Why “free time” is key to learning, social justice, and personal liberation.

Photo by Swag Photography on Unsplash

Whoever has not two-thirds of his time to himself is a slave. ~ Nietzsche

It’s what you do in your free time that will set you free, or enslave you. ~ Unknown

Let’s say you are a senior at a public high school in Washington. You have a 3.0 GPA, no Advanced Placement (AP) or honors classes, and no participation in school clubs. Due to the pandemic, you didn’t have to take the SAT or ACT because many colleges have made those tests optional. What schools would you…


He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

~ Nietzsche

Just a few years before he died of cancer, Steve Jobs, one of the most iconic business leaders of our time, shared with us how he understood his own life story. He was famous for having dropped out of college, seeking spiritual enlightenment in India, and then returning to the U.S. to start Apple Computer (with Steve Wozniak), which revolutionized personal computing. …


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Watching the film, Social Network, the fictionalized chronicle of Facebook’s founding, you can’t help but feel conflicted about Mark Zuckerberg. Brilliant as he is, he seems to be ethically-challenged and utterly lacking in social graces, so much so that he betrays his best, and perhaps only, friend. …


Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (c. 1818) by Caspar David Friedrich

Whoever has not two-thirds of his time to himself is a slave. ~ Nietzsche

It’s what you do in your free time that will set you free, or enslave you. ~ Unknown

Let’s say you are a senior at a public high school in Washington. You have a 3.0 GPA, no Advanced Placement (AP) or honors classes, and no participation in school clubs. Due to the pandemic, you didn’t have to take the SAT or ACT because many colleges have made those tests optional. What schools would you apply to? Would you even go for highly selective universities if you’re…


When we reject the single story, when we realize that there was never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you’re an American teenager growing up in the early part of the 21st century, life is about to get very confusing, even if you don’t feel it just yet. You think you know how the next few years will unfold: you graduate from high school, go to college, get your first job or maybe a more advanced degree, and then work your way up in your chosen field. This is…


To fully grasp the significance of the education revolution happening around us, it helps to see it in a larger context. What’s being disrupted isn’t just one industry, important as it is, but an entire narrative around which most of us organize our lives. That narrative — the middle class narrative — goes something like this: we do well in school, go to the best university we can get into, get a degree, get our foot in the door of a good company, work our way up, save enough to buy a house, start a family, and save for retirement.


On May 16, 2020, IBM’s Watson addressed UC Berkeley’s Class of 2020 at their graduation — the first time in history a robot has been invited to write and deliver a commencement address. Here is a transcript of the speech.

Good afternoon. It’s an absolute pleasure and a tremendous honor to speak at your commencement. That’s what a human might say so I say it too. But as you can imagine, the words “pleasure” and “honor” mean very little to me.

Here’s something we all would say and mean: this is indeed a historic occasion. Today marks the first time…


If we’re going to force children to go to school and learn what we tell them to learn — and they have no say in the matter — then it’s only fair that we pay them.

Let’s pay them to learn what we think they absolutely need in order to become self-reliant adults, productive workers, and law-abiding citizens.

That’s what public education is really about, isn’t it? Making sure kids grow up to obey the law, get a job, and don’t become a drain on society?

It’s hardly controversial to say our current system doesn’t — and can’t — achieve…


The Why and How of Education

Why do we learn one thing over another? Why do we learn anything at all? It’s natural for students in today’s schools to badger teachers with these questions when they’re assigned homework or given a test.

If teachers care to respond, their explanation these days may involve listing the critical skills (4 C’s) that they’re told everyone needs to learn to succeed in today’s workforce. Why foreign languages? We need “communication” skills. Why geometry? We need to “think critically.” Apparently, these skills, along with Collaboration and Creativity, are the most valued by today’s employers…


How to Change the World

Are there moments in life that are so perfect that we are immediately aware of their meaning and significance? Have you had such moments? Do you think we can create them or do they tend to happen to us, if they do at all? Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre explored those questions in his 1938 novel, Nausea, a dramatization of his existentialist ideas.

For a time at least, one of the characters, Anny, believed she could. But creating “prefect moments” isn’t easy. According to Anny, you need exceptional situations of “rare and special quality” and the people in them have to take…

Charles Tsai

Charles Tsai is a venture philanthropy strategist who works with innovators around the world to empower youth in underserved communities.

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