Hacking your education

Hacking your education

Interesting word ‘hack.’  Being ‘hacked’ usually means someone broke into your computer.

Being called a ‘hack’ means you’re a fraud or at least unsophisticated, yet many (computer) ‘hackers’ are respected because they are often just brilliant nerds intent on challenge; not on theft and destruction.

Sometimes the word means the use of brute or blunt force where more subtle and professional techniques are appropriate, as in “He hacked away at the undergrowth.”

Sometimes the word means an inability to adapt to a tough situation as in  “s/he couldn’t hack it.”

We hack BIG SCARY things

creative commons license: bredgur
creative commons license: bredgur

Context is everything when applying the word “hack” or “hacker”, but what I think is common in all of its meanings is an application (for good or evil) to something large and hairy.  Hacking is a means to cope; there’s no need to hack into/at something that you’ve already got handled.

Education is big and hairy

Education is big and hairy not because only the smartest can master it (not true), but because

  • you could engage it for the wrong purpose e.g. to get a degree.
  • you could engage it with no useful outcome i.e. you can’t produce any situation of value.
  • you think there is only one way to engage it, one size fits all.
  • You think that you can have it, get enough of it, and then you stop.
  • There’s so much at stake, namely: the quality of your life.

I like the idea of hacking your education because it applies to each of us.   As the world changes before our eyes, the implicit promise of ‘get a degree to get a job or promotion, or career’ becomes increasingly untrue.

There is no cookie cutter path to an education leading to what you want in life, especially if you don’t even know what that is, and it’s up to each one of us to first be clear on what we want, and then seek the help to build our own custom education to get us there. As long as no one has figured it out for you, you’ll have to figure out what your educational practice will look like.

You’ll have to hack your own education!

How do you hack your education?

But what does it mean in practice to ‘hack’ your education?  Here’s a TEDx talk given by teenaged Logan LaPlante and from it I’ve distilled the following key points about hacking your own, or your child’s education:

  • Get that education is a practice (Logan articulates my philosophy better than I do), and that you must continually engage with it to stay on top of your game.  Like sports.
  • Seek the online resources that appeal to your situation, ambitions and preferences.
  • Continually engage with hands-on, practical, results-oriented projects.
  • Seek outdoor team-building experiences that demonstrate the consequences of decisions and actions on others.
  • Learn to write and give speeches based on something that you love.  For Logan it’s skiing, maybe for you it’s ballroom dance or gardening.  But practice public speaking, presentations, writing, video editing based on something that you love to do.  These skills are necessary for people to accept your business offers and the best way to develop them is to practice them on something that you love.
  • Learn how business works by working in different parts of one.
  • Keep the end purpose in mind.  What is your education for?  We’ve stopped thinking about the question or at least about the usefulness of our answers to that question.  I like Logan’s answer: “To be happy.”

 From the mouths of babes

Logan’s articulation of his hacking his own education is also impressive simply because he’s a kid.

I know people who still believe that kids are seen and not heard, and they routinely dismiss kids from the company of adults.  Logan demonstrates what I wrote about in “The young shall lead the old,”and he is an example of how kids will—on their own—learn what they need to learn if they are lit up about WHY they are learning.

Logan is an example of what our education system should be churning out in vast numbers, but isn’t.  For a Logan to be the average student output from our schools, we’ll need to allow parents and their kids to start hacking their own education.


Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.