Learning Project Home

"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

I have written this book 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.

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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Topic Life Stage Name  
 Early  William Ashburton "I was overdosing on crystal meth… this is where I became unconscious… so this is what Sophia told me happened… I said, “Please don’t tell my parents! Please don’t tell my parents!" … I wasn’t shaking any more but my eyes were open. Then I stopped breathing…" (more)
 Middle  Phantom
Street Artist
"It’s always a question of where we place ourselves, how we’re part of the fabric… To keep working towards that, day by day. Allow life to be the fabric of a giant, potential canvas: life as theater, to cast ourselves in new roles, to write new stories for ourselves…" (more)
 Late  Crista Dahl "A lot of my life is controlling myself. Dealing with the brain, I really like my brain. I love my brain because it’s so interesting! But it’s a concept a minute type of thing, and it doesn’t seem to slow down. Well no, it doesn’t slow down…" (more)
 Early  Sonya Peters "I feel that one of my greatest achievements was something I said to my Mom. I said to her, 'Mom, Sudbury broke my mind. I’m a free thinker now. Look at me, I’m a free thinker!…' " (more)
 Middle  Gudrun Sperer "… the last animal… was a kinkajou… a night-active animal of the raccoon family … She slept in the daytime… But at 1 in the morning… she came in and wanted to play, and she just got into your bed and would jump on you, biting you, and whatever…so soft and so nice. And then somebody shot it…" (more)
 Late  Jerome Lettvin "I’m a garbage picker-upper as a mode of science: I focus on the garbage truck. I look at the parts that others choose not to pay attention to. It’s interesting the number of things that are not paid attention to... absolutely astounding." (more)
 Early  Andrew Reese Crowe "I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t live long enough to learn all … I would need (in order) to become as good as I would like to be in every one of those areas. But if I can learn to use the modeling and processing powers of the computer, then I can get a better idea of how things work…" (more)
 Middle  Michelle Murrain "When I decided to become a consultant… I read, like, 5 or 6 books about going into business for yourself and being a consultant and stuff… You know they have these stupid quizzes in the beginning, like “What kind of personality do you need to be going into business for yourself.” And of course I didn’t fit any of them, right? So, it was like, 'Forget it, I can’t do this…' (more)
 Middle  Esther Dyson "I felt my college work was fundamentally useless because I was reading stuff that had already been written, and writing stuff that people already knew… I wanted to be a journalist, and to ask good questions. I didn’t almost flunk out, but I definitely graduated without distinction…" (more)
 Early  Oliver Pierce "From very early on I always knew I wanted to do film, and then it was just a question of how to pursue that. I toyed with the idea of leaving school for a while… It’s not like I had any terrible, terrible experiences at (high school), I just knew what I wanted to be doing and that wasn’t it… " (more)
 Middle  Simon James "I was visiting my father on my birthday. He was sick and tired of hearing me talk about how commercial fishing was dying, and… while I was sitting there he dialed the phone, and then hands me the receiver and says, “Here, make an appointment.” I didn’t know who he called! I pick up the receiver and I heard, “Vancouver Film School, how can we help you?…" (more)

 Tom Hurwitz

"I never took a film class. I took one film class which I wound up teaching because I’d already done a film by the time I got to be taking that class… I had a mixed time in school, I certainly hated it as much as I loved it, but I did love it, and I did love the kind of learning that one does in school, and I don’t know how else to get it…" (more)
 Early  Mary Ann Manais "For me, I have to find advice to look toward a future that’s better for me. Right now I’m not necessarily comfortable, and I don’t necessarily know. I’m confused – like most kids my age – but I would still go out there and find any grants or any loans to help me head toward my future… "  (more)
 Early Dave Williamson "That was the first and last time I let a patient have a personal impact on me. When his heel fell out of his foot I’m thinking, 'He’s never going to have a normal life. He’s not going to be able to play soccer with his kids.' He’s 17 years old. I went back to the barracks and I cried about that one…'" (more)
 Middle George Plotkin “There are things to be done, there’s danger, there’s excitement, there are errors, and there are people who get hurt, and there are people who don’t come back. But it’s in those ages that great things are built… I don’t have any answers anymore. I’ve learned that answers are things you just make up as you go along…" (more)
 Late  Nancy White "I always am on the forefront of something; it’s not unusual. I’ve often said that I feel like I’m going across the country in my covered wagon, and the Indians are shooting arrows at my back, and I get to California and I discover that everybody’s in the pool at the Hyatt Regency! …" (more)
 Early  Ella Gerazuk "My darkest hour was that night …. it was hard for me to lie in my shelter when they were in so much pain in my dream. I got through that by knowing that it was (my friends') inner battle to deal with, and not mine. I learned so much about myself from being there, just from lying in that heap of leaves…" (more)
 Middle  Lynn Hill "I’m a curious person. That, I think, is a quality that’s necessary for education: if you’re not curious then you’re not interested, and if you’re not interested then you’re not going to learn. I got an education in biology so I could go into physical therapy… or become a doctor. But I figured that doctors had to work too much…" (more)
 Late  Fred Beckey "I’ve sort of figured that if I work, don’t play games, and apportion my free time, then I’ll have enough to go climbing… Most people get married and by the time they’re 30 they’ve got a couple of kids, and then they’re strapped down. Then they have to work… Right or wrong, I had more flexibility. It just worked out that way…"  (more)
 Early  Hamilton Shu "Right now I’m helping my Dad with his patents… My Dad wants me to do a patent on tire sensors, something I read in a magazine that made me say to him, “Wouldn’t it be easier if this?” and I drew a picture. And my Dad’s like “Just do it!” And I’m like 'OK, I will!' ”  (more)
 Middle  Neil deGrasse Tyson "There is no shortage of people telling you what you shouldn’t be in life.  And why is that so? Like, why do they even give a shit? Why should someone go out of their way to tell you what you can’t be?… I don’t have patience for people who want to limit the dreams of others…" (more)
 Late  Charles Hard Townes "A friend of mine comes to me and says, uh… “You know this has saved my eyes.” And, oh boy, that’s very emotionally pleasing to me… Of all things, ah… A lot of these things I couldn’t imagine at the time… I didn’t know about the kind of eye trouble that’s saved by lasers. I’d never heard of it! I couldn’t imagine that…" (more)
 Early  Jessica Henry "I also told you that I procrastinate. So a lot of times my public speaking is very fresh, like when I get there it’s usually the first time I’m doing it. As everybody else was giving their practice speech I was sitting in the back of the room writing my speech and trying to memorize it… " (more)
 Early  Lotus Bringing "When I was 24 I started to do self harm. I went to different therapists and they'd always ask me what was wrong, and I didn't know. I also became bulimic. I guess that was a sense of control. I'm not exactly sure how it developed, but I had that for 7 years. That was a long time.… " (more)
 Early  Jaz Lin "Everything makes sense all together and you can’t be, like, “I didn’t really want to go to jail.” I hated going to jail in New York City… It was horrible. And back then, when it happened, it was hell. But if it didn’t happen … I wouldn’t be who I am today. So everything makes sense all together…" (more)
 Late  Phylis Schlafly "I believe that once you know how to read, the way you really learn something is to write about it… So I wrote a little book called, “A Choice, Not an Echo,” and published it myself — who would publish a book by some unknown Alton housewife, as they called me — and I sold 3 million copies…" (more)
 Middle  Tom Kellog "You’ve just got to take the time. It’s just like I’ve told you from the beginning: I really enjoyed that farming and logging. Whatever you decide to do in the beginning, make sure you’re happy with it. Don’t just listen to Mom and Dad. Oh, man, you can make $300,000 a year as a lawyer, and you’ll dread every day you’re doing it…" (more)
 Late  Clarence See "There was a lot of airplanes out there… Sometimes I had 7 or 8 airplanes going at one time. I was sometimes flying 10, 12 hours in the day… One summer I had 32 people working for me. The youngest one was 10 years older than I was, and that was quite an education for a kid!…" (more)
 Late  Donald Dubois "The exciting part was coming up with new ideas… You have an idea and in your mind it’s beautiful, and you get it on paper, and from paper you go to the actual machining, and the building, and then right there, like they say, you’re back to the drawing board! That is exciting…" (more)
 Early  Mike Short "I started wrestling my freshman year, and … I lost every single one of my matches I came upon, and it was a little difficult… I was having my mental conflicts… we had the intensity, we had the practice, we had the drills, but we went out on the mat and somewhere we faltered…" (more)
 Middle  Paul Widerman "At this point in my life I’m really looking at wrestling as a movement art … I’m not nearly as interested in the competitive aspect of wrestling as I am in the art of it. It’s not so important whether you win or lose, but how you pursue this art form called 'wrestling'…" (more)
 Late  Lou Giani "It is a psychological game, it really is. You need to be right on top of your game with them. You gotta know what to say, and when not to say it. In the room, when you’re working with them… on the mat right here… you've got a kid that comes off the mat and he's destroyed. If you go over there and pat him on the back that frigin’ sucks, man. You make him feel worse..." (more)
 Early  Caitlin McKenna "I knew I had an aptitude for writing but I hadn’t thought of doing it seriously until that moment.  I can’t explain it beyond that. It was a period of time when I was floating… and I was sort of lost as to what to do with my mind. I always need to be doing something with my mind, creating or absorbing, whether I’m reading a book or writing a story. I can’t just be idle…" (more)
Alice Placert
"I feel like a lot of people get stuck in their life… They buy into something that they want without really understanding what it is… They don’t even think about it. You’re giving up stuff that may be a good thing in your life because you’re so focused on a goal. And then, when you get it, you’re not even happy…" (more)
 Middle Matt Forbeck "The most important skill I’ve learned is typing. As a writer the best class I ever took was my typing class and I didn’t do very well at it… Learning how to type allowed me to create stories quickly. Without that it would have been too slow and I would have been frustrated: I would have been pulling teeth the entire time…" (more)
Postscript Middle Lincoln Stoller " I am overcome with feelings of love and pity. Love, from the realization that I really do love the person I imagined myself to be; a self that could experience a happiness unmatched in this dark world. Pity, from having lost this forever. Like Odysseus tied to the mast, I would give anything to escape the present and gain that paradise… " (more)

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