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Over the past month I’ve been working on a frame for my studies, which I’ve begun fondly calling The Autodidact Degree. The idea is simple: I love intellectual activity, I love learning, and I love systems- systems I create.  I’m also, not infrequently, at a loss for how to explain what I’m doing to others with regards to this project. It’s more intense than hobby language study, and I need a name and frame.

So, the way I see it, I’m starting year four of my ten year program in Arabic Language and Middle Eastern Studies. I’ve even got a syllabus for 2016 (an evolving document and a work in progress.)

So why not do this through a University?  Besides the small geographical issue, and my lack of an undergrad degree which would need to be filled in, I don’t think I would enjoy a university setting. I don’t want to be a professor, so actually getting an advanced degree serves no purpose. The things I want to do don’t require a degree, they require knowledge. And, from what I read, universities have become hotbeds of censorship these days. (Consider some of the research from Heterodox Academy if you have doubts.)

Doing a program like this, consistently and on one’s own requires more committment and discipline than going to school. (There’s no tuition fee for someone else to keep me on track.) As Daniel summarizes, “If you really care, you’ll do an autodidact degree.”*

*Yes, I know, it doesn’t really make sense for medicine or bridge engineering or hard sciences. But that’s not what I’m doing.

There are larger reasons why self-study makes sense for those pursuing a squishy liberal arts or soft sciences program. The economics of the educational system have gone nuts. The prices for college continue to rise as demand rises – a normal behavior of supply and demand- but these prices experience no downward pressure because just about anyone can get a loan for a rather-extraordinary sum of money- from the government. So where an actual free market might experience natural forces pushing those prices down again- the educational system does not.

Daniel bluntly pointed out the other day, any 18 year old can now get a $100k loan or more to acquire a degree that might easily prove to have no transferable value, but you can forget about trying to get a $15k loan to start a business. That reality was wiped out with the big bank regulation of post 2008. Regulation always hurts the small-business owner more than the giant institution, but those in charge of said regulations haven’t seemed to consider the practical realities of practical professions.

To summarize, the benefits of the Autodidact Degree include:

  1. flexibility and focus
  2. location independence
  3. low-cost
  4. continue to pursue your ‘real job’
  5. dogma-free (or choose-your-own-dogma)


I think perhaps I might start carrying around some cards that say “” and explain I’m three years through a ten year self-directed Middle Eastern Studies program under this theory.

2016-03-10 09.09.45

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Posted by:Brook DeLorme

7 replies on “The Autodidact Degree

  1. YES to the autodidactic degree!!! So much time wasted on “degrees” that are either quickly obsolete, or squash passion. (I have two to prove that. Sadly came from an era that worshipped paper and letters and institutional approval as validating. I’m working on a slow autodidactic MFA in writing. Keep sharing your experience on AD? Your spirit is wonderfully unfettered and naturally wise, Brook. :-) Berry

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Brook- I just discovered your work and so enjoy your thought process! I have been slowly earning my ” degree” in Russian language/ history/ cultural and now trying to ” capacity- build to add in similar studies on Slovakia. Sometimes it makes me feel a little crazy- why???- other than live of both places and desire to communicate and understand? Mostly, it fascinates me. Thanks

    1. hi Donna- so happy to hear from you and yes, this “why??” is something I definitely understand! It’s so important to have a way to frame it and explain it, so that you can pursue the knowledge and feel like it actually does lead somewhere. Thank you for writing and enjoy!!

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