Kamenetz is a writer at Fast Company and author of Generation Debt (2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (2010).
What DO we mean by education, exactly? There are three big buckets of benefit that an educational institution, like a college, historically provides.
- Content—the skills and knowledge. The subjects, the majors. You could think of this as the “what” of education.
- Socialization—learning about yourself, developing your potential, forming relationships with peers and mentors. The “how”.
- Accreditation—earning that diploma or other proof that will allow you to signal your achievement to the world, and with luck get a better job. The “why.”
Each of these buckets, the What, the How, and the Why, has been profoundly affected by the information revolution. But most people are still being pushed down the assembly line of kindergarten through college without access to alternatives that might be not just cheaper or faster but smarter and better. DIY, or Do-It-Yourself, is a movement about self-reliance and empowerment. In the case of DIY education, it means getting the knowledge you need at the time you need it, with enough guidance so you don’t get lost, but without unnecessary restrictions. DIY doesn’t mean that you do it all alone. It means that the resources are in your hands and you’re driving the process.
Kamenetz does a good job of capturing the vast number of resources available for personal learning, but never does quite demonstrate how someone might actually earn a “DIY” credential. The advice to take charge and be self-motivated runs smack into the hard reality that currently about the only credentialing available is through traditional higher ed pathways. The definition of “education” may be changing, but so far at least, the definition of “degree” isn’t.
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