Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Seth blogs about the top 1,000 things for a 13 year old third grader to learn. I agree with him. The most important thing I learned in school was how to touch type.

UPDATE: Thanks to Liz for pointing out that Seth said 3rd graders, not 13 year olds. Sorry!

UPDATE 2: Ado says that Seth's post originally said 13 year old...


It is funny because I went to the communications training at the company I work with and to tell you the honest truth, none of these lessons are learned permenantly. I mean, we went over How to speak in front of a group, How to write clear prose that other people actually want to read, How to manage a project, How to handle big changes, with grace, How to run a small business.
, Speed reading with comprehension, and How to sell... and for every plateau you reach -- as my dad said -- there are others. So, these are not things you can just do like visit Paris or own a convertible. These are evolutionary.


I think this list would make a lot of teachers who teach 13 year olds laugh. It would also make the 13 year olds laugh and bring a tear to their parents eye.

Some things are not taught, but learned through experience. How to handle big changes, with grace, for example, is something that adults stuggle with.

When I look at Seth's list, I think some things can be taught in school, but others need to be taught by parents who are close to the 13 year olds. Unfortunately, logic or a lack there of is something that parents often pass on to their children.

Most of the teachers I had would not be able to teach a great number of the things on Seth's list. How to run a small business, for example, is something that I doubt many professional teachers know much about. Running a small business well is extremely difficult. Another, How to write clear prose that other people actually want to read, is something few high school educators can do themselves. Project Management? Forget it!

Deciding the curriculum would be a problem. The most important lessons from American history, for example, would be interpreted very differently by people on the left and people on the right.

Teaching a 13 year old is a two way street. It requires a student who is willing to learn, who wants to be taught. A high level of motivation and dicipline is needed by both teacher and student.

A third grader will basically only focus on what they are interested in.

I would have to say that I think Seth's ideas are utopian and unrealistic. I doubt Seth has ever set foot in a classroom since he graduated from school. Seth has identified what people should know but to believe that this stuff is teachable to any more than a small minority of 13 year olds is naive.

But maybe the right place to start is from the idealists perspective. I certainly commend Seth for thinking about these issues.

Everyone should know how to swim.

Touch type where? And did type like it?

Can I add some geography?

As a product of the US public school system, my knowledge of basic geography was pretty pathetic. I was hard-pressed to locate European cities on a map, even ones *that I've been to*.

Fixing this has been on my to-do list for a while and I recently started practicing using a flash game that was linked on MeFi not long back:
For US States, use:
and for Europe:

Within an hour of starting, I could not only place Croatia and Moldova, but even obscure places like Connecticut and Missouri.

I would also add, "How to use an apostrophe correctly."
It's probably just my own personal hang-up, but when I see someone write something like, "Lemon's. Five for six dollars.", the author loses all credibility with me.

Jim - My junior high school world history teacher didn't know where Luxembourg is.

Jeneane - The 'G' key, of course.


Mike - I've heard that called a "Greengrocer's Apostrophe," which fits well with your example. Also knowing lose/loose, it's/its and your/you're would take ten minutes to learn and save lots of credibility.

CPR everyone should know CPR.

My favorite...

From Seth's blog:

19. Pick one: how to paint, write a poem, compose a song or juggle really well.

For those of you who might not know what I do


Touch type on which keyboard? Legacy QWERTY?

Just one indicator of the problems with the list, starting from the assumptions...


What a lame post by Seth. I guess his blog wasn't getting any hits so he decided to compose at Top 1000 list. We Americans love lists of kind. What a joke! Most 40 years olds can't do any of those tasks!

What about teaching at 13 year old how to have safe sex or to just drink a "few" beers!

Well, Texan Bush Hater, we see the extend of your intelligence by having to interject politics into this list with your name. Oy vey...

Anyways, I agree with you though on Seth's list, some of the stuff he says is just stupid. Evolution? What the hell is that going to help a 13 year old do?

Running a small business also is something I would expect a college grad to maybe get a grasp of, but who is he kidding?

Jim O'Connell writes:

I think this flash software needs work, particularly when judging the "correctness"
of placement of Midwestern and Western states (no coastline) when the map is sparse (no neighboring states for points of reference). For example, here's a screenshot of my attempt: - a slightly self-contradictory only-88%-correct with a mean error of 10 miles. If I were a kid getting graded on this, I'd be right upset for not getting an A rather than a B.

Mike B. writes:

I would also add, "How to use an apostrophe correctly."

For you, my friend, we have Bob the Angry Flower - Share the love. :)

Ha ha! Thanks Jim. :) I'm totally with you on lose/loose, it's/its and your/you're too!

Surely the most important thing to learn is how to learn?

I *still* haven't learned to touch time. I'm in the three finger crew and hunt and peck faster than most people type...

Ten-finger typing is one, yes, but hey, if Jim cannot do that, how can one expect a 13-yr old to learn it. But then, it's Jim...

The odd item is "understanding" the biographies of 500 historical figures and 200 fictional ones? That's lame. Just learning the basic history will be fine.

And, oh, Jim and Chris: knowing to spell "weird" (just too many write it as "wierd").

Add to the list my 25:
Unix Regular Expressions.
vi/sed/awk syntax.
How to tie a bow tie.
How to make your own bread.
How to catch, gut and cook a fish.
How to identify the major constellations in your hemisphere.
How to order beer in ten languages and how to toast your guests in those languages.
The value of always having a valid passport.
How to keep a volkswagen beetle alive.
How to patch a puncture on a bicycle tire. Without a patch kit.
How to speak French well enough to not embarrass yourself.
How to fold and change a cloth diaper.
How to handle, clean, assemble, load and fire a gun safely.
How to pick a lock.
Learn one very good magic trick.
Memorize five poems and be able to recite at least one while drunk.
How to listen sincerely to people, or at least fake it convincingly.
How to shine your shoes properly.
How to shake hands.
How to properly address ambassadors, various royalty and religious leaders at different levels.
How to start a fire without matches.
How to sew. At least buttons and hems.
How to pick a decent wine.
How to shoot pool.
How to make a decent omelet in someone else's kitchen, using whatever she has on hand.
Learn both Latin and Pig Latin. (They're both useful.)

This topic should really be on a wiki...

Don't mean to kick-off an ass-kissing festival, but wow... I like your list better than Seth's.

I think that's on the standard curriculum in Canada.

I've always loved handbooks. The Webelo and Boy Scout Handbooks (merit badges!). The Bluejacket's Manual of seafaring how-to's. The PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). Ettiquette manuals. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (The Abbreviated Code of Jewish Law). The Chicago Manual of Style. Mendelson's Home Comforts. A solid engineering handbook summarizing all we know of the physical world.

I'd add to the list, how to...

Meditate deeply for 30 minutes.
Fly a prop plane, land a jet, crash a helicopter, or ride a motorcycle.
Fix a lawnmower or mechanical clock.
Do calculus (or other symbol manipulation) in your head.
Thoroughly clean an apartment.
Remove stains from a clothing.
Keep a plant alive for six months.
Keep a quadrupdal pet alive for a year.
Contrast how your constitution applies to everyday life s. other legal systems. Especially the parts about rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Name all your elected representatives.
Write your name in kanji and hindi. Using carbon nanotubes.
Dance with abandon.
Wayfind on land, sea, air, and space. Including celestial astrogation.
Make compelling video.
Tell an engaging story.
Fact check news.
Reality check that you're not in the matrix.
Manage your own brain chemistry.
Flirt back.
Make an explosive from household chemicals.
Distill water.
Live 20 years' longer than the mean through exercise, diet, attitude, health care, and risk avoidance.

Maybe something in there about screwing up your kids just a little less than your parents did to you.

Manners and dressing properly should be learned early in life - knowledge of both in short supply. Although, common sense is even more rare - but how does one teach that?.

Not sure where the "13 year old" part came from...Seth's post says "third grader," which around here is kids who are 8-9 years old. (My younger son, Alex, is in third grade; Lane, who's ten, is in fifth grade.)

These lists always strike me as a little self-indulgent--"here's what I, in my wisdom, believe are the most important things in the universe." As a parent, I want my kids to learn many things, but not from a list.

And teaches common sense by demonstrating it. Over, and over, and over again. Kids learn far more from the examples set for them than they do from the instructions given them.

Oops. Thanks Liz. My bad. I'll fix it to 3rd grader. I was confusing it mentally with a book my friend recently published in Japan which was an advice book for 13 year olds...

When Seth posted it, it said "13 year old". He must have changed it to "third grader", but I do remember it saying "13 year old".

Is there a difference between a "third grader" and a thirteen year old? How am I supposed to know? (Yes, I know I could look it up on google but ...) everybody should be aware of the fact there is a big wide world outside their country of origin, in which not everybody will understand their local jargon. I am not suggesting Americans are by any means the only offenders in this respect.

Ironically even the meaning of 'thirteen year old' can vary considerably - in Korea for example a newborn child is one year old, and everyone adds a year on the first of January... which I suppose means that in extreme cases you could be two years old and three hours old at the same time.

I have encountered people several times who seemed to be a few years older than I, and then discovered later that in fact I am the senior one after all. (Not something I'd normally care about, but actually fairly important in Korean society, I understand.)

Adults jus don't get it. What I'm trying to get at is not everything is learned in or at school. Hmm let me rephrase mostly everyhing is NOT learned at school. Us kids learn from life and sports and achievements that we do. School is jet a big chunk of our child hood that we spend half of the time trying to impress the other sex or making someone laugh. Yes there are those other smart pay attention to everything kids but by thats okay. We just enjoy life and take it as it goes. Not leAning how to run a small business. Nine of us "normal" kids do that. And parents just because your son doesn't get good grades does not mean he/she is stupid. Maybe they are lazy? Or don't feel like doing homework. Some kids are unique and Very knowlodgeable but adults just don't see it. What I'm trying to say is. Don't spend a kids childhood as you the parent trying to teach him every little thing you think is going to help during his adul hood and most of the time they will turn alright. And yes you can argue by saying look at all the druggies and molesters but those are kids with completely fucked up childhoods. So just le us live our life how we want and sometimes guide us or nudge us in that direction. :)

Written by a fifteen year old unique boy.

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