If our school systems are broken, how can the self motivated individual get a first class education? I reveal the best educational resources inside.

Length: 1238 words – 9-10 minutes read
Subject: I explain the problem with the modern school institution and the solution in self teaching through the internet. I list all of the resources I use to study online, all of them are completely free. I also reveal a simple trick to help you retain more information and learn 25% faster.

 

The modern school system is severely sick. From primary school to universities, students are forced to abide by an oppressive hierarchy. Autonomy in schools is rare. Occasionally you can choose subjects that you want to study; but attendance is mandatory, you have to do all your homework and you must raise your hand if you want to go to the toilet.
The problem here should be immediately obvious for anyone who read my last article on procrastination. In the article I spoke about the motivational spectrum and pointed out that moving from extrinsic and low level motivations – like being told what to do (external regulation) – required autonomy.

In order to reach the highest levels of motivation, you must make the choice yourself to do the task

If you’re never given the opportunity to decide for yourself whether you want to do something, you’ll never reach an intrinsic and powerful motivation for action. And so schools, by their very nature, inhibit motivation.

Schools impose a master/slave hierarchy

We now know for a fact that slavery was not just hugely immoral – it was also economically ineffective. Slaves rarely produced more value than they costed, because their output was of such low quality.

And the quality of their work was so bad because of the master/slave relationship. Producing bad work was the only way in which slaves could assert their autonomy. They couldn’t refuse to work, because they would be beaten, or killed. But they could protest by producing low quality work, or pretending to be stupid, or clumsy. This often lead to punishment, which would just perpetuate the problem.

We see some of the same issues manifest in school systems. Children often protest the authoritarian system by refusing to engage with learning, making no effort or pretending to be incapable. Teachers just as readily buy into the role of the master. They demand respect and obedience without first earning it.

Libertarians have a concept called the non-aggression principle (NAP). This principle states that no one should initiate the use of force against another person (extending to that person’s property and free will too). From the NAP we can derive a set of objective ethics – something that should be foundational for a child’s understanding of the world.

And yet it isn’t taught in schools. Why? Because the school system itself is aggressive in nature and violates the NAP. This problem crops up again and again – there are certain essential subjects that schools can’t teach because they reveal the trick.

If you started teaching children about the NAP,  or Aristotelian ethics, or even logical first principles, they might start to develop dangerous critical thinking skills. They wouldn’t be quite so easy to persuade, or control. Teachers would actually have to prove that they were worthy of respect. And students might leave school wondering why they have to pay so much in taxes or why they’re prevented from action that doesn’t violate the NAP but does violate some arbitrary law.

And at this point it should be pretty clear as to why schools are structured the way they are. They aren’t trying to teach kids – they’re trying train obedient proles.

Autodidact learning is your best weapon against the corrupt system

I don’t think the solution is to reform schools. Not that I don’t have ideas about how we could go about it – it just seems a waste of effort when we’ve already established that education isn’t the primary goal of school systems.

Rather, I suggest autodidact (self taught) learning as a way to supplement your education. Fortunately, we live in an age where this is easier than ever. Not only are books much more easily accessible thanks to the internet, but video lectures can now even be found online, making learning easier than ever.

I’ve been learning via online courses seriously for the last 8 years or so. By far the best approach is to seek out the subjects that you are genuinely interested in. Don’t bother trying to learn things that seem important, or useful. Only what is exciting for you.

If you do this, I promise that an interesting thing will start to happen.

You’ll enjoy learning. Maybe for the first time. That was certainly the case for me. As soon as I had my autonomy back and I could choose what to learn and when to do it, suddenly I was hugely excited about learning. Eventually watching a lecture became more enjoyable than binging on Netflix shows.

My top resources for autodidact learning

My most used resource is certainly Coursera, who offer a huge range of subjects and all of their material for free. As with many of these resources, if you wish to receive an accreditation you must pay a fee, but the real value comes from the knowledge. I’ve completed 10s of courses and never once bothered with a diploma.

Khan Academy is another popular choice. They cover the basics of many foundational subjects, which might be useful if you need to catch up with some of those. And similarly named Code Academy is apparently useful if you’re learning to program, but I haven’t used it myself (I learned in university).

Youtube is also a great resource for learning if you know how to wade through all the crap. For example, I find Every Frame a Painting to be just about the best resource for learning about cinematography. Stefan Molyneux’s channel has tons of history and philosophy related material, including an introduction to philosophy that covers the NAP. And MIT’s OpenCourseWare has recordings of a ton of MIT lectures – their computer science lectures really helped me excel at university. And I heartily recommend looking up some old Alan Watts lectures, especially those on the nature of consciousness.

Flexibility of time is not the only benefit of watching prerecorded material. You can also use my super secret tip to speed up your learning by 25%!

My pro-tip: Set the playback speed of the video to 1.25x to increase learning rate by 25%!

I’ve found that this is the sweet spot for better comprehension and learning pace. With a 25% speed increase, I understand just as much, but I feel a little more engaged and focused. At 1x speed I tend to find my attention wanes quickly. At 1.5x speed, I find myself needing to rewind to catch things I’ve missed.

Now if you prefer the classroom environment, interactivity with a teacher and a set in stone time for learning, there are options available to you. I’ve used the Shaw Academy in the past and found them to be good. The foundational classes are often available for free, but from there they’ll up-sell you a diploma and the advanced course. But even the intro courses are information dense and useful.

And one last resource – The Great Courses offer some really great courses, but these aren’t free. If you’ve got the cash, or, some other method of obtaining the material, then I would recommend checking them out too.

Edit: Some other suggestions from readers:

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