Recently, I have been on a mission to read or reread every article that I have bookmarked on my computer. I’m a bit of an article hoarder, guys, so this process has already taken me a few weeks of reading at least one article per day, and will likely last much longer. Add onto that the fact that I keep adding to my article list with resources I have found for upcoming blog posts, and there’s a good chance that this an-article-a-day habit will have to go on indefinitely.
One article that I rediscovered earlier this week was this one written by self-proclaimed author, programmer, and entrepreneur, Scott H. Young. I remember reading this article along with a close friend back in 2017, and we used its basic question, What would you learn if you had a decade of time to commit to your education and a small stipend to cover your expenses? to discuss the things that we hoped to learn in the future. I don’t think I still have the list I created back then, but I do know that my answers must have changed over time.
I want to create a new personal 10-year curriculum on here, both as an exercise in seeing what a decade of learning might look like for me and so that I can look back on my ideas 1, 5, or 10 years in the future.
Please note that, even if I don’t say so explicitly, most of these subjects and skills would be learned concurrently. The time frames are more of a helpful way to represent the percentages of the decade that I would dedicate to each area, not to indicate that I would complete X months of a certain topic before moving onto a new one.
1 Year Learning Survivalist Skills
This is the one place where I am going to contradict the note that I just made above. I think that it would be worth devoting a full year learning certain skills that could perhaps come in handy during the remainder of the decade.
This initial year would be devoted into furthering my self-protective survival skills as well as learning how to help other people in tough situations. I certainly would want to know more about edible vs. poisonous plants in different parts of the world, how to construct a well, how to build a shelter, how to start a fire, and the basics of first aid. I would also throw in here how to sew because of its application in repairing clothing and other supplies that I might need and the possibility of using the skill to put in stitches for a wound in a pinch.
This is a decade-long education plan, not a plan to go out and save the world, so I do not wish to imply that I would spend the remaining nine years deliberately putting myself in danger. There is simply the possibility that these skills will be required of me at some point during the decade, so I would want to learn them early in the timeline. And even if these skills never become a necessity, I still think that they would be interesting to acquire in order to be more self-reliant.
4 Years Traveling
Traveling throughout the world and taking the time to meet and get to know people from other regions and cultures would be supremely helpful in deepening one’s understanding of others’ perspectives.
Within the decade, I would like to take 1 year traveling to various locations within the United States, 1 year traveling to other anglophone countries, 1 year traveling to various non-English speaking locals, and 1 full year stationed in an area where I will be forced to learn a new language.
These years of traveling will afford me the opportunities to acquire some of the other skills listed below, as well as the chance to meet and talk with others who commit their lives to a range of disciplines. It will also afford me an opportunity to learn about the art, architecture, and literature. In fact, if my prior travels are any indication, I will spend most of these 4 years visiting museums and libraries and exploring the cities, which is why I didn’t bother to include any of the arts in the categories of my plan.
There is a chance that I could get burned out from so much travel. In order to stymie that burn out, I would spread out these years of travel over the course of a decade, and I would make an effort to spend large chunks of time in each place. Instead of spending a few days in San Francisco, for instance, I would spend a week there, or I might spend a month in France. Taking this time will allow me to truly learn about the locations as well as provide me with a sense of normalcy whilst there.
1 Year Learning Dance
One element that Young admits to missing in his decade-plan is physical activity. But, as someone who wants to spend most of this proposed time period learning about cultures, my understanding of those communities would be lacking if I didn’t attempt to learn the ways people move in various parts of the globe. A fun and informative way to do that is through dance lessons! (I also just really like to dance, even if I’m not very good at it.)
I would love to learn hula in Hawai’i, samba in Brazil, and the Viennese Waltz in Austria. Or perhaps I could learn these dances before traveling to these places and be able to participate in cultural events where these dances take place.
Also, I know it’s not the same as dance, but I want to include yoga and martial arts in this category, too, because those are also culturally-influenced ways of moving and controlling the body that I would also love to study.
1 Year Studying Philosophy
I want to know how different people think about the world. I would especially love to learn more about philosophy from people who ascribe to different ones. I want to pick the brain of a nihilist. I want to chat with an idealist.
I especially want to learn more about philosophies that I don’t even know the words for yet. I want to deepen my understanding of philosophy from Asia and Africa. I want to understand the ways that people all over the world process their experiences.
1 Year Studying World Religions
Much like Young’s assessment in his original list, trying to study the philosophies of different regions of the world is not likely to yield much understanding unless paired with studying the popular religions in those regions. I think that a year’s worth of time will give me at least a basic understanding of the most popular world religions.
Again, I would love to fill this year of education with conversations with people who practice different religions. I also think that attending religious ceremonies (whenever I am permitted) would be a really good way to gain an understanding and appreciation for those religions.
6 Months Honing Culinary Skills
Everyone eats and every region has their own variations on cuisine. Taking part in cooking classes or home cooking experiences around the globe will not only make me a better chef, but will provide for a deeper understanding of the areas where I visit. It would help me understand what foods are native to particular regions of the world and the cultural attachments that people have to their food.
And maybe, after this imaginary decade, I could host a dinner party showing off all of the dishes that I learned how to make. Y’all would be invited, of course.
1 Year Learning Programming
I would like to learn more. Even the little bit that I do know has come in handy, both in college when I had to use programs to create graphs, and now that I am blogging (for example, search algorithms can “see” headings so it’s best practice to actually use heading blocks rather than just manually making your text bigger and bolded).
I have a feeling that after some point, learning how to program will start to yield diminishing returns (considering that I don’t need to know it for any of the work I do), but I don’t care. I’d love to get into the HTML of this blog and fiddle around with it until I get a website that looks new and different and mine, even if it doesn’t translate to more views or a better SEO. Or maybe I could create an algorithm that scans through blogs and looks at the common phrases that people use. I just think that it would be fun to do.
6 Months Studying Soft Sciences Like Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Linguistics
I’m just really fascinated by these areas, and I would have taken way more classes in each of them during college if I had had the time. I’m devoting a relatively short time to these areas because I think that having an even slightly better baseline of knowledge in each topic will drastically increase my ability to understand the more niche ideas within them. Generally, I just want to be more literate in these areas so that I can better parse new information that I learn about them.
Where’s the Hard Sciences?
If I really, truly had a decade to devote to education with no limitations, I would want to spend as much of that time learning through hands-on experiences and discussions with other people. Ideally, I would spend almost no time taking classes or reading textbooks, and, unfortunately, the world isn’t well set up to learn hard sciences without these formalized experiences.
This is one area, though, where I know that my answer would have been very different even just 3 years ago. I love science. I want to know more about it. I just no longer think that committing a certain number of months to learning hard sciences or mathematics (outside of their applications in programming) would be worth taking away from the other things that I would want to learn within this decade.
Creating this curriculum forced me to ask myself, “Why don’t I do these things now?”
To be fair to myself, I am learning some of these things now. I take time out every day to practice different languages that I am learning. I try to cook different foods all the time to learn more about the craft. I sometimes try to learn a type of dance using a YouTube video.
That’s where I’m starting from, and now I need to figure out how to go further. I want to start prioritizing travel (once it’s possible again, that is). I want to go out and meet more people with different interests (again, once it’s possible). I want to read more. I want to be more mindful of the media I consume and make sure that it’s truly to unwind, not just to fill time. If it’s just to fill time, I might as well fill that time watching a film in a language that I’m trying to learn with subtitles on or learning how to sew.
If you have any interest in this idea, I think you should go back and read the article that inspired this one and start to create your own decade-long essential education plan. And once you have some ideas, I would love to hear about them!
So, what would you do if you had a decade to devote to education? Would your plan look more like mine or like Young’s?
Update: This post was taken and reposted to another site without my permission. I made this post to explain that whole situation.