On February 1st, 2018, I started a new learning challenge for myself.
Over the next 6 months or so, I plan to go through the entirety of the Open Yale Courses library and complete the courses to the best of my ability, all without spending any money on tuition. You can watch the video above to learn more or keep reading.
For those of you who do not know me, I dropped out of the University of Michigan during my sophomore year because I was not finding the experience valuable towards my intellectual and professional goals. Over the last four years or so, my decision to leave has been vindicated. I’ve got a wonderful life, a great career, and I’ve gotten to spend 3-4 extra years pursuing my values on my own terms.
I’ve also helped hundreds of people skip college and have given talks about alternative education on 4 continents, often times being the only non-PhD speaker at an event.
At the same time, I always get questions that amount to “that’s great that you can build a career Derek, but what about being well-rounded?” Though I think “well-roundness” is a weak goal, and that most kids graduating college today could barely qualify as “well-rounded,” let alone competent and prepared for the world, I thought it would be fun to put the question to the test.
Can you get the “well-rounded” college education without attending college? Is it even worth it? And if it is worth it, would it be worth it if you had to pay $50,000 + per year for it and 4 years of your life?
These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer.
Along the way, I’ll share my thoughts and updates on YouTube, this blog, as well as scans of my notes. I will attempt whenever possible to complete the course materials that are provided, final exams and essays, and anything else that would be necessary to prove “competence” by traditional standards. I’ll also throw in some extra readings and things that I think are better ways to engage with material than essays that will never be ready by anyone but your professor and your uninterested classmate who didn’t do the course readings.
I should say at the outset that I’ve always been a big reader. By the time I enrolled the University of Michigan as a Classics major, I’d read the majority of the Classics PhD reading list on my own. My best educational moments have always come through a combination of reading, writing, self directed research, and discussions with interesting people, not from classrooms and certainly not from academics.
I have very little respect for the classroom environment or the college system and I fully expect that the experience of going through these courses will only further solidify my opinions.
At the same time, I do believe I will learn some valuable things and I’m excited to (hopefully) be challenged by some of these courses.