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The Villaj Idiut: Independence Day

I will admit that sometimes I stand in the shower and think to myself: If I dropped this bar of soap in a pile of mud, would it be dirty? It is, after all, soap.

And every once in a while I’ll drive down I-5 to Los Angeles and wonder to myself: Why don’t they just make the entire road a rumble strip, and then I’d never lose focus?

Ah, life’s mysteries.

There is one, though, that I can’t figure out and for which I don’t have an answer.

If you drive along San Antonio Road, going from downtown Los Altos toward El Camino Real, there is a little strip mall on the right side. It has a dentist’s office, a key maker, a Mexican restaurant, a German bakery and the School for Independent Learners.

The School for Independent Learners.

Wait. What?

I literally have a thought bubble over my head. It is empty.

School for Independent Learners. Talk about an oxymoron – except that, from a marketing perspective at least, I’m not sure you want “school” and “moron” necessarily associated, no matter what the sense.

I picture an Independent Learner as this highly cerebral, socially awkward intellectual in a grand library, with great cathedral ceilings, towering stacks of thick, dusty books, the metronomical sound of a ticking clock on the wall – one where you have to occasionally restart the pendulum by hand – and an owl on the inside of the window ledge, his head twitching back and forth watching for the occasional mouse that scrapes along the wood floors.

These Independent Learners, in my mind, are poring over wieldy tomes, going back to the stacks when they can’t find an answer, musing about the mysterious workings of this and other worlds as they stare off into the ethers – ether, of course, being the scientifically incorrect nomenclature in honor of the Greek god Aether.

I don’t picture them sitting in a barren office in a strip mall next to a dentist office in Los Altos.

And I certainly don’t picture a bunch of these grand maesters collaborating at one educational institution right under our noses, an entire School of Independent Learners, if you will. I have to tell you, it sort of feels like a Dan Brown book, with the Illuminati operating all around us, hidden in plain view.

It seems they could have convened right up the road at Stanford, perhaps the most prestigious university in the world, where existential thoughts and ideas come flowing out of Hoover Tower like radio waves transmitting from an antenna.

But that probably would have been too obvious, too much of a cliché. Instead, they head-faked and set up shop in our little Silicon Valley hamlet, within spitting distance of the fortune cookies at Chef Chu’s – another of life’s mysteries.

I hope one of the things these Independent Learners ponder in their school is how that key maker just down the row stays in business. Think about that. With the cost of rent for commercial space in Los Altos, and the cost of remaking a key approximately $3 a pop, you’d have to make something like 2,000 keys a month just to break even. I’m not even sure there are 2,000 doors in Los Altos – except for the Doors of Perception that those Independent Learners are seeking.

There are so many questions. How do you recruit all these Independent Learners to this school, and from where? Do they give scholarships? Does the school have a cumulative GPA if everyone is learning independently? Where is the cafeteria? Do they have a football team? When are the dances?

I guess there is one huge upside with a school like this, an issue that other schools seem to have to confront on a daily basis. With Independent Learners, you never have to worry about bullying.

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