A Discussion with Joe Rogan on Education

As long as people who know nothing about schools feel free to impose reforms on the education system, why not allow any person with an opinion to weigh in on the supposed crisis in schooling?

But why Joe Rogan, you ask? Good question. The answer is, but why Bill Gates? At least most of the things Joe Rogan says are not nearly as objectionable.

Below the video is my commentary on what Joe Rogan says. He is not totally off, although his criticisms fall short of the mark.


Rogan is somewhat right about kids finding school boring. The rote memorization he speaks of is a direct result of the education deformer obsession with standardized exams. It would be nice if he made this point, but I did not necessarily expect a learned exegesis on school reform from Joe Rogan. Where I disagree with him the most is when he implies school should be fun, then explains kids are so smart at video games because they find them fun. That is certainly true and I believe that is the entire problem. The minds of kids have been denuded by constant entertainment, from video games to television to music to the internet, making sitting in a classroom pure torture. In school, there are no flashy images or catchy tunes to stop their brains from working on their own. The answer is not to make school more like entertainment but, instead, to give structure to our kids’ lives that leaves no room for constant pop culture. That, combined with ending the standardized testing crusade of the deformers, will make our children more willing to engage with school.

“Unmotivated People”

Rogan started his rant on paying teachers more by saying teachers were “unmotivated people” because they are underpaid. He saved himself later by saying teachers should be getting much more pay and respect than we currently do. Few teachers would dispute that. But most of the teachers I have worked with over the years have been extremely motivated. They know they are not going to be traveling Europe every summer on their salary, so all of their work is aimed purely at helping their students. The funny thing about the whole lazy, unmotivated teacher stereotype is how easy it is to stand on its head. After all, if teachers have no monetary incentive to work hard, then the work that they do must be for the sake of doing a good job, which involves helping their children. Denying that teachers do not work hard because they are paid crap or have jobs for life (which is just laughable) assumes that these are the only factors that motivate people to work. To posit this would be untenable, since wages are a relatively recent human phenomenon while hard work is not. The fact is that most teachers are underpaid and work hard, since people can be motivated by things other than money, if that can be believed.

“Shitty Human Beings”

If kids grow up to be “shitty human beings”, as Joe Rogan says, then it is not the sole doing of school. Parents take the greatest responsibility. Beyond that, society in general also takes responsibility. It seems Rogan uses “shitty” to mean shallow, mindless and materialistic. Those are public values reinforced by every television show, radio song, blockbuster movie and video game. It is all about constant change, whether it is the constant change of three-second cycles of images on screens or the constant change of what is cool today. Kids are trained to live and think in the now, making them ripe to internalize the type of short-term thinking that easily lends itself to greed and vanity.

In short, while Joe Rogan makes some very good points, he makes the cardinal mistake most other people make by laying too much blame at the feet of the schools. Schools are not supposed to be entertainment factories or morality seminars. Schools are supposed to inculcate kids with core cultural ideas and the ability to think critically. As long as we leave schools on the hook for things they were never supposed to do in the first place, we let the rest of society (parents, politicians, businessmen and ourselves) off the hook for their role in raising children.

One response to “A Discussion with Joe Rogan on Education

  1. I swear, if half of what these principals do were done by teachers, the public would be having calling for heads to roll. One of the unmitigated tragedies of education deform has been the dictatorial rule of principals. Want to talk about overpaid, unaccountable, incompetent people, start with school administrators. As more schools open up, the pool of talent from which to choose administrators gets more and more shallow.

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