Scott Adams - Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Scott Adams (of Dilbert Fame) has a funny but insightful post on a new TV game show called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" The basic idea is that the host, Jeff Foxworthy, asks adults questions about facts covered in grade school - most of which are, Adams points out, “useless crap."

“If it were up to me to add some classes to the grade school curriculum, I think I’d put more emphasis on these skills: public speaking, risk assessment, bullshit detecting, social skills, decision-making, managing your own body, and influencing people."

This begs the question: what “useless crap" is being taught in business schools right now that’d we’d all be better off skipping to learn the truly valuable stuff?

Catherine Odelbo of Morningstar thinks it’s modern finance theory. I agree with her, and would throw in most of formal management theory and macroeconomics. (In my opinion, I’ve learned more from reading First: Break All The Rules , The Essential Drucker , Economics in One Lesson , and Human Action than via any formal business course I’ve taken.)

As for valuable material, I think many people would be much better off learning how to manage their time and energy, set goals and priorities, communicate effectively with others (by both writing and speaking), read and retain written material quickly, manage team projects, handle stress and information overload, and understand personal finance. All of these subjects are far more valuable and applicable to everyday life than sitting through theoretical discussions of the Black-Scholes Option Pricing Model.

Published: March 7, 2007 Last updated: March 7, 2007

I Enjoyed This Post
Read more essays by Josh Kaufman →

The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

The #1 International Bestseller, Revised & Expanded. A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then go out into the world and make your own. More →

The First 20 Hours

How to Learn Anything… Fast!

A practitioner's guide to rapid skill acquisition. Accelerate your learning by deconstructing complex skills, practicing the most important elements first, and removing barriers to deliberate practice. What do you want to learn? More →