There’s a "great speech" making the rounds. It was purportedly given by Microsoft founder Bill Gates at some high school.
The rumor-buster sites say it wasn’t given by Gates ; but those who spread this around should know it wasn’t given by anyone as accomplished as Bill Gates. Rather, it’s not a speech at all, but rather a series of brain burps from an unknown book by a smarmy
dweeb from Wisconsin, named Charles Sykes.
Here are some of Mr. Sykes’ little life lessons, each followed by the reason it would never be spewed by Bill Gates, or anyone admirable:
Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!
The richest man in the world knows that life has, at least, been reasonably fair to him. He also knows that, however true is the message that life is not fair, he would be the very least credible person to deliver it.
Rule 2 : The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Anyone as successful in motivating other people as Bill Gates knows this isn’t the sort of thing you say to inspire a group of strangers—especially high school students who have filed innocently into an auditorium to politely listen to a middle-aged businessman give a speech.
Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Car phone? What in the name of Gordon Gekko …
Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
On Sykes’ Web site it says "he has appeared on national television, broadcast from the White House, and has spoken at major universities … but his toughest and most rewarding job has been … being a dad." Well, being a dad is tough if you try to do the job under the assumption that your kids’ problems and fears somehow don’t measure up to your own.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were ….
Sounds like Sykes’ kids haven’t spoken to him since they were about nine. Can you blame them?
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Except the two professions Sykes has chosen, writing and teaching.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you to FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
This inspirational 21st century minute brought to you by George Patton!
Look, people with general attitudes like this about young people don’t build great enterprises (on the brains and talent of young people). They don’t invest the millions that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in high schools. And they spend too much time focusing on non-problems like kids with too much self-esteem.
As if the world won’t take correct that with or without the help of nerds like Charles Sykes, whose last rule happens to be, Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
You wish, Chuck.
Joan H. says
How do people get to be so smug? I went to that guy’s website, such as it is. You’re right: a smarmy dweeb. People like that scare me. But have a look at this:
“This intelligent and devastating book…brings together every aspect of the current disaster…all in clear, well-researched detail.” –The Boston Globe (reviewing his book, “Dumbing Down Our Kids”)
“ProfScam is an incisive and convincing indictment that deserves to be read by anyone concerned about the future of American higher education”– The New York Times
Kirkus reviews are often pretty bland, but generally the NY Times at least gives it some effort. I didn’t see anything from the New York Review of Books, but I confess that I didn’t take the time to do a search of their website. And I will state right now that I haven’t read any of his books–I’m just looking at what reviewers have said, and I read a couple abbreviated versions of his “rules” on the web.
So he appears to have credibility as an author on education-related topics. What happened? Did his success convince him that he’s an oracle?
I’m parenting a 20 year old, and my experience is that preaching isn’t any more effective with her than it was on me at that age. When she asks me for advice, I’m honest and open with her (boyfriends, jobs, sex, whatever). Pretty much the only time I offer unsolicited advice is when I see something that could be dangerous or have unanticipated consequences. It seems to be working okay.
But back to this being attributed to Bill Gates–that’s an aspect of the web that baffles me. Creating “true” stories and sending them around, especially moralizing tales. And how many of these things demand that you forward them on to others, or else you’re unpatriotic or don’t love God? Nobody has EVER liked chain letters, and yet email has become an endless inbox for them. I’ll forward a good joke, but I’m selective, and I don’t threaten dire consequences if the receiver doesn’t forward it on to ten people within five minutes. Why do adults participate in this stuff? We scoff at the superstitious among us, but I suspect that at some level, nearly everyone has, at least once, paused before discarding one of these (especially the ones that ask you to email a copy back to the sender when you forward it on). Do we fear being cursed? Or inciting the wrath of God? Believe in talismans to bring us luck? I’m just puzzled. Intelligent people pass these things along, people for whom I have great respect. And yet if I count up how many people they’re forwarding the chain email to, it’ll nearly always be the exact minimum called for in the curse clause at the end of the message. How weird is that?
David Murray says
Yeah, I saw those reviews. Our whole culture has been cowed into thinking our problem is kids with too much self-esteem and parents too reluctant to use the belt. How reactionary can you get?
Question: Is it that you don’t agree with some or all of these “rules” OR that you just don’t like/respect the person who said them?
Because, frankly some of these items are TRUE, and whether it’s Mother Theresa or Charles what’s-his-name saying it, the fact is that there is a whole generation of kids out there who TRULY believe they ARE entitled to a $60,000 a year job just because their parents told them how wonderful they are for 18 years. And there’s a problem with that…
Bosses are often idiots, or incompetent, or just plain vindictive but kids WILL have to deal with that unless you plan to support them and let them live in your basements till they retire.
Life ISN’T fair, and whining about things you don’t like does exactly squat for your future success prospects.
Rule #8 in particular is something EVERY RESPONSIBLE PARENT should be teaching their children! This “nobody fails business” is about the most damaging, ludicrous idea I have EVER heard of, and I am amazed that ANY parent would WANT schools, or little league teams, or any other organization that works with children to institute and propagate such a ludicrous thing!!
Someone who is a parent and thinks this approach helps ANY child to prepare for the rest of their life PLEASE explain to me how this is a good thing???
Here’s an example of what happens when children are given the idea that they don’t have limits and that they, not their parents are in charge:
Just in case the link doesn’t work, here’s the headline:
“Court overturns father’s grounding of 12-year-old”
That’s right folks, the twelve-year-old took her father to court for grounding her even though she’d been disobeying house rules for some time. And what’s worse A COURT RULED IN HER FAVOUR!!!
I don’t know about you, but I hope that I don’t live in the same city as this girl when she hits 18 and decides to steal a car because she can’t afford to buy one, and a court has told her she can do whatever she likes.
Kristen, clearly we were separated at birth (even if I am much older than you). Brava!
David Murray says
“the fact is that there is a whole generation of kids out there who TRULY believe they ARE entitled to a $60,000 a year job just because their parents told them how wonderful they are for 18 years.”
Kristen, this is not a FACT. It is a series of claims and generalizations that I reject.
And your Limbaugh-like use of news-of-the-weird to support your pet notion is beneath you.
One more thing, about this supposed tragedy of kids not learning early enough in life that there are winners and losers: Is anybody who lives in the cutthroat capitalist economies in U.S. or Canada, or in those sports-obsessed cultures, really worried that kids won’t understand anything about competition?
I think parents are following–maybe somewhat obsessively and maybe in some cases absurdly–their own impulses to let kids develop for a few precious years outside the assumption that it’s either me or you, Billy.
Again: I struggle to see the great harm here.
Yes, it may be true that life isn’t fair. But Kristen, if I gave you an opportunity to address a high school, I guarantee you’d have neither the brass or the incivility to get up there and accuse them of being a bunch of entitled, lazy brats.
David – I concede ONLY your final point.
Perhaps your experience is different, however I see around me EVERY SINGLE DAY, young people behaving in ways that clearly show me that they believe the world revolves around THIER desires, and that they feel they should and can have whatever they want.
To your point about:
“Is anybody who lives in the cutthroat capitalist economies in U.S. or Canada, or in those sports-obsessed cultures, really worried that kids won’t understand anything about competition?”
My response is: “If schools and little leagues and seemgly every other type of activity in which children nowadays participate continue to insist “everyone make the team” and “never let anyone fail, no matter how abysmal their knowledge is on the test” then YES, I would have to say I think kids won’t understand that competition exists and that there ARE winners and losers in life.
I’m NOT suggesting that we teach kids that they aren’t valuable unless they are Tiger Woods, HOWEVER, I also don’t think it’s a good idea to teach them that they can be successful by doing very little work, and/or not committing time and effort to becoming good at SOMETHING, whatever that something may be.
And David, I think YOU don’t see the harm because YOU were raised by parents who (and I feel I can say this because of the frequent references you’ve made to both your parents, which I HAVE paid attention to) didn’t spend their every waking moment telling you that you were the centre of the universe and that you were the best thing since sliced bread just because you existed!
And one more thing: my inclusion of that news story was something that I just happened across in my review of the news sites, and I included it simply to show that the way children think and behave now is very different from how my generation did when we were children.
If I had tried that when I was twelve, the lawyer I consulted would have laughed until he fell off his chair, and even if he HAD taken the case, there is no way in HELL and judge would have agreed to hear the case.
Finally, while I appreciate that you are passionate about this topic, comparing ME to Rush Limbaugh was a teeny bit over the top. I’d be willing to live with you comparing me to Glen Beck, or even Jane’s friend Charles Krauthammer (who I also happen to love!) but Limbaugh, not.
I still love you anyway David.
David Murray says
“My response is: ‘If schools and little leagues and seemgly every other type of activity in which children nowadays participate continue to insist ‘everyone make the team’ and ‘never let anyone fail, no matter how abysmal their knowledge is on the test’ then YES, I would have to say I think kids won’t understand that competition exists and that there ARE winners and losers in life.”
Kristen: the above is a straw man argument. I think this is way overplayed. Most schools still give grades, most sports leagues have winners and losers. And even if they have mealy-mouthed awards ceremonies where the last place team gets a “participation trophy,” the kids see through it. The harm is more their observance of adult silliness and hypocrisy than their belief that winners and losers don’t exist.
And if you don’t want to be compared to Limbaugh, don’t argue like he does, Sister.
Jane Greer says
Do you two know how HARD it is for me to not jump in here as you throw around the names of my household gods? 🙂
Jane, what can possibly have happened to suddenly give you the impression that there was any REASON to refrain from jumping in?!
The reason we love this blog is because it’s always a free-for-all…isn’t it??
David Murray says
Please, Jane: If you’ll give up Limbaugh I’ll give up Olbermann. You give up Coulter, I’ll give up Franken. And if you give up Hannity, I’ll give up alcohol.
Jane Greer says
I will gladly sacrifice Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity to save your soul, David. Consider it done. And I’ll even let you keep drinking!
David Murray says
This is truly a red letter day.
Joan H. says
I just read a blog by Tammy Erickson, published by Harvard Business Publishing, who has a whole new insight into this notion that “If schools and little leagues and seemgly every other type of activity in which children nowadays participate continue to insist “everyone make the team” and “never let anyone fail, no matter how abysmal their knowledge is on the test”, then we teach children to be demanding and self-centered.
How about this for an insight:
“Okay, let me ask again: who got the trophies? Who desperately wanted the trophies? Who purchased the trophies to hand them out to all his or her friends – oops, that is, friends’ children?
“I think the major movers behind the great trophy scam were the parents. Boomer parents.” She goes on: “But I do object when analysts use our slightly nutty behavior to interpret the strengths and weaknesses of today’s young employees. Just because they accepted the trophies we shoved in their hands does not mean that they are puddles of insecurity today, in constant search of the boss’ praise.”
Have a look at Tammy’s blog.