Remember the time when Elon Musk let slip that he had started his own private school?
The billionaire CEO was a little tight-lipped on details, especially on how exactly Ad Astra – which he founded for his five sons – operates.
Thanks to a report on Business Insider SA, we can now reveal exactly what goes down at the school.
For starters, Musk founded the school in the office of one his most famous companies:
Musk, who has five sons, co-founded Ad Astra in Hawthorne, California with teacher Joshua Dahn. In an interview with entrepreneur Peter Diamandis last year, Dahn said that Ad Astra started out with just eight children in a conference room at SpaceX with glass walls.
The school now has around 40 students, around half of which are the children of SpaceX staff. The IRS document notes it will probably never exceed 50 students “because of the intense staff to student ratio.”
Unlike regular schools, these kids – aged seven to 14 – aren’t put into grades, and instead learn in teams. They do get marked for their work, but the lucky buggers don’t receive letter-grades at the end of the semester.
So you’re probably thinking that Ad Astra’s curriculum isn’t like ours, either.
You’re right – it’s definitely not:
Students learn about artificial intelligence and how to give what is “essentially a TED talk,” according to Dahn. Ethics are also explored through hypothetical scenarios: For example, deciding who’s to blame for a factory which has polluted a nearby lake.
Sports and music are not on the curriculum — although there is dodgeball at lunch, and Dahn says one of the students is “probably objectively the best violinist under the age of 12 in the world.”
Foreign languages are also absent due to Elon Musk’s personal philosophy that real-time translation software will soon make the subject obsolete.
Instead, the children learn various coding languages (Scheme, Swift, and Scratch) and get to experiment with more applied science than in your average school science lab.
By applied science, according to Dahn, they mean “blow shit up”.
As if that wasn’t scary enough, the children are reportedly allowed to incorporate flamethrowers and electromagnetic pulses into the battle robots they build.
I don’t even have to ask where they got their little hands on flamethrowers.
Dahn also revealed that to encourage entrepreneurship Ad Astra also has its own unit of currency called the “Astra”, which the children are able to trade with each other at market days:
“One of the things they do is three times a year there’s a marketplace called the Bazaar and at the Bazaar the kids have their own companies essentially,” Dahn said. He gives an example of a student who builds websites for his classmates, including one who makes “gourmet cookies.”
Well, that’s a step up from selling cupcakes and sherbet bags back in my day.
Obviously, it costs Musk a pretty penny to provide his pupils with flamethrowers, coding lessons and dodgeball games. He gave the school approximately R6 436 630 in 2014 and 2015 so that the next generation of geniuses can take over the world – I mean, get a good education.
Maybe starting up a university for these kids when they’re older is on the agenda?
I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the grand plan.
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