Ryan Hartigan on the Need to Unschool

In a Facebook post dated 9th July 2019, Halifax innovator Ryan Hartigan laments on how academia can sometimes cripple one’s understanding on how to operate a business. Completing that degree may not necessarily benefit if you plan to go your own way with an idea or business of your own.

Being great in school actually fucked me up, and it took me years to beat some of the deeper beliefs out of my system.

I see memes like this and I know that most people who post them have dropped out of college or weren’t that interested in school to begin with.

I was planning on being a professor and getting my PhD. If it wasn’t for a series of unfortunate events in my life, I would have continued to get that degree. It took a lot to actually sway me off the path, but I am very happy now that I didn’t continue down there.

The amount of ego and pride that one has when they excel in school – it really hinders someone’s ability to “actually” see the truth. And it’s why some of the absurd political and social movements arise out of the academic community. Complete disconnect from reality coupled with an unbridled arrogance.

Understanding how business operates, how value is created, and how people actually want to exchange value – were some of the most important things that I ever learned. Failing in business time and time again, I was forced to look at things differently and start seeing things with more clarity.

Some of the “academic” traits are still there.

I love learning but I have a fear of not knowing “everything”. If you didn’t know everything that was covered then you would never do good in school. This makes me slow to start and less likely to move forward without more and more consumption of information.

I still find it scary to take a step forward without fully knowing what is the “proper” and “established” way to do something. Sometimes I forget that most of the things we do in business, and in life, are completely unique to the situation and there is no true “answer” that can be determined from a first principles analysis. The most important thing is collecting data and iterating.

Funny that the only time I ever collected data in my academic career was in the research study for my Honours class…

I also have fear around learning certain things for fun, like learning to code or studying physics again. Why? Because I don’t think I’m going to be an “expert” in these areas, I just think they’re really interesting.

But academia teaches you that you have to learn the whole curriculum or nothing at all.

Academia takes the fun out of learning.

The system needs to change because this is not how the real world works.


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