Will Richardson and Self-Directed Learning to the Extreme

I found out some time ago that the real test of our beliefs is how they play out with our own kids. For 14 years, I used Dick Bolles’ book What Color is Your Parachute as a guide to how to organize a self-directed job search. The method outlined in the book is unconventional and requires an uncommon level of organization and commitment. At one point the book recommends closing a job interview with a series of six questions that escalated something like this:

  1. Now that you’ve interviewed me, do you feel that I have the skills to do the job?
  2. If we agree that I have the skills, can you hire me now?
  3. If you can’t make the decision to hire me now, who would have the authority to hire me, and could we arrange a meeting with that person?

I looked at What Color is Your Parachute through much different eyes when my own son called and recounted the reaction he got when he tried to follow that advice in his own job search. (The hiring manager was totally freaked out, to say the least.) What had seemed a perfectly logical way for job seekers (other people’s kids) to control their interviews seemed like pretty strange behavior when my child tried it.

In this post, Will advises his own kids not to feel that they have to get a college degree.

But, and I haven’t told your mom this yet, I’ve changed my mind. I want you to know that you don’t have to go to college if you don’t want to, and that there are other avenues to achieving that future that may be more instructive, more meaningful, and more relevant than getting a degree.

…that is what I want for you, to connect to people and environments where your passions connect, and the expectation is that you learn together, not learn on your own. Where you are free to create your own curriculum, find your own teachers, and create your own assessments as they are relevant. Where you make decisions (and your teachers guide you in those decisions) as to what is relevant to know and what isn’t instead of someone deciding that for you. Where at the end of the day, you’ll look back and find that the vast majority of your effort has been time well spent, not time wasted.

It’s a brave statement for a father to make.