Claim: Bill Gates authored a list of ‘Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School.’
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2000]
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average
Rule No. 2: The real world won’t care as much about your
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won’t make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn’t have a Gap label.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren’t embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Rule No. 6: It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it’s on your dime. Don’t whine about it, or you’ll sound like a baby boomer.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone’s feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don’t get a new life every
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
Origins: No, the above-cited list of “Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School” didn’t originate with former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. (It’s often cited on the Internet as having come from his book Business @ The Speed of Thought, but it didn’t.) Why it has frequently been attributed to him is a mystery to us, as it doesn’t sound at all like something he would write. Possibly it’s because the item that typically ends the Internet-circulated version of the list (“Be nice to nerds”) struck a chord with someone who views Gates as the ultimate successful nerd of all time.
One version which appeared on the Internet in June 2002 asserted this was the text of a commencement speech given by Bill Gates to the graduating class of
Nor is this list the work of Kurt Vonnegut, another person to whom authorship has been attributed. A line found in those versions (“From a college graduation
speech by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.”) explains why folks want to lay these random words of wisdom on his doorstep: In 1998, the Internet was swept with a narrative that has come to be known as the Vonnegut sunscreen speech. That work of inventive fiction was actually the product of Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, but Internet-circulated versions claimed it was a college graduation speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut thus became associated in the minds of some people with pithy advice to young adults.
This list is the work of
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You’re welcome.
Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you’re out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That’s what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for “expressing yourself” with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule
Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You’re welcome.
Advice columnist Ann Landers printed the first ten items (uncredited) several times, and this list was also used by radio commentator Paul Harvey. The prize for misattribution, however, has to go to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, which published the list twice in the space of three weeks in
Last updated: 25 November 2013
Brack, Elliott. “Legislator Offers Teens No-Nonsense Advice.” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. 14 June 2000 (p. J3). Sykes, Charles J. “Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School.” The San Diego Union-Tribune. 19 September 1996. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “Advice From the Experts.” 2 July 2000 (p. R1).