I have long been interested and passionate about education – both in terms of educating myself and understanding how people learn. After completing high school I spent much time reading, listening to lectures and taking a variety of online courses on topics ranging from education theory to economics, history and philosophy. Two of the most instrumental in setting me on my current path were Leonard Peikoff’s Philosophy of Education series through the Ayn Rand Institute, and Jason Jewell’s Western Civilisation courses found on Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom (disclosure: affiliate link). The impact of the content – while great – was much less profound than the unintended, broader influence they had on me.
The Philosophy of Education lectures opened my eyes to the myriad of ideas on the topic of education. It was incredibly refreshing and thought provoking to hear Peikoff explain what an organised, purposeful and systematic classical education might look like. I was so captivated I took 10 times the amount of notes (on about 10 hours of content) than I took during my four and a half years at university. Throughout my remaining time at uni, I would often revisit these notes and contrast them with the public school curriculum and related ideas espoused by lecturers and discussed in tutorials. I quickly came to the conclusion there was no reason why the current model of education was necessary or desirable. If anything the one-size-fits-all model is an attack on diversity and individuality. At the time I imagined creating my own school using Peikoff’s philosophy as a foundation, for kids(or their parents), who wanted an alternative model.
I’ve since moved on from thinking that curricula or certain subjects ought to be imposed on anyone – I believe that authentic, meaningful and worthwhile learning comes from pursuing personal passions and interests. It is not something people are subjected to by an external force. That said, I am indebted to Peikoff for exposing me to alternative conceptions of education and helping me escape the narrow paradigm that university (and society) remains steadfastly chained to. His series prompted me to think, learn and find out about different styles of education that have been successful, produced great people, and that also treat learning (and the learners) in a radically different way.
As for the Western Civilisation lecture series, although it is an exceptional course both well delivered and curated, what it achieved for me was an unintentional resurrection of my entrepreneurial and creative spirit. By mid 2016 I will have a single page website that will feature my idea in action. The value was not so much in the content – which I have largely forgotten less than two years later (though I did take 108 pages of notes). It did get me thinking about creating however, and I have an idea that might turn out to be really cool and valuable (assuming it has not been done already). Coming up with this idea brought me to the personal realisation that knowledge for its own sake counts for very little. It does not matter what you know until you do something with it – until you put what you learn into practice.
Other sources that have had a pronounced impact on me in these areas include:
• Roslyn Ross’ A Theory of Objectivist Parenting (Slightly condensed video version) – Really helpful for solidifying my belief that unschooling is the best parenting style in terms of learning, fostering healthy relationships and raising kids in an operating system of mutual respect rather than an operating system of control and coercion. This also lead me to Alfie Kohn’s Punished By Rewards, which thankfully undid the university brainwashing I had accepted on the pernicious subject of ‘positive reinforcement’ (bribery). It also laid out the importance of intrinsic motivation (and the harm of extrinsic motivation) in terms of both learning and developmental consequences.
• Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn – Critiques the harmful and destructive effects of traditional schooling and explains why educational freedom leads to the best outcomes for kids and how they are naturally created to learn that way.
• Sandra Dodd’s Radical Unschooling Facebook Group – I didn’t realise how many smaller things I had not thought through about unschooling until I found that group. It has and continues to be a source of enlightenment for both building healthy relationships, and critically assessing how kids are raised in an unschooling environment.
• The Praxis Blog – Continual source of tangible and actionable (as well as thought provoking) ideas, self improvement suggestions, success stories and more. Nothing inspires me to create, build and become the best version of myself as intensely as the Praxis blog.
• Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead – Revived my desire to forge my own path, do my own thing regardless of what others might think or say, and clarified the value and necessity of living for ones self and finding worth in myself and the work I do – not the approval or validation of others.
• Tom Woods Show – One of the two podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. Tremendously helpful for navigating various topics within the realms of economics and human freedom. The other podcast which I find valuable is The Isaac Morehouse Podcast – similar topics with a stronger tilt toward entrepreneurship.
• Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson and Gene Callahan’s Economics for Real People have both helped me understand and think more critically about causal relationships, unintented consequences and provided the groundwork for my future study of human action.
There are many others that I could include, this is just a short list of the ones which have most profoundly impacted me.