"In a society deeply committed to time-wasting, Lincoln Stoller has given us something of a miracle in his 'Learning Project,' a window out of our own claustrophobic darkness into the consciousness of others, a momentary intimacy with the essences which animate flesh. What learning project could match this one?" — John Taylor Gatto

This is a free book that I have written for teenagers interested in taking control of their lives. It addresses learning in a general sense by interviewing different people and asking them to describe their learning process, why it's important, how they do it, and what it's done for them.

The interviews are with young, middle-aged, and older people working or interested in either of 11 different fields. The same interviews can be viewed by field of interest, by age, or by name. You can switch from one view to another using the radio buttons shown below. Each interview can be read online, or downloaded as a PDF document.

For some people school is important, for others it isn't. Curiosity, determination and self-confidence keep coming up in these stories, as do the teachers people have had and the discoveries they have made. Judgment is critical. Learn to trust your judgment, your own judgment.

"The greatest act of rebellion anyone can ever hope to achieve... is to actually break the mold and THINK for yourself: to open your eyes." — Jamie Stuart, from "Eyes Wide Shut"

The Education of Achilles by Chiron,
by Pompeo Batoni, 1746

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Melencolia I,
by Albrecht Dürer, 1514
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Middle Age
Late in Life
Life Stage
William Ashburton
"Back then I didn’t care if I was alive or dead. I wouldn’t kill myself, but I’d get to scary points doing drugs that would nearly kill me… I got their attention in a way I didn’t want. I didn’t want them to send me away or anything. But I got too deep into everything…" (more)
Sonya Peters
"When I was at Sudbury (school) I would sit there going, 'Oh, there’s a black spot on a white wall.' I’m staring at the white wall because there’s nothing else to do. There were things to do, but I was too lazy to do them…" (more)
Andrew Reese Crowe
"I was interested in facts and I absorbed them kind of like a sponge. As I got older I got interested in why things happened, not just military history and the engineering aspect of it, but also the political aspects of it. I became less interested in facts and more interested in the reasons behind things… (more)
Oliver Pierce
"The exact moment I decided to leave school was the summer between 9th and 10th grades… I finally decided that I was not going to go back to public school. Then I went and threw up in the woods for about half an hour. I was really nervous about the decision. But I’m glad definitely, definitely glad I did…" (more)
Mary Ann Manais
"Until I reach a mature state — they think we’re supposed to be mature at this stage, just entering college, but it’s not necessarily true… when I become a junior or senior, when I’m wiser and older, that’s when I’ll start to realize what I really want to do and what’s there for me…" (more)
Dave Williamson
"You start with a foundation and you build on it. After you’ve built on that, another problem arises and you build on that, make that problem your cornerstone and keep building,… and build, and build, and build … There is no excuse, no excuse for failure to engage. Failure to act is unacceptable…" (more)
"I’ve just gotten older and the things that seemed so far away aren’t so far away anymore… The time is getting shorter and shorter. It’s like you realize that life doesn’t go on forever! It’s not a sad realization. Maybe it’s because you grow a lot when you hit your middle teens. You make a big, big leap in growth… So I’d think, 'Oh, wow. I’m getting kind of old now'…" (more)
Hamilton Shu
"School, for me, started at home… back when I was about 3. I remember my parents trying to teach me numbers, they had these little cards and they’d hold them in front of me and ask me what number it was. I would answer them, and then that night I would go into their room and hide them so that I didn’t have to do it the next day… ” (more)
Jessica Henry
"One of the cool things… has been becoming more aware of what was going on at the time, like in religion, in literature, I can relate all the different ideas together and things start flowing… I jump off with thoughts like, 'I wonder if he was writing this when…' and I start going on with that…" (more)
Jaz Lin
"It’s very important to follow your instincts and whatever feels right, because everyone has their own path. Take the experiences as they come, and the people. Remember that every person that walks by is full of stories! Don’t look down on anybody for what you see them initially to be …" (more)
Mike Short
"Sometimes I have to wait for the right things to come, I have to wait for things to come to me sometimes, not go to it, or try to. It may sound like the weirdest thing in the world but… I guess that’s the way it is in some things…" (more)
Caitlin McKenna
"The outside world is moving, always moving — maybe not forward exactly, but in all directions. We have to keep up in our heads — and I have to keep up in my head — so I started making my own worlds. I had to record them. That’s what writing is for me: recording the worlds in here, in my head…" (more)
Alice Placert
"For me, the process of becoming an adult was very… abrupt … I got raped, and I got pregnant with my son, at a party by some random guy who I don’t know, and I still don’t know who he is. And after that I went nuts. I was 20…" (more)
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Phantom Street Artist
"And I wouldn’t change anything, you know, except for the loss of great people in my life, the loss of individuals to insanity, tragedy and murder. Those are the only things I would change…"  (more)
Gudrun Sperrer
"…believe in the good things… believe that it’s worth at least to save one thing for future generations. And it’s worth it, that’s something important. And you don’t lose that feeling. When you’re adult and you haven’t learned that, it becomes very hard to keep believing in things when you see that nobody else does, or everything’s against you…” (more)
Computers "Checking facts is God’s work. Before you write stuff down you need to make sure it’s accurate. I think that should be one of the Ten Commandments. There really is no better way to learn stuff than to have to write it down for other people and stand by your work…" (more)
Computers "What you’re supposed to do (is) work hard at what you don’t really like very much, and then later you get time to play. I never lived my life that way, and I could never imagine doing it. I’ve always lived my life… I mean the decision to go to Grad School was fine but that was the last decision I made that was not, “Let me do what I enjoy. Let me do what makes sense for me. Let me do what I feel fulfilled in…” (more)
 Tom Hurwitz
"My high school English teacher… was a 'bachelor'… He had all of the conflict of a person who hasn’t full realized, hasn’t allowed his inner self, hasn’t allowed the sexuality to come out, and a lot of that came in to the intensity of his teaching. We fought like cats and dogs, and he opened all of literature. It was just incredible…" (more)
Simon James
"Prejudice is something I live with every single day. I have been beaten. I was at a party one night when I was 18 years old, and when people found out that I was Native six people jumped on me… I lasted for 20 minutes against 6 people,… I was actually the one that was dragged away by the police that night… (more)
Medicine Mononucleosis was the biggest blessing, because otherwise I was… dying in that school. Getting sick and having people spend a little time with me, and recognize that maybe I did want to learn something, that I did have an inner life, because I certainly didn’t have one at school…" (more)
Lynn Hill
"When somebody is passionate about something they create their own reality. Your positive thoughts about whatever you do brings the opportunity, it attracts the opportunity… You have more power than you’re aware of just by virtue of what you think. It’s an aura that you create…" (more)
Neil deGrasse Tyson
"I’ve always had a love for the universe, and that has been since I was 9 years old… growing up in New York City where there is no night sky… (When) the stars came out (in the planetarium)… I thought it was a hoax… because there are not that many stars. I said, 'I know how many stars there are and it’s not that!'…" (more)
Trade "So I decided, well, I’m young and full of energy, so I’m going into the logging business… I learned a lot of lessons through that. It was really good experience. I never would have seen that. I could have been buying an education when I was 50, but I was doing it in my 20’s. It taught me a lot about people…" (more)
Paul Widerman
"Our high school wrestling coach, Lou Giani, was so good… that there were people who moved to the town to be in his tutelage… That got me in the fold of seeing how he was training people over years. I started to see the discipline with which he approached his craft, and how he really developed people over a long period of time…" (more)
 Matt Forbeck
"I don’t let myself be afraid of things… If something scares me I make sure to go face it right away and take care of it… I (make) sure that I (stand) up to it… If you do things out of fear, then you’re doing only negative things. You’re never going to be building anything; you’ll never do anything hopeful…" (more)
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Crista Dahl
"The biggest regret I have is that I’m going to die! I have a limited amount of time … I would hope I would be able to communicate some of these things that I’ve done in a better way, and if I do that, that would be nice, it would be really nice…" (more)
Jerome Lettvin
"I started out as a poet and became a physician, then became an electrical engineer, then a neurobiologist. It was never with any sense of searching for what people wanted to know. It was just to understand the thing that I was looking at in a way that made sense. That is a far more difficult job than writing equations…" (more)
Nancy White
"I went through school thinking that since I was different, and since my father had taught me to think that I was so smart… there was something wrong with everybody else. Of course in today’s world people would say that something was wrong with me and it was everybody else who was OK. I was very fortunate that I missed that…" (more)
Fred Beckey
"I started out being pretty good in high school math, but then I got tired of it. I’m not interested in equations and all that, it’s too abstract for me. If I had to start over again, I’ll tell you, I’d just assume get a job selling printing. Easy job, drive around in a car, shake hands, talk to the pretty secretary… and I’d take off on Friday afternoon for the High Sierra…" (more)
Charles Hard Townes
"When I was a youngster I was very interested in natural history. I used to walk in the woods and the streams and catch butterflies, and watch birds and look at the stars, and so on. All the universe was fascinating to me…" (more)
Phylis Schlafly
"I grew up a very shy person. I wasn’t a leader… Some leaders are born, and I was not a born social person. I had to learn it all… Why did I have to learn it? Because I wanted to accomplish certain goals. How did I learn it? Basically by running for office…" (more)
Donald Dubois
"When the time comes to exit this life it’s a good idea to go with the smallest possible amount of evil baggage. A person would be well advised not to load yourself up with a lot of stuff you’ve got to account for. A young person can start working on that right away…" (more)
Clarence See
"One of the things that got me interested in flying was that part of the farm that was on the river flats… they’d practice approaches and forced landings. When they’d pull up on a missed approach I’d see the Standards and Wacos going by. I landed in all the fields that I dreamed of landing in as a kid…" (more)
Lou Giani
""I’m talking with kids all the time, all the time... And they’re listening because they know that I am really for them, and it’s not only about winning and losing — but I do want them to win, and I want our team to win also — the prime objective here is to make them better kids, stronger kids, and kids who are confident in themselves..." (more)
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Lincoln Stoller
"The details of the present, which I cannot yet recall, fill me with dread. I need protection; I feel like a child. My sadness arises from realizing these memories are a just reverie, a hopeful daydream, but nothing more. The life that seemed a reality moments before was just an hallucination… " (more)

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