Funded! This project was successfully funded on December 15, 2011.

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A how-to guide for independent learning, with concrete strategies plus stories of people who learn on their own and how they do it.

Don't Go Back to School

Don’t Go Back to School  is a handbook for independent learning that shows you how to learn almost anything without school. If you’re thinking about going back to school or about the possibility of self-taught learning, read this book first! Don’t Go Back to School will help you figure out if you can do it on your own—and it’ll show you how. It might just save you a gazillion dollars in tuition fees, and spare you the yoke of student loans for years to come.

In Don’t Go Back to School, I’ll deconstruct the basic infrastructure that school provides—things like resources, expertise, evaluation, and a learning community. And I’ll profile fascinating, self-taught people, showcasing the practical ways they meet those needs. I’ve already talked to people like Cory Doctorow about learning to be a working writer, Dan Sinker about learning to code, Quinn Norton about learning neurology and psychology as a science writer, and a dozen others so far, with many more interviews planned.

The passionate learners in this book have taught themselves subjects like programming, history, writing, design, art, engineering, business, languages, philosophy, and many other skills, trades, and disciplines. They’ll tell you what they know about learning and show you how they’ve done it. Their stories will paint a picture of what learning without school is like, so you can figure out if it’s right for you. And they’ll give you the spark you need to get started and stick with it.

I’m also planning to include information on the new wave of collaborative education facilitators like Skillshare, and a set of guidelines from HR professionals about representing your self-taught skills or knowledge when trying to get a job.

Why I'm the best possible person to write this book

As a grad school dropout and a teacher at a grad program, people ask me all the time about whether or not they should head back to school. Most of them  don’t really need to. What I see is that they really want to indulge a passionate curiosity to learn. To master something new, to challenge their minds, to play with new ideas, to feel driven and inspired and absorbed. Going to school isn’t the only way to do those things.

Unless you want a job that can’t be had without a specialized degree (like pharmacist or public school teacher), and, unless it’s free, I usually advise people not to go. But the idea of learning independently can be daunting, so I started writing down my own strategies and interviewing friends who learn on their own, asking them how they do it. In my research, I've found that people who learn stuff independently develop strategies and infrastructure to give them some of the necessary things that they’d get from a school setting. I want to be able to share that learning framework so that more people can figure out how to do it on their own.

As I talked with folks about what I was working on, I got so much enthusiasm and excitement for the idea; it became clear this needed to be a larger, published project.

Here's where you come in

The money I raise will go to supporting my work interviewing and writing, paying for transcription, book design, proofreading, printing the books, and postage to send them to backers. I’ve already started the interviews and research, and completing it should take about three more months plus time to get the book printed.

If you’re not familiar with it, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model; if I don’t reach my goal by the end of the fundraiser, your account will not be charged for your pledge.

All copies of the book printed for Kickstarter backers will be numbered and signed!

Are you self-taught or a school dropout?

I'd love to hear your story and get your feedback and suggestions on this project. Please post your thoughts in the comments or get in touch with me directly!

Thanks for checking this out. Let's help everyone learn what they want to learn without going back to school!

PS: If you noticed some funny background noise on my video, that's my infant daughter Nika cheering me on!

FAQ

  • If you missed it on Kickstarter, you will still be able to get a copy of the book, if supplies hold out. If you'd like to be notified by email when the book is done, you can sign up here: http://www.kiostark.com/dont-go-back-to-school/

    Last updated:
  • It looks like it's relatively easy to produce a basic ePub file, so we will most likely send an ePub file to all backers at the digital ($15) and above level in addition to the PDF. Because ePub is the most widely usable, that's the one we'll go with. For Kindle users, you can read PDFs on the Kindle.

    Last updated:
  • Email me at kiostark at gmail and I'll send you an email interview to get started. Not everyone who I interview will be featured in the book, but everyone's experiences of learning contribute to the practical approaches the book will provide and the qualitative data bout independent learning.

    Last updated:
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    Personal consultation! I'll talk to you on the phone (or over coffee if you're in NYC) and help you decide if you should go back to school or not. You'll also get your own paperback copy of Don't Go Back to School, plus a PDF and your name in the acknowledgments.

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    Publisher credit! If you want to support this project in a big way, I'll credit you as a publisher and send copies to ten people or institutions of your choosing.

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