How much can one person learn without going to an institution? Can we be ‘successful’ without academic credentials? Is there a limit to how much one person can learn? These are all questions that have occupied my mind for some time and I’ve decided to explore the answers.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had the belief that academic institutions are overrated and that most people limit their potential by focusing on becoming an expert in just one field.
I’m going to challenge the status quo. I decided to drop out of university to pursue self-education. Over the next few months, or perhaps years, I’m going to teach myself a number of different skills and I’ll share my journey. How much can we learn and how far can we go without an institution or qualifications? That’s just what I’m going to find out!
Why pursue self-education?
There are a ton of positive reasons to pursue self-education and I could write many books on the subject, but here are three of the most important:
A) There are no more guardians of knowledge. When most people decide to learn something new like a language or how to play an instrument they usually first think about finding a class or getting themselves a tutor.
We’re living in the information age where practically anything we want to know or learn is available at our fingertips. Once upon time the only way to learn how to fix fix your car, program a computer or maybe fix your kitchen sink was to attend a class or get someone to teach you. Those days are behind us. There are no more guardians of knowledge. Information is free, it’s flowing in abundance and it’s up to us to grab as much of it as we want.
Surprisingly, the idea that universities are not as relevant as they once were hasn’t caught on as much as I would like, and I intend to help spread the idea that we can learn anything we want, whenever we want, without signing up for lifelong debt.
B) Learning is a lifelong process. There’s no one-stop solution for learning anything. Institutions promise to teach you everything you’ll need to survive in your chosen field; that’s false, fake, deceiving and downright fraudulent! There will always be more to learn and there isn’t a single source that can teach you everything you need to know.
That’s why I promote the importance of learning how to learn: so you’re ready for any and all challenges that lie ahead. Self-education is a great tool for learning what methods and techniques work for your personality, and once you know how to learn you’re ready to teach yourself ANYTHING.
C) Self-Education is cheap. I don’t have much to add. We all like to save money. Money is one of those things we can never have enough of. The cost of going to university today is ridiculous, and as prices rise so does the incentive to educate ourselves – and let’s not not forget all of those unemployed graduates…
What am I going to learn?
I’ll be teaching myself how to build and design websites, computer programming, how to draw, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.
Why have I decided to learn these skills specifically?
Web-design and programming
Computers and the internet is the future of education. I have many ideas for how technology can be used to change the way we educate ourselves and I want to bring these ideas to life; it only makes sense that I become more knowledgeable and skilled in the building of applications and websites.
Learning to draw
I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. I’ve tried before but I didn’t succeed. I think that’s because I wanted to learn for the wrong reasons. But now I have different reasons: I want another way to communicate my ideas and I want a more personal way of capturing the beauty I see in the world.
Drawing is also one of those skills commonly believed to require talent. I don’t believe in talent and I certainly don’t have talent for drawing. Every artist I’ve met has worked extremely hard at developing their skills. By learning how to draw I’ll demonstrate that with hard work and dedication we can achieve anything.
Spanish, Italian and Japanese
I’m already a student of these languages but I’m including them as part of this project because I’m not going to stop studying them and they’ll continue to take up my time.
How will I measure success?
Mastery of any skill is a lifelong mission so It’s important to have clear defined goals.
These are my targets:
- Web design: Design and build an education based website for public use.
- Computer programming: Publish an application in the Apple appstore.
- Drawing: Get a stranger to pay me to draw their portrait.
- Spanish: Pass a C2 examination.
- Italian: Pass a C2 examination.
- Japanese: Pass a JLPT 1 examination
Learning is about the journey rather than the destination, so I’m going against conventional wisdom by not setting myself a deadline; it may take one,two, three or more years to hit every target, but we’ll see.
What do you think about self-education? Is it going to one day replace universities?
Artwork by the amazing Anne Ballaran