WHAT IS REAL LEARNING? Ex-Student Makes Brilliant Case for Dropping Out of College

The following essay, by Samuel Knoche, offers an unusually perspicacious analysis, especially when you consider that this young man dropped out of college after only two years!

What? you ask. How, then, did he learn how to think?

By paying attention to this own thoughts! By following his own gut instincts! By taking advantage of the internet: youtube, college professors lectures on-line, etc! Why isn’t this approach obvious?

The Case for Dropping Out of College

It is not obvious because, as this young incisive author says, the main case for staying in college, is status, i.e., class. Reception of the B.A. is an entry-level signal that one is (or remains, or climbs to) a certain class, period.

Likewise, my reasoning now, as I look back on my years in college, especially graduate school years, that resulted in my Ph.D: The virtue of this supposedly exalted degree is that it conferred on me a certain status, or class. And to top it off, this PhD was in PHILOSOPHY! Ye gods! Can one climb higher? Well yes, one can then land a “position” in an “Institution of Higher Learning,” achieve tenure, and relax. Competition for status is over.

Oh wait! It’s not over! One must perform further, publish “peer reviewed” articles, books, speak at conferences, be cited by others in articles and books and at conferences, and, in the 21st century, get one’s own video channel, even a “platform.” Geez! This ladder climb never ends as long as one be-LIE-ves in it. In any case, even if one just sits back on his or her laurels, with “tenure,” one is still expected to continue to indoctrinate others to follow in one’s  footsteps, striving for the dizzying heights of “proof of brains.”

Oh, but wait! In my case, after receiving my exalted degree (another rollicking, exceptionally non-standard story of its own) I then slid into the top slot (first out of what was it, 650 applicants?) at a Bay Area experimental college called New College of California (then only a year old, defunct since 2008), serving as a full-time salaried teacher for the school year 1972-1973.


I fell off the ladder. But did I? I still had the doctorate in philosophy, and now, since I had “failed,” I could begin to do what I really wanted to do, follow my own nose, study what I really wanted to study which, it turned out, was astrology. After three years I started my own practice as an astrological consultant, and never looked back.

That I could put the letters PhD after my name helped a great deal as I followed that career which is, even now, sneered at as “nonsense” or “pseudo-scientific” by the cognoscenti. Yet, though people might call me crazy, they can’t call me stupid. The doctoral encomium still helps, even 40 years later, to grease cultural gears as I subtly insert myself, in various ways, exploding shibboleths here and there as I wander my own path, which is, has always been, fully free, ever since that brilliant “firing” (thank you thank you!) landed me on my own two feet and riding the edge of this competitive, strangely disconnected culture.

The key for me, and perhaps for all or most of us who endeavor to truly be ourselves, is to remain centered, feet on the ground and head open to the heavens, while embracing horizontally and heart open, all of life. Each of us is that Renaissance figure, or can be, once we wake up to WHO WE REALLY ARE, gifted beyond measure, and swimming in LOVE.

My exalted class status is valuable to me, not for what it earns me (I have never held another regular job), but for my own recognition that there is literally no one who holds a “higher class status” than I do, therefore whatever I think carries more punch, even though most people can’t even understand what I say, much less go along with me.

Result? They leave me alone. Which is just how I like it.

Now nearly 76 years old, I live in a three-home urban farm, Green Permaculture Acres Village with a 65 year old woman, a 51 year old woman (one in each house), surrounded by lots of young people (all men, at this point!) between 20 and 30 years old, all of them either college graduates or still in college, and with varying levels of indebtedness that drag along behind them. Some of them still believe in college, others don’t. These latter are beginning to see it as a gigantic scam that doesn’t even teach them how to learn, how to pay attention to their own intuitive sensing of the direction of exploration and discovery that is right for them! In fact, it tries to dumb them down, teach them to “memorize facts” — but to what end? These are items forgotten within 24 hours of taking the test for which they had to “cram.”

The most important thing we can teach children of any age is how to clear aside all other influences except the promptings of their own inner life. When we are inspired, we learn. That’s it! All the rest is business as usual, and for this generation, which carries an ever- increasing, utterly unsustainable debt load, it has also resulted in a “lost generation,” at least until they get their heads back on top of their hearts and let those beautiful hearts guide them.

Speaking of which: my housemate Dan, last night, knocked excitedly on my door at 9:30 p.m. Unheard of! I was nearly asleep. “Come see this! My very first piece! I want you to see it!”

Okay, okay! I got up, rooted around for my bathrobe and iphone, and went downstairs to take a couple of photos of this very first creation in clay after an eight year absence. YES! Dan! It’s beautiful!

In background, on table, our two worm farms.



Backstory: Dan had been planning to reignite his high school pottery passion for months. First, he got Rebecca’s wheel fixed. (Our master gardener Rebecca is also a potter). That meant driving an hour to Indy to drop it off at a place that would fix it. Oops! It will cost $300. Okay, I told him. I’ll fund the fix; you pay me back. Okay. That took most of a month. Then he bought clay. But the clay had hard little gravel shards in it that cut his hands! Rebecca had warned him about that clay. Oh well! He shelled out more of his hard-earned money on better clay. That was about a week ago. He’s been meaning to get down stairs to begin, to really BEGIN. Finally, last night he did. Add this resurrected passion to his already ongoing passions of  helping people (he works part time as a librarian and as a food server), making and listening to music, making  fermented foods, and who knows where Dan’s beautiful path will take him next? In any case, this young man is fully engaged. And his college degree (and debt) have absolutely nothing to do with it.

I just asked him, did you make another pot? “No, the second one failed.”

As the inner voice told me over 40 years ago, during a time when I was completely flummoxed by the seeming failures in my life: JUST KEEP GOING! DON’T GET STUCK.


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2 Responses to WHAT IS REAL LEARNING? Ex-Student Makes Brilliant Case for Dropping Out of College

  1. Three hundred bucks to “fix” a potter’s wheel?

    What a Concept.

    The absolute best potter i ever knew was a fellow who was doing an MFA when i was in grad school (in, uh, pardon the expression, a “college”), named John Mills –since deceased– a student of a professor named Karl Martz who was recruited by Herman Welles to join the then nascent Fine Arts Department at IU.

    Martz was a second generation member of the “art” community in (then quite rural) Brown County back in the ’30s; though i saw him around the department for years, it wasn’t until he had a retrospective show when he retired that i saw any of his pots: great stuff, mostly Art Deco inspired.


    His student, my friend, John Mills set up a tiny studio off the main drag in (now Tourist Trap Infested) Nashville, where he threw his very simple but beautifully elegant and functional hallmark “stoneware” pots, mostly dishes and suchlike, and welcomed passing tourists with a sign telling them “Please feel free to disturb the potter.”

    Kids, in particular (of all ages) were quite entranced by the novel idea that an actual human being could make such fine and useful items, “By Hand” –as the saying goes.

    John’s wheel was totally homemade, with a wood frame, a piece of pipe joining (after passing through a simple bearing) the turning platform with the flywheel down below, which was a cement-filled tire which he simply kicked with his foot to turn at precisely the correct speed (i.e., quite slowly) he needed to raise his pots.

    Worked perfectly, literally for decades.

    “Fix” what, i’m wondering?

    The plans for making John’s (and probably Martz’s) type of wheel are surely available on any of The Innernets (as Duhby was fond of calling them).

    It ain’t Rocket Science, Dan.

    Just pot throwing.

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