- Paperback: 214 pages
- Publisher: Kio Stark (April 10, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0988949008
- ISBN-13: 978-0988949003
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Don't Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything Paperback – April 10, 2013
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About the Author
Kio Stark is a writer, researcher, teacher, and passionate activist for independent learning. She is also the author of the novel Follow Me Down. You can find out more about her work at www.kiostark.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
The social aspect has always been one of the primary benefits that institutional learning has offered, along with a ready-made infrastructure in the form of curriculum, physical resources like libraries, and plenty of opportunities for networking. It's for this reason that I've fantasized, on and off, about grad school for over fifteen years, not for the learning, which I can do quite well on my own, but for the people and the connections. But with tuition fees and student debts spiraling out of control, depressingly low employment rates and increasing skepticism about the concrete benefits of a graduate degree (at least in the liberal arts), I kept putting it off until I eventually almost gave up on the idea.
Enter Kio Stark's 'Don't Go Back to School,' a book that aims to show people how they can still tap into those same social and infrastructural benefits that school offers without actually going. Stark isn't against going back to school per se. Rather, she believes that if you don't (or can't) for whatever reasons, it's no reason to mourn nor will you be missing out, necessarily, on a world of opportunities.
The meat of the book is an array of interviews with autodidacts from diverse fields in the arts, humanities, sciences and business. Their paths and chosen learning methods are various enough that most independent learners will be able to recognize aspects of their own experiences in these interviews as well as pick up some useful new tips.
Sandwiching the interviews are, first, Stark's impassioned argument for the validity of independent learning and, second, a systematic explanation of different approaches and methods of learning as well as ways to access infrastructural resources that once used to be the monopoly of schools. I found this section tremendously useful in that I now have a vocabulary to describe processes that I had heretofore used mostly unconsciously, like "project-driven learning" and "associative learning."
Those for whom this book might be less useful are people whose desired careers require licensing or certification (lawyers, medical practitioners, college professors, etc.), and Stark admits that for such folks there's simply no other way than to find a way to go to school. But if your chosen field lies in the arts, humanities, business and even some of the sciences, then you're in luck. And, of course, any kind of learning for learning's sake or to simply better oneself also applies.
'Don't Go Back to School' is one of those books that, for me, as a self-proclaimed autodidact, touches a deep, personal nerve. And I imagine that it will be a practical, inspiring and self-validating read for many others as well.
I don't expect an author to spoonfeed me, but from a book like this I do expect a clear, finished product instead of the raw materials that Stark offers. A book is supposed to challenge you, yes, but also to leave you feeling more satisfied and assured; this one left me a bit too confused.
Stark begins from the standpoint of acknowledging that the formal school system as we know it, at all levels, is broken. Amid the current debates taking place about the true value of a college education and the dramatically rising costs of higher education that's fostering the student debt crisis, Stark does not propose reform, but rather a radical proposal for transforming learning itself with traditional school one among many options rather than the only option.
The book is based largely on Stark's own personal research (which I would best describe as ethnographic research in which she discovered four facts garnered from her interviews that are shared by almost every successful form of learning outside of school:
- It isn't done alone.
- For many professions, credentials aren't necessary, and the processes for getting credentials are changing.
- The most effective, satisfying learning is learning that is more likely to happen outside of school.
- People who are happiest with their learning process and most effective at learning new things - in any educational environment - are people who are learning for the right reasons and who reflect on their own way of learning to figure out which processes and methods work best for them.
Stark presents the book in three sections. The first section (about 15% of the book) is her presentation of how we actually learn best and her ideas on how to go about doing that. The second and much larger section (about 60% of the book) is a series of personal stories from people who have leveraged those same approaches to learning to empower their lives and careers. The final section (about 25% of the book) offers the reader some great advice, information and resources to help the reader be an independent learner. All sections are quite valuable and I recommend you read them all. If you choose to read only part of the book, read the first and last sections since it presents all of the ideas on how to best learn as reflected in the personal stories. However, the personal stories are powerful. I think we often learn best by hearing other people's stories and I think the book holds together as a single offering that should be consumed in its entirety by a reader.
This book is now on my self-education reading recommendation list. It's a valuable contribution to the growing body of work that puts forth the idea that many of us learn best outside of the formal educational process.