Would you allow your children to go to school with a Billionaire?


Alysha Izquierdo, Herald Staff

You might know Elon Musk best for his electric car rather than for him opening up his own school. As most of you must know, Elon Musk was indeed the CEO and co-founder of Tesla. He manages all product design, engineering, and manufacturing of the company’s electric vehicles, battery products, and Solar Roofs. You are more likely to know him for the Tesla electric car, although for many they can be rather pricey. But what most of you probably don’t know is that Musk had opened up his own school called AD Astra. Now, this isn’t your ordinary school, its curriculum lies heavy on science, math, engineering, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence. Drawing on Musk’s interests, the innovative curriculum had no language, music, or sports lessons included. The main purpose of the school was so that Musk’s own children, 5 young boys, could attend school the way he intended his kids to learn. It seems to be rather eye-catching since there are now 30 students between the ages 7-13 attending.

At a young age, Musk was set on the fact that he would be doing physics at a particle accelerator once he was an adult. “I thought, OK, I want to figure out what’s the nature of the universe, so, I would go try working with people banging particles together and see what happens,” he said on the podcast. When Musk was about 22 his plans had changed. After dropping out of college Musk was set on completing his own big projects. One of his first was in 1999, he sold his software company Zip2 for roughly $300 million. He then used the money from that sale to found X.com which was an online financial services platform that merged with Confinity in 2000 and later became PayPal. In 2002, eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion. This internet startup was still not enough for Elon Musk and he began to think bigger up until his recent major success with Tesla. 

Musk had always had some very different views on what children should be learning and what he states to be a waste of time. Ad Astra brought these intense ideas into reality. Musk believes that studying is not all about reading books and taking tests but hands-on work and development at the children’s own pace. All of a sudden the children are constructing weather balloons, battling robots, or blowing things up. The children decide on at least 50% of the provided subject matter. The school’s environment has provided students with the tendency to think for themselves. Students can decide the morals of different situations and when it is important to make those tough decisions.

Elon Musk funds the school and there are no tuition fees for those children that attend. According to taxes submitted for Mr. Musk, it shows that he has given $475,000 to the school each year. This seems somewhat extravagant for a school that has only 30 students attending. The principal of Ad Astra, Joshua Dahn, told the public that Musk is no longer involved beyond his initial funding and “administrative assistance.” But even the application for admission to the 2020-2021 online classes seems like a nod to the electric vehicle and space tycoon. Children interested in enrolling in Musk’s school are asked to submit a short video response to a critical-thinking problem titled “The Lake Conundrum,” which deals with manufacturing, pollution, and corruption. The original Ad Astra School in Musk’s mind was non-profit and was completely free for all students, of course with Musk personally picking each one. Against his liking, Astra Nova has been incorporated as a traditional for-profit business. Now instead of the school tuition is completely free of charge the new price set for this experiential learning experience is $7,500 per student for the full year. Classes would only take place Thursdays.

Even if students were to afford it, the school sounds like almost a college environment. I know Elon Musk is a very smart man and I don’t hate him for doing this kind of work, it would have been better for him if he would have partnered up with Oakland or Alum Rock, any school system that serves low-income students. There are many concerns within the STEM field and he had a great idea to make what he was doing something great for the public rather than keeping it private, only certain people could access it.

If prices are to drop for appliances in the school, I don’t think it’s going to be happening any time soon.