Thursday, December 18, 2008


thank god your image didn't load for some reason

I know it's Rob's week but good god we have got some problems here. Make sure you read his post, but christ I just couldn't avoid a horrible rant of my own.

Ok I guess I will make a list or something.

1. This is yet another goddamn chart comic, making two comics in a row where the most complicated shape drawn is a parallelogram.

2. It doesn't make sense at all. Who's career is he talking about? His own? I think his drawing and "comedy" are probably helping him more with this particular career he has chosen, and I do believe he began this comic with drawings class! For example, when he was in 11th grade! In fact, there is nothing about his career as a cartoonist that would be affected how much perl he knows except that he wouldn't be able to make jokes about perl, which isn't that often and they usually are lame anyway.

2a. Perhaps I am being to harsh on him. Perhaps he meant in general. Or wait, no, that's even stupider than the original idea. Very few jobs need to know perl. Sure, some do, and for those people "messing around" with it might be more helpful than class (unless you went to some kind of KRAZY PERSON SCHOOL where they taught entire classes about computer science!). Some jobs - chemist, biologist, mathematician, physisict, writer, historian, to name but a tiny fraction - are very much served by what the learn in high school. SORRY THEY CAN'T BE MORE LIKE YOU, RANDALL.

3. This comic goes against everything I think as a nerd. School was where learning happened! It makes people smarter! Now you've got a whole bunch of shitty forumites saying things like "glad to be unschooling with my kids" (I don't totally know what that means but I don't like it) or "Screw History, I'm not going to be a History teacher or a Historian!" which just makes me -and I'm not a historian, except of xkcd- feel terrible just a person who values knowledge and intelligence.

4. Randall, you are 24 years old. You graduated from college two years ago. Are you really at the right age to decide what skills are best needed for a career? Your career is currently selling t-shirts with pictures and words to people who find them amusing.

5. Leaving aside what actually helps you in life, for you to say that you know better than all your teachers - even if, miraculously, you are right about all this and the graph is 100% accurate - is still ungodly arrogant and I want to punch you in the face.

6. Oh, alt-text. You loveable little motherfucker you. "And the ten minutes striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom sometimes matters more than every other part of high school combined." AWWWW, YOU SHOULD TALK TO STRANGE KIDS. IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT THERE IS FOR YOU TO DO! This is another of Randall's condescending "oh please, don't worry your little self, I know what is best for you to do" comments, like when he said "you should kiss people more!" or "the other time he told you to talk to strangers, as well as a lot more stuff" You know, I remember reading a comic once where a nerdy guy does this, he goes to talk to a girl because she seems quirky in an appealing way, and then it turns out she sucks. OH RIGHT THAT WAS XKCD, BACK WHEN IT DIDN'T SUCK WITH THE FERCIOUS POWER OF 2000 VACCUUM CLEANERS AND 8 BLACK HOLES. it was right here. It was a good comic! It made fun of the whole idea that it is a good idea to talk to strangers. It made you think it was going to do that preachy shit but then it didn't. Ahhh, the good old days...

7. I'm sorry, I just keep coming down to the outright lie of this. Really randall? You never used physics in your career? The one you had at NASA? You don't think math is important? And don't give me that "uhhhhh well the important stuff I learned in college" bullcrap because you sure as hell have to learn the basic stuff first, and you have to learn it somewhere.

8. All the stupid forum posts are about "duhhh this is true duhh school wuz boring ah ahm glad ah didn't pay atenshun" but the point of this comic isn't "school is useless" it's "the only really worthwile thing to do is fuck around with perl." And what the hell happened to Randall's "ha ha, perl SUXXX i'm using python now, bitches!" mindset? what made him change his mind??

9. This comic is terrible. Truly terrible, on basically every level. Sometimes I wonder how I would react if I met Randall Munroe, and I used to think I would be angry but at least polite. Now I am thinking I would just punch him in the face and leave. TOO BAD YOU DIDN'T LEARN HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELF FROM PUNCHES IN YOUR PRECIOUS SCHOOL


  1. I think I'd punch him in the balls. Just to see if he had any.

    About the alt-text... I thought that was funnier than my first conclusion.

  2. Amanda: oh my god. I just made the WORST LAUGHING NOISES EVER. Like, there was snorting and laughing and squeaking. COLUMBINED. I am going to hell. :(

  3. Also: I never noticed the alt text for comic 7 THAT IS CREEPY.

  4. LOL omg. I remember thinking vaguely: "um that is weird"

    But with the recent strings of emo-relationshippy comics? EW.

  5. Rob, I was sure that the forum post you had about I WAS IN 11th grade! would be the best one ever but amanda's totally wins. Oh my god that was funny.

  6. and I just noticed your sekrit comic. Reaction: BAHAHAHAHAHHAH

    Curses I have something that you could refer to but Photobucket is refusing to work with my crappy internet. OH WAIT HERE IT IS

  7. Man, I am quite the Spam Monster today. So, first, credit for the above pic goes to The Hourly Comic. Second, Carl I think you need to include the phrase "tra la la i am a dipshit" in there. Just for fun.

  8. Goddammit I really promise this is the last time. Posted the wrong link for The Hourly Comic.

  9. I must really agree with you this time. Awful comic. And I'm not saying that just because I'm studying to become a teacher.

    But your take on #304 is quite disturbing, Carl. Are you perhaps suffering from some traumatic memories of talking with strange kids? #304 is certainly not making fun of the idea of talking to strangers. It's making fun of the way geeks often idealize people they never spoken to, and the way geeks thinks love is all about agreeing on everything. (Just for the record, I agree with you that 304 was great.)

  10. Digg up my digg comment, people actually like it there too... wtf.

  11. I think the point is more or less that when you learn something for yourself, not in a contrived learning environment, it sticks with you better. The fact that taking initiative and learning outside of school, at that point in your educational career gives you a solid boost on a personal level, and gets you in the mindset to learn more of the same, in this case programming.
    So yeah, taking the initiative to learn perl on a weekend in a way was much more important than just going through the contrived education and relying on that.

    I think you're a little hard on the point. I laughed, because truth is, the same thing applies to me with my job... a lot of tinkering I did in HS really helped prepare me far more than my HS classes (not to say they weren't important)

  12. Yes indeed, a first class piece of Randall Munroe crap. Although the ridiculous alt-text almost makes me think he's doing it on purpose.

  13. You forgot to add a bar for 'wanking it' to your graph. I can understand, though; there's not enough space on the screen. And it's really disturbing to think about.

  14. When I first read it, it was through Tonypedia's eyes, with the reaction, "that sounds about right, tinkering for fun is always better than rote lessons." Then I came here and realized, "oh wait, that comes off as snobby about programming being better than anything school ever taught him."

    And hold up a second -- Randall undervalues everything he learned in school so much, but relishes the hell out of obscure wikipedia history lessons (Mary Celeste)?! THE WORLD IS BORING EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T HUH RANDALL

  15. You know, when you look at the comic in a simple way, and let go of this preconceived notion that the guy who writes xkcd is an arrogant prick, the jokes actually come off as a light humor.
    No real depth, but that's the point of the minimalist style.

  16. *sigh* At least you didn't take 10 minutes, Anon.

    I agree, at face value the comic is observant and lighthearted. Perl could just as easily be replaced with "reading [cool book series]" or "learning how to build [stuff]" and the message would be the same. But we're not working with a PREconceived notion. Our notion comes fully developed and documented, with its own blog!

  17. So basically we have to pretend to be stupid in order to get a "light" joke.

    Did I miss xkcd's sudden leap from intellectual to anti-intellectual? When did this happen? And all the fans also seem to be cool with it. This is practically a "we have always been at war with eastasia" thing.

  18. '...a "we have always been at war with eastasia" thing.'


  19. Anonymous: Your mother and I are very disappointed in you.

    Carl: +1

  20. lol Ramsey. Dirty jokes are always amusing.

    Anyway, I understand the point of the comic, Anon. I also understand that, yes, RANDALL IS RIGHT HA HA SCHOOL IS NOT AS USEFUL AS OTHER THINGS THAT ARE MORE FUN

    But just because something is true doesn't make it funny. How is any bit of this humorous? I'll help you out here! Answer: NONE OF IT because it's just an observation, not a joke.

  21. Hey guys, I think your site is great. I have a review of xkcd up on my site too, it's at . You should come check it out!

    - John Calhoun

  22. Randall, if you're going to do graph comics AT LEAST USE A RULER FOR GOODNESS' SAKE

    Didn't they teach you that in school?

    Anyway, yeah, observation, not even a joke, unoriginal blah blah same old same old. Sometimes I feel bad about badmouthing someone else's work, but this deserves it because it is just that awful. It is the first XKCD since that sexual experimentation rigour one to make me wince. Randall, you are shortening my lifespan by many years and I WILL CLAIM THOSE YEARS BACK AFTER I AM DEAD


  23. Oh, and:

    John: it is a sad reflection on the state of the Internet that I had to read up to halfway through the second blogpost on your site to realise that it was a parody. Or maybe I am just an idiot. Who knows. Either way, that's some believable stuff you got there.

  24. It's not like I haven't seen the joke (or observation, or whatever) before, but I didn't really have the "HOLY SHIT THIS IS TERRIBLE" reaction you guys did.

    I mean, I got his point. You learn things much better when you're interested and when you're given the freedom to choose what's important to you. It seems sort of obvious, but it's also a valid observation.

    Is it funny? No.

    I'm okay with the comics that are more "witty observation" than funny, and really, some of my favorite xkcd's are chart comics. (The day I realized I could cook bacon WHENEVER I want, for instance). The operative word here is witty. I don't care about this observation, so I read it and then said to myself, "Oh. Ok." and that was the end of the reaction.

    As for the alt-text, I sort of read it in a vaguely mocking voice for some reason, as if he was making fun of the statement while he was saying it. Maybe that's just something I do. It seemed like it was purposefully cheesy. I might be giving too much credit there though.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Sweetie Pumpkin: This one wouldn't bother me so much were it not a complaint that every annoying high schooler makes throughout high school. Just look at the forum comments--the first several are HS students who are complaining 'yeah man this is dumb and I hate it'. It's not just not clever and not insightful, it's pretty much the opposite of clever and insightful. It is (a) inaccurate (b) whiny (c) inaccurate (d) I WILL BRING RANDALL MUNROE TO RUIN

    sorry i blacked out

    So, like. It's not so bad if he's just saying "I will never let my schooling interfere with my education." That is fine. But it bothers me when he says "man you never learn anything in school you gotta hang out and do fun stuff on your own otherwise you won't get anywhere" etc etc and I could really go on for hours and hours on how you actually learn vital life skills in high school. And I hated high school. I wish I had an older more reasonable version of myself to tell me that I was not actually wasting my time etc.

    Not everyone is required to hate it but I mean. I want everyone to understand that this comic is morally offensive and ought to be made a capital offence and I think we should probably write our congressmen guys.

  27. > Very few jobs need to know perl

    Actually, most do. Perhaps not in the sense that "at this job you'll be using perl every day" but in the sense that if you knew it you'd be better at your job.

    I knew a guy in college that got his degree in MIS. Graduated, and started his cushy job at a fortune 500 consulting firm. Two months later, they fired his ass. Why? Because he couldn't handle a simple data migration project.

    He's whining "its not my fault... there was so much to do..."

    I probably could have completed his project in a week... using perl.

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  29. A parody of what? I'm totally serious, man, xkcd sucks and Randall Monroe is probably a faggot or a furry or something.

  30. Point #1 : Randall probably does use perl in his job. Because his comic is a webcomic, which means it is on a website. Websites are made up of code, guys. If I recall, the comics are uploaded by a perl script. Yes, content is what gets people excited, but it doesn't get there by magic.

    Point #1a : Learning perl helps you learn python. These are related skills, guys.

    Point #2 : Look, I'm not saying this is a great comic, or that I didn't learn anything in school, but do you really have no cynicism at all about high school education? I went to a pretty decent private school, and even there things were hit-or-miss. Art classes taught by basketball coaches, the Latin department falling into ruin, etc. I've heard horror stories about public high schools.

    So look, let's not pretend that school is the be-all and end-all. Just because Randall says it doesn't mean it's wrong. The best thing school can teach you, after a certain point, is how to learn more on your own. This is certainly what the U of C pummeled into me.

    So maybe for Randall, perl was the turning point on that front. And after you've made that leap, hundreds of hours of (potentially) trite meomorization and tedious regurgitation don't seem all that thrilling.

    In conclusion: not a great comic, but I question the philosophical assumptions you have made in attacking it.

  31. Patty-Cakes:

    I could talk for hours, /hours/, about how bad my high school education was for me. I was the kid who was complaining that I wasn't learning any useful skills. That was me. And you know what? While I am incredibly fortunate I was intellectually curious enough to go learn other things, I still learned important skills.

    My Friend The Illiterate Anonymous Commenter, Who Needs A Name But I Am Fine Just Generically Insulting: Listen. Anecdotal evidence doesn't mean shit. You might know this if you had basic grasps of social sciences. And again, that is a 'it might help you keep your job, possibly' more than 'you need it for your job, and it is a useful skill.' Most things are useful skills--math, science, the English language, social sciences. Depending on the job you will end up using the skills. And you learn and perfect those in school! You also learn corporate drudgery.

    But look, that implies that the only worthwhile careers are a very select few. I don't need programming for any of the careers I would like to pursue--what I do need is the ability to communicate intelligently and perform some useful research and analysis. I have no use for Perl. Anything I might need it for? I Know A Guy.

    Perl will not help me. It wouldn't help a lot of people I know. A weekend of dicking around is certainly not more valuable than all of high school.

  32. Actually, he admits that he learned something in school, he just claimed that it was significantly less useful than what he did with his free time. Read the chart. XP

  33. Wait a minute, you think the "Nighttime" comic makes fun of talking to strangers?

    The guy in the comic gave up a girl merely because her reading tastes were different from his, and you think that's ok?

    You don't do that in real life, do you?

  34. I think it's making fun of the cliche about talking to strangers leading to lifelong friendship 'n' love. (I also think that within that comic, the idea is that anyone who likes "xenocide" best is a worthless person, and so the male character is justified in disliking her).

  35. (Fashionably late comment)
    I think this comic is not far from having a valid point; my weekend in Grade 9 messing around with Applescript probably had more positive influence on my life than high-school did, and I probably learnt more from it as well.

    The graph says "career success" though - not "intellectual development" or "character building" - and one can't get any kind of decent job without Grade 11, obviously.

    So close.

  36. Okay, I think the point Randall was trying to make was not that "school is useless to [his] career," but rather the return of time invested proportional to the amount of time invested for each activity was greater for one weekend in Perl than in 400 hours of homework and 900 hours of classes.

    At least, that's what my biased interpretation tells me. I learned useful stuff in school, but they spent way too much time assigning busy work. It got to the point to where I stopped looking at school as education, and started looking at it as mandatory babysitting.

    If that's his point, it's a good one. If it's not, you're absolutely right: This comic sucks more than a French whore in a black hole.

  37. Hi Kobra! Thanks for an intelligent, if super hella late, comment. I can agree with you on one point: if he was merely saying that one weekend was more useful to his career proportionate to the amount of time spent, it would be a better comic (though still not, I think, a good comic--it would just no longer be the worst comic ever made).

    I don't agree that this is his point. Look at it more closely--he's just saying that the combined 1300 hours doing homework and schoolwork is less useful than one weekend playing with Perl. If he wanted to make it proportional, he would have reduced all of the hours down to that One Weekend, or, if it were me and I made bad comics, Two Days. Observe:

    "Two days spent in school; two days spent doing homework; two days messing around with Perl."

    Do you see? He's not just saying that Perl is proportionately more equal--he's saying that a weekend of perl is more useful than all 1300 hours of schoolwork he mentions in the graph.

    You should comment more on our more recent posts. There is a dearth of clever people to respond to. Fill that gap!

  38. You know, I was just looking at the about xkcd page, and couldn't help but notice that Randall doesn't even write his own site code. And this of course made me think immediately of this comic.

  39. I think the "strange kid in homeroom" was a tech joke of some sort... but I can't remember from what.

    Just the idea of a major company being founded that way though.

  40. Randall wasn't trying to make any point about how self learning is more vital to character development than institutionalised learning blah blah blah...

    He is simply pandering to the teenage axiom that school is a waste of time and teaches you nothing relevent to your later carreer (which, presuming you are a geek who has taken the time to learn perl in their spare time, has most likely already been chosen by yourself). He went ahead and made the comic in a hurry before realising all the basic maths/language/social interaction he learned at school actually were quite worthwhile.

    I have to assume XKCD's key demographic is high school students, this comic reminds me of a My Chemical Romance music video. Everyone over the age of 18 knows this shit isn't true, but it is frugal to sell the idea to impressionable teens.

  41. Fuck you Carl.
    Randall is just saying that messing around with a programming language is much more useful for carer success than taking classes on it. I happen to agree with his statement.

  42. Except, you don't take classes on Perl in high school. Especially not in the amounts of time he's suggesting.

  43. I know C++. I bet you don't.

  44. There are lots of things that some people know and other people don't know. What does that have to do with this? Carl is pointing out that Mr. Munroe is pandering to an audience based on an extremely inconsistent and hypocritical track record. I mean, the dude doesn't even do his own coding for his own retardedly basic website. How are we supposed to take anything he says about professional software engineering careers seriously?

  45. "I happen to agree" is the ultimate expression of butthurt.

  46. 1) fluffy, rob said "Except, you don't take classes on Perl in high school. Especially not in the amounts of time he's suggesting." and that was my response. His reply was stupid, so I sarcastically replied stupidly.

    2) Luckzeh, you should really go one of those places where they sell brains. You currently have less brains than fluff fuzz over there. That's really sad. Here is to you:
    ........('(...´...´.... ¯~/'...')
    ..........''...\.......... _.·´

  47. I'm a little late to the party, but I do believe that people are allowed to indulge in exaggeration to prove a point.

    See, because you're all angry and riled up at his misrepresentation, you remember the damn thing. So do the rest of us geeks and nerds who looked at that and chuckled, whether it was out of pity or just mild amusement.

    This big bitchfest also seems to reek of bitterness. Shit, if you can't understand the webcomic, don't read it. There's probably a webcomic aimed at mildly retarded people somewhere...

  48. Wow, nobody's ever used the "you don't like this comic so it must be too smart for you" line before. Way to go, Mr. Clever.

  49. Hey, it doesn't matter if people hate XKCD, even if it's for stupid silly reasons. It doesn't change XKCD for you and if it does, that's not their fault for making you realize something.

  50. Not sure if this is the elephant in the room or anything, and I know I'm late as hell (reading backwards through the blog), but... uh...
    Isn't the 'weird kid in homeroom' a reference to school shootings, or like that weird guy-sniper in Happy Gilmore?

  51. oh god, I hope not. that would be a terrible, terrible joke to make. way worse than any other element of bad taste that Randall has given us.

  52. Oh man Carl, you are so cool you can spend the whole day on the internet and you made two friends who just keep stroking your dick when nobody else GIVES A FUCK HOLY SHIT. protip: there are 3 distinct posters in the first 8 posts, and one of those posters is you.

  53. i never even thought i could make a single friend on the internet, and then Amanda showed up. Also Rob but he is a douche human dickbag. I am sorry that I haven't made friends with EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET yet but i am trying!

  54. omg carl i didn't know i was your first friend on the internet, we're so totally internet biffles now

  55. Ok, so I actually like most of the xkcd comics and just stumbled across this site. My two cents...just like a couple of posts ago, my first thought was that the alt text was referring to school know talking to that odd kid in the corner and becoming friends with him so when he finally loses it he won't kill you...which would be a pretty big career boost wouldn't it? I imagine having a career would be rather difficult if you were dead. If that was his intention, it was a little bit in bad taste but I still thought it was funny (and I'm ok with being a terrible person).

  56. some people brought up that possibility, but I think that isn't what he was going for. I think that joke would be in really bad taste, and I'm usually ok with bad taste. But I think it would be beyond anything else he's ever written.

  57. I make $116,000 a year coding Perl. I made $120,000 the year previous on a telecommute gig. I'm self-taught from some initial messing around with it.

  58. Did you learn it in one weekend?

  59. Hey, so I'm pretty late on this one. Some of your posts are legitimate, and amusing, criticisms. Some of them are either pathetic or deliberately miss the point for some cheap shots. This is one of the latter. His words were not perfectly clear, but it was pretty obvious that he was talking about his own, pre-xkcd career.

    Yes, I'm posting this on a few of your posts: you, like Mr. Munroe, seem to have trouble figuring out which of your ideas are worth sharing with the world and which are better left in your own head.

  60. He was speaking from his own experience, but surely it was meant as a lesson to us, to learn from him?

    Suppose I tell you a story about the time I ate sushi and got food poisoning. It sucked! so hard. Anyway, why would I tell you that story? a) I think you care about my personal life (rather self-centered of me), b) I just felt like telling it for no good reason (stupid), c) I want you to take some lesson from it (be careful around sushi). Only C is a justification that doesn't mean I deserve to get punched. I'm open to other reasons, of course, but the question is, why did Randall make this comic? Is it about himself alone, or is it meant to hint at a general pattern?

  61. I'm going to defend Randy here, while everything you said here is true... i kind of liked this comic and related to it. Most of the time I spent in class was, in my mind, wasbasically a waste. What really ended up being important to my future career was the time i spent drawing during lectures, the goof-off stuff I did to get out of "real" work.

    You never know what will end up shaping you or influencing you forever. In reference to the ALT text, I once went camping and some strange hobo dude came by and started a conversation with us, we ended up talking for 3 hours and what he said really affected and changed my views about politics, philosophy, etc.

    So even if this comic isn't LITERALLY true for Randall, I think it applies to some people.

  62. i don't believe you. What is your profession?

  63. the point isn't that it doesn't work. the point is that it's a stupid, pretentious, bullshit thing to say that isn't actually true for anyone. no, not even you, Mr. 'Teaches Students How To Doodle In The Corner Of Their Notebooks.' guarantee you wouldn't be doing that, or anything useful, if you hadn't done high school, and it's not because you can't do anything without a diploma. it's because education's primary purpose is to socialize you into the workforce and the rest of society.

    every idiot nerd out there thinks that his hobbies are so much more important to his life than the stuff he learns in school, but this is really not true. it's just something you like more.

  64. i'm a graphic designer and illustrator. i dropped out of high school and finished out in continuation school (although I do have a college degree now) and ended up turning my hobby into my professional career. I'm not going to say my education didn't help round me out as a better and more complete person... I love math, science, history, etc. and knowledge is valuable - that said, when I was a freshman I was told that taking AP classes and foreign languages was *very important* to my future collegiate career and was turned away from taking art and creative writing classes because those were frivolous and I was supposed to be a serious student. I really regret listening to the advice my parents gave me back then because I took a lot of classes that I couldn't stand and gained nothing from instead of taking classes that would have enriched my life in areas I was actually interested in. I mean, I love having a diverse education but its the doodling that pays the bills.

    It took me a couple of years to realize that instead of trying to force myself into an education that I didn't care about so I could perform a job I didn't want, that I should instead do what I love to do (my idiot nerd hobby) and follow my "dreams".

    my best friend was smarter than me though. He is a professional game programmer for warner bros - he dropped out of HS and turned his hobby into a 100k a year career.

    I'm not arguing with you or trying to provoke hostility, it's just my subjective experience based on the small sample size of my good friends shows that hobbies can turn into profitable careers:

    1) I have a college education but turned my hobby into a career. (my hobby: drawing, art)
    2) my best bud makes 2x as much money as I do with a G.E.D. because of his hobby (his hobby: game programming)
    3) my older brother has 2 bachelor degrees ( english and education) but owns his own mechanic shop (his hobby: fixing cars)
    4) my cousin has a masters degree in library science and is a librarian at the University of Tennessee... (his hobby: he loves to read)

  65. by the way, until I realized I should turn what I love to do into my career, I was a directionless clerk at a bookstore with no real future making 9 dollars an hour doing chump work.

    I'm really really really really really lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love to do for a living, I realize it isn't the case for everyone but it was for me and so I related to the comic.

    Also, sorry if all of this came off as defensive.

    by the way, if you guys are able to monetize this site's popularity, wouldn't you guys be making money doing your hobby? wouldn't it be great? I actually really enjoy this site and think you guys do a great job.

    oh one more example... was a couple of guys that wrote funny video game reviews as a side hobby, the site ended up landing them a gig as writers for Valve. they wrote "Portal".

  66. I think in your case, you are probably completely right. Your career has been more directly served by learning art than other things. I don't think that means the other things weren't useful though - I think, for example, that any business will benefit from having people who speak other languages. Getting in the habit of studying and learning is always helpful for any profession.

    Of your other three examples, 2 also seems to be an example of what you are talking about, but with 3 I am not as sure - yes, fixing cars isn't something you usually learn in a high school, but you do have to learn it somewhere and it certainly doesn't happen from messing around for a weekend. And 4 I think is meant as a counterexample, right? Because that one helps prove my point - the stuff he learned in school was very important to his career (loving your career or not loving it being mostly irrelevant here).

    As you say in your second comment, you are very lucky, and I'm happy for you. Randall Munroe is similarly lucky (though in his case, school was FAR more important than learning perl). But the comic makes it seem like this is a sort of universal truth, that he is saying this will generally be true of everyone. Or if it's not, it's him bragging that it's true for him. It's one or the other, I don't like either.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this and I am sorry it took so long to respond.

  67. hello again - thanks for the response :) Just one more thought on this subject: I think one of high school's most important functions is to expose people to a lot of the options and potential professions that are available to you. It's like high school throws a bunch of new ideas at you all at once to see if anything "sticks". Sure, 80% of people won't use chemistry in their daily lives, but without exposing everyone to those classes, people who love and end up wanting to pursue chemistry may never have been exposed to that option.

    I guess I am playing both sides here but while I have always loved art, I was really exposed to the digital side of it because I took a mass media class in high school and learned to use computers as a tool to create art. Likewise, my friend who is a game programmer started programming with a graphic calculator he would have never owned if it wasn't for a high school class he was in...

    now to contradict the above, I will say that 1 weekend screwing around with dreamweaver exposed me to web development and because of that weekend I became interested in web work and I was able to pay my way through art and design school designing sites for people, if I turned web design into my career, it could be argued that the one weekend of me screwing around had as big of an influence on my future as the time i spent in classes in high school.

    I don't know - I actually think its a combination of everything you're exposed to in life that makes you who you are and you never know what will influence you to evolve/change/grow...

    anyways, thanks for the dialog and keep up the good work!

  68. The comic suggests that it's only worthwhile studying something if it will help in your career. I know Randall looks down on "liberal arts majors" but you'd think some notion of being educated in history, literature, and philosophy in order to be a better citizen and human being might have stuck.

    Look at how much damage the brilliant monomaths running/regulating Wall Street have done. There's more to living a good life than having a successful career. There's more to education than vocational training.

  69. School sucks, at least highschool, I always got super bad grades because I never really cared.

    When I took my BA. I was the first of my class.

    One weekend messing with perl is much more useful than a whole month of class!

  70. sounds like you have lousy classmates! Or, you have smart classmates who didn't try very hard. Or they tried but did badly on the test. Or maybe the test was a bad way to measure knowledge.

    or maybe if you'd cared, you would have been a success in life.

  71. Sorry carl, I usually enjoy your criticisms, but I feel that you've missed the point of this comic. Teaching of computer science is usually very poor at a high school/secondary school (in the uk) level, and very often trying to learn it yourself is actually a better option.
    As an anecdotal example I'm pretty sure that I've learnt more about programming trying to teach myself c++ than the VB shit we were taught in my computer science course.

    I agree that it is important to pay attention in classes, but the point about comparing cs to physics and maths is that its so much younger.
    We've had hundreds if not thousands of years to work out how to teach maths and science and most other subjects well, but as cs is relatively young most courses do a bad job of teaching it, either focussing too much on one aspect or spreading itself too thin.

  72. Assuming Randall is ONLY criticizing the class-related aspects of ONLY 11th grade education, this is still a very weak argument that the value of the education can be marginalized. I'm not sure what high schools you all went to, but even my average public high school taught me plenty about math, chemistry, biology, languages, history, not to mention discipline, thought, interaction, motivation, etc. which would be helpful later on in life.

    Personal testimony aside, it's a cognitive fallacy to attribute the greatest contribution to an outcome to the penultimate factor. Would it have even been possible to learn PERL without the ability to read? the ability to comprehend logic or work math? the foundation that permitted the house to be built? Why do people have so much trouble realizing that the purpose of general education is not to provide specific instruction on how to do your future job. No, it's to expand the mind enough to give it the option to pursue more specific interest. And sometimes it's just vanity. Would a software company interviewer take you seriously if you thought that the Boston Tea Party occurred at noontime in a living room or that the sun lands on the ground at dusk? This is extremely basic knowledge you need and take for granted because you DID learn from school.

    More likely, this seems to be a generalized attack on education, which is foolish and doesn't even deserve the coordinated response above.

  73. Thank you for that, anon. i wish more people thought like you.

  74. Well perhaps I'm a bit biased because I'm one of those few people who actually enjoyed their education (still in college!) apart from the benefits it provides. But it just disturbs me whenever people attack education, so I always respond to such arguments.

    In fact the issue of the comic is much more complicated than I made it out to be above, but what really matters boils down to the effect of the comic rather than the intent. Randall made the comic ambiguous enough that I don't really disapprove of it fundamentally. But if it makes people go "ah well screw education in general - he's completely right!" then I must interject.

    Common argument: high school didn't help me because I decided I'd do ___ instead which does not require high school education. How would (will) you have known that if you hadn't been exposed to the concepts and been given the opportunity to find out what you like? That's what I'd like to know: why are people so ungrateful that they've been given the OPPORTUNITY for higher education, an opportunity which was fought for and won by our predecessors. This idea of a sidetrack during high school proving more effective than the education itself also misses the crucial point that it is made possible by the learning environment created by being in institutionalized education (even the social exchanges made possible by such an environment). It still comes down to the notion that high school is an OPPORTUNITY. I think I've stressed that word enough.

    Looking back on the comments, however, it seems that nobody actually seriously voiced those issues I argued against. So it seems we're actually mostly safe and on the same page. =D

    PS: Are we just arguing about high school? Because elementary/middle school are more obviously necessary for anybody to experience. High school may seem redundant/unnecessary, but it's really a boon for the reasons above.

  75. I think we're just talking about high school. You'd be hard pressed to argue that a basic primary education is helpful, or that the rudiments that you learn in middle school are something everyone is expected to know.

  76. Forgive my digression then.

    PS: It took me a while to realize both you and Carl write for this blog. Also. I made an account so I'm here to stay!

  77. welcome kelvin.

    hey here is a joke randall would make:

    ok with that out of the way: i do the vast majority of the posting here, though not all, and Rob sits around and is my fat lap dog who takes care of yelling at people in the comments. he sucks and no one likes him.

  78. I'm really nervous now, because I don't think you understand the point of this comic, or any of the others which you deemed "bad". All the things you say he means, such as talking to strangers/kissing people is good, etc, isn't meant, just like in this one he doesn't mean that school is overrated and learning computer science is the only thing that matters.
    You can't argue that the American school system isn't doing the best that it can, and anyone who sticks JUST with the curriculum is missing out on A LOT. You have to look at the big picture.

  79. ok, and the big picture of this one is "school didn't do anything for my fictional perl-based career."

    writ large, this one reads, big picture-style: "high school is overrated guys"

  80. You should name this site "Wooosh!" for the sound of the joke that consistently flies over your head.