Surely, many parents wish that they could simply pull their kids out of an under-performing or otherwise unremarkable school and begin their own, better school. But most people–and perhaps especially, most parents–don’t have the time, skills, or capital to go through with it.
Elon Musk, billionaire entrepreneur and inventor, apparently has enough of all three.
Unsatisfied with the school his five sons were attending, he pulled them out of it, hired away one of their teachers, and began his own school. At the end of its first year, Ad Astra has 14 students, mostly the children of Musks’s employees at SpaceX, the company that launched The Dragon, which berthed in 2012 at the ISS.
In an interview on Chinese television, Musk talked about his experimental school, which teaches problem solving using a top-down approach. For instance, in teaching engineering, rather than beginning with the simplest tools and machines, students are presented with an engine, and the assignment is to figure out step by step what tools and techniques are needed to take it apart, clean and repair it, and rebuild it.
Since Musk is one of the forces behind not only SpaceX, but Tesla Motors and Paypal, perhaps his ideas about teaching are worth study.
Apart from that single interview, the inventor has been quite secretive about his school. It has no web site and no social media presence, at least not from the outside. It has no grade levels or internal divisions. Its name, Ad Astra, means “To the Stars.”
His own sons are currently elementary-aged. There’s no data on the other students. We know that the student body will increase to twenty students next year, but even Musk has no idea how long the school will last. For now, he just says, “The kids really love going to school.” And that’s important to him, as his own school days in South Africa were anything but lovable. “It was torture,” he says, and on at least one instance, vicious bullying landed the young Musk in the hospital.
With a background like his, and the resources open to him, it’s easy to see why Musk would not leave anything to chance in his sons’ education. Hopefully, Ad Astra will be a success and offer up new options in education to all students.