The Bizarre Truth About Elon Musk's Very Exclusive Private School

In 2014, Elon Musk took his five children out of one of Los Angeles' most distinguished private schools. Although the school has a prestigious reputation for educating gifted children, the eccentric entrepreneur felt he could do better. So he founded Ad Astra (Latin for "To the Stars"), an extremely exclusive private school that Ars Technica reported aimed to "revolutionize education in the same way Tesla ... disrupted transportation, and SpaceX the rocket industry." His five sons — a set of twins and a set of triplets, born in 2004 and 2006, respectively — made up more than half of the school's inaugural class. The others were children of SpaceX employees.

"I just didn't see that the regular schools were doing the things that I thought should be done," Musk said in 2015. "So I thought, well let's see what we can do. Maybe creating a school would be better." Ad Astra had no grades and focused on subjects that Musk believes the kids of Generation Alpha — those born between 2010 and 2025, the first born entirely in the 21st century — will face in the world of tomorrow. Ad Astra had a "heavy emphasis" on subjects like science, engineering, mathematics, and ethics, but not so much on other artistic or extracurricular pursuits like music or sports. Even languages weren't taught, as Musk believes we'll all be speaking through computer translators soon enough.

Robots, evil AIs, nuclear politics, interstellar travel, and flamethrowers

The Ad Astra curriculum followed the recent trend in education of project-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning, but in addition, it was definitely influenced by the interplanetary travel-obsessed entrepreneur's particular interests. According to Quartz, prospective students answered one of three "synthesis" questions on their application. One had them determine the best of 11 fictional planets for human colonization. Another proposed that they find a prospective buyer for a painting found after the death of a fictional artist. The third question had students allot the blame for an environmental disaster among the parties involved, including a mysterious "puppetmaster," who the application described as "a wealthy individual who is afraid that new regulations could affect their business empire."

Ad Astra was very popular among wealthy L.A. parents who wanted an exclusive education for their kids, and it naturally posed many questions about privilege, equality, and the fact that one super rich eccentric dude (who sometimes comes across as possibly being an alien) was financing the whole thing. The school is no longer functioning, but as Interesting Engineering reported in September 2020, the new Astra Nova ("New Star") school was recently founded by the same people and upon the same principles as its predecessor. Its website claims that "we focus our energy on what really matters to the development of our students: their disposition towards learning and complexity, their ability to work effectively in a team, and their capacity to make ethical decisions."