Miguel Perez: A "Bad Student" Makes Good
By Bryan Caplan
Miguel Perez sent me this email, entitled “the curious case of my education.” Reprinted with his permission.
Hi, I am sharing my case with you, because I feel it epitomizes some of your points against current education.
I was born in Spain, in 1988, went to public school and it was a disaster. I was diagnosed with severe ADHD, and was unable to finish middle school. I came to China, where I faked my high school diploma to get into college. I studied Chinese language and literature there, and set the record of my whole university, being, to this day, the only international student there to have passed HSK6 (the highest Chinese language state examination).
Then I won “bridge to China” by the Confucius Institute, also faking to be an university level student, since I couldn’t compete otherwise.
Later I also won the bronze medal for the Chinese language and culture Olympics of one of the four biggest cities in China (Shenzhen).
I have been a TV personality, and tv commentator on Chinese TV stations, being somehow famous in my city.
I also have managed to do business on my own, and to this day I have run a little trading company for 6 years. I am 32, and I own two houses which are already already cleared of debt.
How can I have been able to compete in business lacking the important educational skillset taught in school? And that is in addition to having some brain handicap. Either I have been really lucky, or the skillset taught in schools is quite useless for productivity.
Does society have a right to cut people with difficulties like me from developing a work specialization through twelve long years of arduous obedience to qualify for it? Since advances in cognitive science show that specific intelligence is not completely related to general intelligence, does the system have a right to deprive people of the right to develop specific capabilities and skills without demonstrating first some general intelligence in twelve different school subjects? Not mentioning people with ADHD, and dyslexia, is this a form of discrimination for people with low general intelligence that could demonstrate aptitude at some narrower skills or tasks but get deprived of the opportunity by design?
Also, I have run some experiments with driving license examinations, a knowledge similar to school learning, and I have found that for most people, the knowledge that allows them to pass an examination is precisely the knowledge that fades with time, realizing that most people can’t pass again the same car driving theoretic examination just a year after having passed it. I wonder if a similar experiment has been run with academic subjects, but I hypothesize that it would obtain the same results: Content that is not used daily is forgotten, and only very general knowledge remains of a subject after a year of learning it. So, do we teach exactly the kind of knowledge that gets forgotten and use it as a barrier for other types of knowledge?
These are questions that I hope you may address more fully in your work.
Thanks so much,
Miguel Perez Fernandez