Roam on Sundays VI

Lies we tell kids — Paul Graham


Hope you guys enjoyed last week’s Twitch! Starting this week, we will be moving back to Zoom for the Sunday night meetings as I found it more engaging to have the increased interaction. I encourage you all to join at 8pm EST tonight here and participate as we discuss this week’s essay.

Speaking of which, this week we covered my favourite essayist Paul Graham’s piece on the lies we tell to kids. I found it an amazing read a few years ago, and even more potent the second time around.

You can read the full set of [[notes]] and highlights on [[Roam]] here.


  • We have to unlearn all the lies we learned as kids, no one is going to do it for you

  • Shielding teenagers from the real world does them a supreme disservice

    • They enter adulthood with a false sense of confidence and a head full of lies about how the real world works

  • The biggest lie told in schools is that the way to succeed is through following the rules

  • Protecting kids from certain kinds of knowledge like how the world is a brutal, unforgiving place can help them stay motivated to learn more

    • Some of the most intelligent people seem also very innocent, like Bret Victor or Steve Wozniak

    • Failure to protect them from these facts can lead them to become cynical and unwilling to learn much more

  • One of the stickiest lies we can tell kids is telling them they have a particular ethnic or religious identity

    • Creates the us vs. them mentality

    • To set yourself apart from others, you can't just do things that are rational and believe things that are true, you have to do certain arbitrary things and believe certain falsehoods that differentiate you

      • Graham believes this is why religions spread, and why their doctrines contain such a weird combination of fantasy and wisdom—the bizarre half is what makes religions stick, and the useful part is the payload

  • One of the least excusable reasons adults lie to kids is to maintain power over them.

  • Most adults try and conceal their flaws from children and maybe it's more important for kids to respect their parents than know the truth about them

  • Most of what school teaches is lies, with politics and recent history being mostly, if not purely, spin

  • Lying to kids about sex, drugs, and why they can't swear is because we want them to remain innocent because we are conditioned through evolution to care for that which is innocent

    • If we didn't see kids as innocent, we'd find them to be just annoying, like incompetent adults

  • Parents should be honest with their about sex and drugs and tell them how pleasurable they can be, but how dangerous they can be, given that they cloud teenagers' already lousy judgement, and people twice as experienced still get burned by them


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