What is this?

The purpose of this first blog post is reveal my next big project titled ‘Graduate Unschool’.  I am obsessed with learning and skill acquisition, and although I have had a largely positive experience in college, I am moving away from the traditional college model to attempt my largest and most ambitious project ever.  Instead of attending a graduate institution in the fall I will be spending my time and energy “studying” at a graduate program of my own design.  It will consist of five courses, with end goals and deadlines, much like a traditional graduate program, but with a few major changes.

First, each course will be built on a completely different learning method.  Challenging my assumptions about learning and trying new study strategies is what I hold responsible for my success as an undergraduate; Through these experiments I developed the techniques I currently use to learn 2-3x the normal course load in half the time, and to routinely end up in the top of most of these classes.  My project will focus as much on learning material as it will testing how I learn to help myself develop better learning strategies, which I have found to be the greatest force multiplier on my life.  If I can learn faster, then I can gain more depth and breadth in the same amount of time.

Second, I will be developing the courses myself.  In college some topics felt very valuable and left a positive impact on my life, but others were simply regurgitated during a test and never used again.  Rote memorization, finals worth 70% of my grade, and other pointless stressors and time sucks will not be a part of my program.  Test taking is for people who want to be good a taking tests (a very valuable, but nontransferable skill).  Instead I want to develop skills and improve myself, not get a certain grade on a final, so I will structure my courses so that the vast majority of my time is spent on skill development.

In addition, I will be public and transparent about the project.  My college transcript only provides the title and grade I earned in each course.  This is fine for a first order approximation of what I learned, but I want more to show for all my work.  My courses and all my work will be hosted on my website, organized neatly so anyone can see all the work I’ve done, the skills I develop in the process, and can benefit from my insights.  It is from the sharing of knowledge that intellectual progress is possible.  Imagine how different the world would be if Newton or Archimedes never shared their ideas and hid their breakthroughs in personal notebooks.  My project should be useful for others looking to learn more, faster, or who are just curious about exploring (very unconventional) learning methods and topics.

Finally, this will be much more intense.  The end goals I have developed for each class currently seem impossible for me to accomplish individually in a year, and I will be attempting five of them in ~6 months, simultaneously.  I’m setting myself up to fail, but even if I fall short of my goals, I will achieve much more than if I set a more reasonable goal.  Alternatively if I get close to finishing a goal it will be much more exciting.  Either way the stakes are much higher this time.

While the project won’t officially start until roughly the beginning of the fall semester I will be continuing to write about it as I am doing the background work and a few pilot projects in the meantime.  This blog will be updated about once a week.  Next week I will reveal the courses I am taking this fall, which should further illustrate why this is so different from a traditional school experience.