask you provide a new link for it ? I’d love the opportunity to read it.

    many thanks,


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  11. Naveen Bachwani
    December 23, 2008

    That was f&*$#@! brilliant!

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  12. C.K.
    November 21, 2010

    Geez…and I thought my English teacher was crazy for saying that we would never be allowed to voice our opinions when answering questions in her class. But she is also obsessed with her pet wiener dog, so I’m not sure where to go with this…

  13. harit124
    September 12, 2013

    Another thing to unlearn from schools and colleges – In the real world, we all have different roles to play and are afforded different means to discharge them effectively. But, we will all be judged alike. Very unlike in school, where the whole class is given the same problem and graded by the same metrics.

  14. ram
    April 6, 2015

    That shows how we still stick to something even though we know it’s not working. Another thing to unlearn is the impression that everybody is the same. Teachers expect that if one student can do it, you must be able to do it too.i love you mom images

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    June 6, 2015

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  16. Bec
    February 4, 2016

    The link to Bill’s speech isn’t working (nor is the Uni link, and the link to Bill’s name goes to a photographer’s site?!?). This quote is all over the internet, without any reference or original. I’d love to read the full text, any idea how to find it?

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