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Dale J. Stephens is quite a character. He is young and ambitious, not an uncommon combination for a person in their twenties. When Stephens was a teenager, he came home from school one day and declared to his parents that he was going to quit college. It was not for the characteristics of adolescent rebellion, dabbling with the wrong crowd or to obtain more videogame play time, rather, he was on a mission “not to let his schooling interfere with his education,” as Mark Twain once put it.
Fast forward a couple of years, Stephens has become a Thiel Fellow, started the ‘Uncollege’ movement, travelled around the world for various speaking engagements, and has a book due for publishing early this year by Penguin.
Stephens’ mantra is the failed economics of college fees, commercialization of universities, having to take courses that do not apply to your field, and the recent emergence of available free online courses. In Stephens’ words: “I lead a social movement to change the notion that college is a prerequisite to success.”
In essence, ‘Uncollege’ is Stephens’ response to the current education system, which he considers broken. It is a movement, a call to change mindsets about college, and a platform for like-minded people to think, “Hey, I’m not the only one who feels this way about college.” The movement’s main initiatives are the ‘Hackademic Camp’ and the ‘Gap Year Program’. The former has a program that facilitates self-building and challenges participants to craft ways to improve the current education system. The latter is a yearlong program costing some $12,000 to participate. It looks like a longer version of the ‘Hackademic Camp’, boasting an opportunity to live abroad for 3 months, engage listeners in a conference, create an enviable resume and enhance your work experience.
How successful has Stephens been? There have been both likeminded thinkers and critics. Nevertheless, amidst the support and criticism, it cannot be denied that he has achieved a lot for his age. It can be attributed back to his personality; this young fellow knows who he is, what he is doing, and how to communicate that to the world.
Should I Quit College Then?
Quitting college to pursue better opportunities – is this model a befitting response to all education systems worldwide? Is it one that can be universally accepted, regardless of culture? Does the notion apply to every academic, regardless of type of course study? These questions are open-ended, and have been a great cause for debate in recent years.
Stephens’ curriculum does open up networking possibilities and the chance to travel, both of which are appealing to the fresh high school graduate. But then again, college is also a place to network, organize events, create startups and journey on self-discovery. Rachel Alexander nicely sums up why she’d rather stay in college here.
Rather than limit your response to either a narrow minded retort or gullible support, consider Stephens’ point of view, and come up with your own conclusions. Go through his ‘Uncollege Manifesto,’ his resources, his ideas. You may not be in full favor of implementing the ‘no college’ idea yourself, but by just going through his material you’d start to think, ”What could I actually do to enhance my learning as a college student?” You’d start to take notice of student opportunities and student-based organizations. You’d value your education more; to not merely see education as classroom grades, but as a livelong process, absorbing what you can wherever you go.
To end, here are Stephens’ twelve steps to self-directed lifelong learning:
Image Courtesy : UnCollege