“I just didn’t see that the regular schools were doing the things that I thought should be done,” he told a Chinese TV station in 2015. “So I thought, well let’s see what we can do. Maybe creating a school will be better.”
In an atmosphere closer to a venture capital incubator than a traditional school, today’s Ad Astra students undertake challenging technical projects, trade using their own currency, and can opt out of subjects they don’t enjoy. Children from 7 to 14 years old work together in teams, with few formal assessments and no grades handed out.
Ad Astra’s principal hopes that the school will revolutionize education in the same way Tesla has disrupted transportation, and SpaceX the rocket industry. But as Musk’s sons near graduation age, the future of Ad Astra is unclear. Will Musk maintain interest in the school once his children move on? And even if he does, can a school of fewer than 40 students ever be anything more than a high-tech crèche for already-privileged children?