COVID Diaries Week 12: The Loser Edition

[Cambridge University announced that next year there will be no in-situ courses, no campus life…imagine spending your 10k for tuition and not getting that real-life experience of growing up, connecting with your cohort!]

I have often stated, I am highly educated and I don’t know why. Probably middle-class expectations I never shook off. 

As a teenager I was influenced by the Marxist theorist Ivan Illich and his ideas around deschooling.

In the 70s he was talking about “the opportunity web” and the four resources needed for “real learning”:

The child grows up in a world of things, surrounded by people who serve as models for skills and values. He finds peers who challenge him to argue, to compete, to cooperate, and to understand; and if the child is lucky, he is exposed to confrontation or criticism by an experienced elder who really cares. Things, models, peers, and elders are four resources each of which requires a different type of arrangement to ensure that everybody has ample access to it.  

Of course, that  “opportunity web” is now with us, omnipresent, almost omniscient.

Formal education is past its sell-by date. Seth Godin says it better than I ever could:

People go to college for the education not the learning. It is the degree on offer, not the change that is simultaneously available, that people grasp at.

You can learn just about anything now [see Opportunity Web, above]. Thirty years ago, that statement was ridiculous. In just one generation, we put everything you need to know about anything you want to know just a click away. The hard part isn’t access to it, the hard part is finding a cohort and a system that helps you do it. Because learning comes from doing.  


For a while, MOOCs looked like the solution…however, even in 2013 I was sceptical, writing…

Futurist Thomas Frey’s idea of the 10X Speed-Learning Scenario:

Consider the following scenario. In 2020 a system is invented for amping up learning speeds by a factor of ten. Any person who spends just one hour a day with this learning system can learn the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in less than two years.

I say: Why not? and…YES!

What is beyond MOOCs, beyond formal education? What does life-long learning look like, at scale, at velocity? That is the conversation to be had, and the challenge to be set to our kids…


That blog post was titled, In need of quantum change. In 2020, in COVID-times, even more so. I say more resolutely than ever, I hope my kids don’t go to university. There (has to be / is) something more for the kidz.

This Much We Know.

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