It turns out that the more a boy misbehaves in school, the more likely he is to earn a lot of money as an adult. This research comes from economists at Johns Hopkins, and in a one-two punch to conventional education, the researchers also find that misbehaving does decrease the amount that a kid learns in school, but the lost learning is irrelevant to future financial success.

I hope this means my homeschooled sons who fight all day will be high earners. But I’m pretty sure the research is talking about kids who actively refuse to be told what to do and what to learn – those are the ones who will make a lot of money.

There’s good research on Tyler Cowen’s blog, Marginal Revolution. Cowen teaches at George Mason University, and his most recent book, Create Your Own Economy, describes how life is most interesting when we are gathering lots of information from lots of places. Which is what kids do who are misbehaving. It’s not like they are sitting, staring at the wall, because of course that would not even register as bad behavior in a classroom. What the misbehaving boys are doing is investigating things they are not supposed to—dying insects and worms, the insides of desks, the undersides of girls, anything but what the teacher is talking about.

Cowen describes the world of self-directed learning, and it’s no surprise that boys who engage in self-directed learning in a  schoolroom that discourages it, often go on to do big things. Because we already have reams of data to show that self-directed learning is the most effective learning.

The problem is that we don’t really acknowledge what self-directed learning looks like. It isn’t kids working on different versions of the same map of the world. It’s not kids choosing which book to read at reading time. It’s kids being totally disruptive to the established order of the classroom.

Wired magazine sounds the alarm: American schools are training kids for a world that doesn’t exist! Wired magazine advocates that kids do discovery rather than being told what to learn. But the caveat is that discovery often doesn’t look like learning at all—discovery looks like misbehaving. Doing discovery is cause for promotion in work life and punishment in school life.