"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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Ashburton
Artist
Beckey
Crowe
Dahl
Dubois
Dyson
Forbeck
Gerazuk
Giani
Henry
Lin
Hill
Hurwitz
James
Kellogg
Lettvin
Manais
McKenna
Murrain
Pierce
Peters
Placert
Plotkin
Schlafly
See
Short
Shu
Sperrer
Stoller
Townes
Tyson
White
Widerman
Williamson
Topic
Life Stage
Name
   
Art
Early
Ashburton, William
"So I stabbed her… with a pencil. That was bad. I’d never done anything like that before. I just got so mad so quickly that I thought it was OK (laughs… sighs), but it wasn’t. My Dad said I was lucky she didn’t press charges. What could she have pressed charges for? I don’t think it would have killed her… (sighs) Oh, what a life…" (more)
Art
Middle
Artist, Phantom Street
"The one thing that I’ve learned… is that the most important thing you have is your ability is to change your perceptions — thoughts, feelings — into the positive. If you live in regret, you’re not living in the positive, today or tomorrow. So I really don’t have any regrets …" (more)
 Outdoors
Late
 Beckey, Fred
"You know, you get asked this, 'Why do people climb?' There’s got to be a reason … I can’t figure it out. It’s a lot easier to play tennis or golf, bicycle; a lot less stress, not dangerous, doesn’t have the risk, doesn’t have the suffering. Climbing’s got a lot of suffering, a lot of it." (more)

 Computers

 Early
 Crowe, Andrew Reese
"I read fast and remembered a lot. I have this really weird thing — it’s true for a lot of things — the way I learn is I accumulate this massive store of data and then I try to figure out how it works… Once I knew enough words to understand what I was reading my comprehension jumped from nothing… to testing at 13th grade level…" (more)
Art
Late
Dahl, Crista
"You should really pay attention to all of you. That’s one of the difficult things with the educational system I think for some people. I’ve run into some people who are well educated, who have all of that, and have no relationship to their body at all…" (more)
 Trade
Late
 Dubois, Donald
"I don’t know how much the younger people absorb from TV, and the newspapers and whatnot … whether they’re interested in it and get that much into it, but if they are, then just thinking for themselves is the most important thing in the world. Because what’s being focused on them, on all of us, is a misguided picture of what it’s really like up there…" (more)
Computers
Middle
Dyson, Esther
"You have to figure it out for yourself. A lot of unhappiness comes from people using someone else’s ladder. You need to design your own ladder and climb that one. Otherwise you get to the top of someone else’s mountain and you don’t really want to be there…" (more)
 Writing
 Middle
 Forbeck, Matt
"The thing about being a creative soul is that you have to have an ego about it. If you don’t think you can do better than what other people are doing, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it… If you don’t believe in yourself, then why should anybody else?…" (more)
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 Outdoors
 Early
 Gerazuk, Ella
EllaGerazuk "How is learning important to me? I think we all know how to learn. It’s a normal thing. My curiosity really pushes me to learn. I like learning at my own pace: if I find something interesting, something I want to learn, I can learn about it…" (more)
 Wrestling
 Late
 Giani, Lou
"We’re going to tell him the truth. What he can do. All we’ve got to do is keep talking about how good he can be, and then work on that. Work with him one on one, and talk to him one on one. You keep on building on that until he goes to the top: where ever he can go... and he knows he did his best. And we’ve been telling him it, too. So he’s been successful and he feels great about himself. No one’s ever going to take that away from him..."  (more)
 Society
 Early
 Henry, Jessica
"When I stood on stage the energy was so alive! I had the responsibility of molding that energy and bringing attention, it was just incredible… From that experience I really learned my bliss. Bliss meaning something that absolutely makes me feel alive, in that energy of being on stage…" (more)
 Society
 Early
Lin, Jaz
"You may often be alone, but you’re never, ever, ever lonely until you allow yourself to be lonely, because everything’s alive. Our ancestors walked under the same sky that we are looking up at,… under the glow of the same sun, sleeping under the same moon and stars… so many animals, and so many people, and so many spirits blowing through the wind, and that is so special…" (more)
 Outdoors
 Middle
 Hill, Lynn
"I took advantage of the opportunities that came my way, but they came my way because of who I am and what I was doing… In the end people seem to find inspiration in the fact that through determination and focus I have been able to do things that other people haven’t done…" (more)
 Film
 Middle
 Hurwitz, Tom
"You had said that you wanted to find out what motivated people, and I’ve thought about that, and I don’t think I can tell you one thing that motivates me, but certainly love motivates me, and also anger motivates me – all my life – and hope motivates me. Love, anger, and hope…" (more)
 Film
 Middle
James, Simon
"Quit lying to people, you know? Accept responsibility for your own actions. And that’s where knowledge is so much more important than schooling. These are things that aren’t offered in education, it’s something that you have to seek yourself…" (more)
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 Trade
 Middle
Kellogg, Tom
"Take the time and think about what you really want to be, and when you decide what you want to be, pursue it with all you’ve got. Be the best that you can be… Just always stay focused, Lincoln, always… There are opportunities out there. Anything you want to do…" (more)
 Medicine
 Late
 Lettvin, Jerome
"You see, you’re asking me how I go about things, I go about things in a way that has nothing to do with what universities teach. It’s very different from what universities tell you to do, what teachers tell you to do. You make it up as you go along, and god knows how it comes out; you don’t know…" (more)
 Medicine
 Early
 Manais, Mary Ann
"You have a weakness that you have to work on, and after you work on that it becomes a strength. So my weakness was my self-courage and my drive – I didn’t have too much at first because I was a kid, I was a child then. And I still consider myself not as an adult just because I’m here at college. I’m an average teenager who’s just getting into real life… " (more)
 Writing
 Early
 McKenna, Caitlin
"The 9-11 attack on the Trade Center… was quite a shock to me. Before that I thought the stuff on the news had little impact on my life, but this did. The whole world seemed to shudder and I needed to do something in my own world to reflect this shift. I couldn’t just let it go, I had to analyze it, to work it over, maybe start doing something different. Writing for me is just what came out of that. I guess… it’s hard to explain…" (more)
 Computers
 Middle
Murrain, Michelle
Michelle Murrain "I think if there’s one thing that I would do differently — I don’t know if this would really change my decisions, but I think it’s one of the threads that really took me a long time, and as I said I’m still working on this — it’s to really love who I am. And I think that I didn’t always appreciate who I was…" (more)
 Film
 Early
 Pierce, Oliver
"I think you can learn pretty much anything you can learn in school, out of school. You can, that’s a fact. All the information is obtainable… What you can’t do out of school that you can do in school is get a piece of paper that says this is what you know… There are more things that you can learn out of school than you can learn in school. You can learn anything out of school…" (more)
 Biology
 Early
 Peters, Sonya
"(Then I came to) the realization that I could actually get something that I wanted. That I could actually learn something. 'Oh, you can sit down and you can read this book and you can learn it, learn what’s inside.' When before I thought you needed a teacher to teach you everything…" (more)
Writing
Early
Placert, Alice
"It always feels better to be able to take care of yourself, and to be responsible for your own choices. At the end of the day, when you look back on your life and what you’ve done, you have to answer to yourself… I can honestly say that I would not change anything in my life, at all, that has happened, because I’m really happy… I can’t imagine a different life…" (more)
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Medicine
Middle
Plotkin, George
What’s eternal is knowledge… that web that grows and keeps extending to the horizon. The horizon that we can see goes further still; it’s an infinity that you cannot even approximate. It is beyond logic, and it’s out there… We’re all Columbus. We’re all setting out. The risk of drowning is real, and the risk for success is real…" (more)
 Society
 Late
Schlafly, Phylis
"Grievances are like flowers: if you water them they will grow. So little grievances grow into big grievances, and it’s so unfortunate! Everybody’s got problems, and there’s sin in the world, but move on and make your life what you want it to be! … " (more)
Trade
Late
See, Clarence
"My grandfather was a farmer. He was an inspiration to me my whole life, even though he passed away when I was quite young. Living there on the farm I spent all my time with him… He was a master barn builder. But he made his money raising tobacco. He ran this farm for a captain in the civil war…" (more)
Wrestling
Early
Short, Mike
"… the person who wants it the most is the one that’s going to win. The person that’s not afraid to go out there and do it. So wrestling, in my life, even my parents saw it… by the time the end of this season came around they’re… like, 'Who are you? Where’d you come from?' And I changed…" (more)

 Physics

 Early
 Shu, Hamilton
"I would stay up late and do stuff at home because I knew I could sleep at school. Like if there was something I had to solder, or something to glue that required time to cure, I’d stay up and watch it. The next day at school I’d go to sleep from 8am to 10am, switch classes, and then go to sleep again…I’m very good at taking tests and making it look like I’m paying attention…" (more)
 Biology
 Middle
 Sperrer, Gudrun
"Then I stopped (walking through the jungle) and a guy came up… He was all painted black on his arms and his face. And he asked me in Spanish… 'What do you want?' I said I don’t want much of you but I would ask if I could maybe stay with you and learn something from you. The first question then was 'Are you a missionary?' I said 'No!' Then he said, 'OK, come on'…” (more)
Postscript
Middle
Stoller, Lincoln
"I read to my father on his death bed. He was in and out of consciousness. Just before he went into a coma for the last time he opened his bright eyes and exclaimed "Hi, Linco," and then he was gone. And in remembering him that is enough, that magic little spark. A lot of strength can come from a very little thing…" (more)
 Physics
 Late
 Townes, Charles Hard
"Now I’ve tried some things that don’t work. Well, OK. … You can be wrong. Don’t worry about it too much. Try hard to be right, but don’t be unwilling to take some chances. And look hard for things that might be there, that you think have a reasonable chance of being there. Look, and a failure or two won’t hurt you…" (more)
 Physics
 Middle
 Tyson, Neil deGrasse
"I would rather have someone who is inspired by their work stand in front of me and be my teacher, even if they don’t know how to teach. Because — you know something — that doesn’t matter. In the end what matters is the osmotic link that is made between your and their enthusiasm. Just by being in the same room at the same time…" (more)
 Medicine
 Late
 White, Nancy
"People come to me and say, 'I don’t have any goals!' And I say, 'Uhh… I’ve never had any goals either!' If I had goals they would have acted like blinders and I wouldn’t have noticed what was going on. I just notice what’s happening around me and if it interests me I go after it, and if doesn’t I walk on past. That’s kind of the way I’ve handled life…" (more)
 Wrestling
 Middle
 Widerman, Paul
"So, to me, your whole life is about finding the things that you’re passionate about, that you love, that you’re willing to go the distance on. That’s how you get fulfillment, that’s how you grow, and that’s how people really excel, or get great at something…" (more)
 Medicine
 Early
Williamson, Dave
"Just because a teacher tells you … that this is what you’re going to see or do… you will most likely see the complete opposite. And what are you going to do when it comes around? Are you going to say, 'Oh, well I never learned that.' Or are you going to say, 'OK, I acknowledge that I don’t know that, and I’m going to take it upon myself to make sure I don’t look like a blubbering idiot next time that rolls around…" (more)

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