“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For Teenager Logan LaPlante, the answer is simple: “I want to continue to be happy.”

He asks the pointed question: “What if we based education on the practice of being happy and healthy? Are schools making this a priority? Much of education is more geared towards making a living than towards making a life.”

So he’s created his own model of a school based on things like community, time in nature, general happiness. He calls his alternative school model “hackschool” because it’s all about being willing to change a system. “Everything is up for being hacked,” said LaPlante. Since he started his new system, he’s hacked through every subject — from physics to math to history — while building things along the way. Check out his inspirational talk.

  • Keith Ritman

    Not to burst your bubble logan . I’ve been teaching my kids and myself this for 30 years. A day late and a dollar short. Nice try thanks for playing

    • Jake

      Don’t be a buzzkill, Keith. Others can find their truth also.

      • Keith Ritman

        Key words find their truth. Not Steal mine that I’ve been pushing for 20 years

        • Ciabelle

          You don’t sound anywhere near as happy as this kid though. Nay, I’d say you also sound resentful and bitter. If you have the lock on the “One true Way to Healthiness and Happiness”©®™ I’m not sure that I want to subscribe. Though I’d love to hang out with him.

          • Keith Ritman

            He’s 12ish, he has not been beaten down by society for new ideas for 30 years. He doesn’t even have a new idea or anything new to say about it. He’s a puppet regurgitating some word for word, what I have been saying, the difference is he has an adult standing next to him going ooooohhhh ahhhhhh, look, shiny, new ……. and talk fell for it hahagagaga

          • Todd Davenport

            OOOOO AHHHH sounds great Keith, where can I find more information on your method? 20 years of pushing, I should be able to find something on it, right?

    • Shelby

      That’s wonderful for you. I’m glad that you have carved out the time over the past 30 years to teach your students that. Unfortunately, for many of my students in good old Baltimore, this isn’t the case. In fact many of them don’t ever learn these practices whether in home or in school. There are so many other things that get in the way (think the college and career readiness push of the Common Core State Standards). And you did pretty much rain on his parade because of your personal experience. I find that kind of ironic…

      • Keith Ritman

        Both College and Career readiness are ghost stories. If I relied on any current school attempting to teach me anything useful in my life I would have been sleeping in a cardboard box. Wake up become involved in your neighborhood. Know that your child’s current school is ripping you and your child off of a good life ahead. They are intentionally teaching outdated irrelevant subjects that you probably don’t even comprehend. They keep YOU CONFUSED so they can intentionally under educate your children to NOT be prepared for life and career further proliferating the under educated middle class.

    • be scared of Keith Ritman

      WOW Keith. Way to smackdown a like minded thinker, who BTW is spreading the word, which you apparently thought to appropriate for you and your own kids ONLY. Frankly, your ugly and negative comment indicates that you have achieved neither happiness or health (mental). Crawl back into your hole.

      • Helena Fortissima

        Well said. Mama was right….if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s better to say nothing at all. People take themselves and their opinions way too seriously, especially internet trolls.

      • Keith Ritman

        Just doing to him what has been afforded me my whole life. First, enough of this praising kids for participating. This only makes panzys and non thinkers out of them. Second, when they take someone else’s idea and attempt to capitalize on it without even trying to change it. DO NOT praise them. SCOLD THEM, this is stealing. But I guess in an age where its OK to steal music, and movies and programs whos developers spend half their lives developing only to make 50 cents because it was file shared. That’s ok too. And yes I am now bitter because I listened to uneducated people my whole life and I’m nearly crippled most days because I didn’t want to steal anyone’s thunder. Now I can just say. Nothing tiny brained people with the IQ of a gnat can say will make me stop harassing this thief and my message

    • Karen

      Too bad you chose the tone you did for responding.

  • Karen

    I enjoyed “hackschooling” with my kids. We called it “homeschooling.”

    • Keith Ritman

      Thank you Karen for pointing out that this is neither new nor innovative. Stop praising average thoughtless people for regurgitating ideas that have been around for 50 years. I really wish the newer generations would use their imaginations and cone up with something new and innovative.

      • Suzanne

        very negative.. if he truly copied YOU and you are the ONLY one you should be flattered. if he is promoting the same thing then wouldn’t you be happy. Sounds like you have an ego problem. Not so happy.

        • Keith Ritman

          So I should be flattered that because I’m in a wheelchair from one Pharmaceutical Company, I have seizures from another and a 5″ growth on my pancreas from yet a third and I was forced repressed and constrained from actually telling anyone till now. Nope just because TED wants to make a big deal out of him we should all just swoon go crawl bak to the pool of stupidity from whence you came

          • TrollHunter

            Boo Hoo. Nobody on the internet cares about you. Go wheel yourself over to the window and jump… Er, slide out.

    • LDS150

      If you are able to teach your kid advanced physics, more power to you. Home schooling is for grade 5 and under.

      • Karen

        Homeschooling does not mean that you teach your kid everything. You find resources for your children. You are the facilitator and navigator.

      • Patti

        I love that Logan is making the time and effort to share his point of view with the world. Many people don’t know about alternatives to conventional school.

        I also like the term hackschool in this context. The term is very specific to this generation, but it will resonate with kids who are interested in taking responsibility for their own education. Home school isn’t a great term for people who school outside of traditional learning institutions. Not many people sit at home with a textbook at the kitchen table.

        Homeschooling is better named community-based learning. If I couldn’t help my kids learn an advanced topic, then the kids and I sought out people who could. We traded mentoring with other families & found classes through universities, museums, libraries and art centers. The kids started volunteering in research labs and nonprofit outreach programs when quite young & took on more responsibility over time. By high school age, the people in various programs were learning partners. It’s all about how you do it. Our primary goal was for the kids to know how to learn and to find resources for them to access as they teach themselves.

        FWIW- we homeschooled all the way through primary & secondary school. The kids have continued to study independently while in university. One is about to graduate with a degree in CS and will be working at a well known software company in Seattle. The other is a hybrid undergrad/grad student in marine biogeochemistry. Other kids who homeschooled alongside them are also in university or working in fields including music, linguistics, psychology, and peace studies. All have spent the past 8 years working, interning and volunteering in their areas of interest, have been active in their communities, and -best of all- are happy, nice people.

        Homeschooling is just one of many good educational options out there. It’s a huge commitment for a family, and it becomes a lifestyle. Works for some people, not for others 🙂

  • Helena Fortissima

    Way to go, Logan! What a fabulously inspiring talk, coming from an engaging, articulate, and clearly happy young man. I hope this hackschooling idea catches on 🙂

    • Keith Ritman

      It did its called home schooling

    • Helena Fortissima

      Keith, why so bitter? Seems like you’ve got a raging case of sour grapes going on. Hopefully, you taught your children something besides cynicism and taking oneself too seriously in your homeschool 🙂

      • Keith Ritman

        Bitter now because @10 Apple stole the Video Game I created (now called Zork billions of dollars), At 18 I was locked in a hospital while my designs for a theme park were stolen and implemented, nothing major name wise but still a billion dollar pull. In 1999 I coined the term Mal-ware and developed a method of securing computers 100% infection free and maintaining them indefinitely barring hardware failure. Also Stolen.

        Now I’m in a wheelchair making $800.oo a month while my stolen ideas (some patented mind you) make other people billions of dollars a year. Why am I bitter you ask? 165 IQ and I can’t find a way to keep people who already have a ton of money from taking it from those that deserve it

        • Helena Fortissima

          Ah. I get it. You’re brilliant and world is conspiring against you.

          • Keith Ritman

            Well I NEVER said I wasn’t paranoid, Its a common drawback to brilliance. Walking that thin line between that and Insanity, can’t say I haven’t crossed the line in both directions, just don’t unpack and live on either side.

          • Helena Fortissima

            Well, instead of seeking your 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) in this forum, perhaps your time would be better spent directing your energy into promoting, developing, and marketing your ideas so you’ll rightfully be able to take credit for them.

  • Karen

    It is nice to see homeschooling becoming “in vogue” and not just for people on the fringe. I wish I was just starting homeschooling with my kids–there are so many more resources now than there were when we were in knee-deep. I am happy to see the movement take off. I am hopeful that if enough people opt out of the current school system, change will have to happen. There are so many more options out there, right now, than there were even 5 years ago. And with more “test optional” colleges, there is even hope for kids to enter college on their own terms.

    • LDS150

      Nice to be you. Most of us have to earn a living while our kids are in school. Not a bad thing.

      • Karen

        there is no need to respond to my comments with nasty sarcasm.

      • I have to agree with this sentiment, though not the necessarily the tone.

        This child is the product of an extensive pool of resources that most children will just never have. I don’t begrudge his family of being able to afford this idealic education, but I would like to answer the young gentleman’s question about why more parents aren’t doing this: my dear child, most of us parents are busy trying to pay the rent.

        Even if I could afford the time off work necessary to pull my kids out of the school that I know is trying to kill their creativity, I certainly couldn’t afford skiing and fancy workshops; hell, I can’t afford those things now.

        Just know that above all, you are a very LUCKY boy.

      • Karen

        Yes, I enjoy being me. I have loved my time with my children. Our family made sacrifices to be able to live on one income. We all make choices about how we live. Since we didn’t have to consider the school when we moved, we were able to move to a “less desirable” neighborhood to get a cheaper house. Many people would be scared to live in my neighborhood and would pay more to get near “good schools.” We had the freedom, as homeschoolers, to move wherever we wanted. I enjoyed living my life how I wanted, not within the confines of how the school administrators wanted me to live. I am now living that more constricted life (as the parent of two kids in traditional school). We are making a conscientious trade off. But, my kids are now extremely aware consumers of education. They don’t settle for mediocre. They make choices based on living a good and happy life, not just following the rules and doing what everyone else tells them they need to do to “succeed.”.

    • Karen

      This is our first year out of the homeschooling world. My daughter decided to attend “regular” high school because it offered things we just couldn’t find in our homeschooling world. She decided to accept the trade-offs and do her best to keep her sanity and individuality in a school setting. My son is in middle school because we can’t find exactly what we want, which is a part-time school option. The situation we want just is not out there.

  • tbarseghian

    Readers, let’s keep the conversation civil and directed at the subject of the
    post. Comments that are not relevant will be deleted.

    • EmilyRosen77

      Far too many silly and irrelevant comments on here now.

  • Danielle

    This kid, though I’m happy for him, is extremely privileged. Doing all the things he does is unrealistic for the average middle or lower class family financially and with regards to time. I have a hard time with the way he makes it sound like skiing every week, for example, is feasible. For some of my students bring lunch money isn’t possible.

    • guest

      Agreed. This is the kind of “happiness” that is only attainable for the kinds of people who don’t have to worry about money.

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  • Confirmation_Bias

    If by “happiness” he means “meaningfulness” I’m into it. If it’s happy for happy’s sake, I’m not: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-happy-life-may-not-be-a-meaningful-life/

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  • Justsaying15

    This presentation has been floating around for a while and certainly has traction on the internet. And why not? We’d all love for our kids to be this articulate and poised. However, I’m concerned about the acute focus on happiness as the only acceptable final goal in life. Even kids know that happiness is elusive and fleeting. Most of life is about moving through difficulties large and small – traffic, working with people with different viewpoints, unsnarling problems, waiting for customer service to *finally* pickup. The list goes on and on. Some days all you can hope for is not to go completely berserk.
    Ted in all of its incarnations likes to suggest that everything can be understood in 20 minutes or less. Some things are just more complicated than that. For example, is this young man *happy* as he experiences the backlash from resulted from telling the world that he has led a fairly unusual lifestyle that could only be possible by a parent dedicating extended periods of time so that he could have access to the various activities that led him to this talk? And, how will his parents feel if he later decides that being happy means to live in their spare room until he is 35? Encouraging a teenager to focus exclusively on happiness fails to build necessary life skills.

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Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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