How to Deschool Your Mind: A Controversial Dialogue With Dale Stephens & Michael Ellsberg

School is not inherently bad —but an exclusive focus on formal schooling as your only education, in the absence of real-world street-smarts, almost always is.

Listen to me in a teleconference with Dale Stephens, founder of and “Chief Educational Deviant” of the Uncollege movement. This movement is liberating young people from constrictive views—foisted upon them by parents and  teachers—about how they should educate  themselves.

How to Deschool Your Mind: A Dialogue With Dale Stephens & Michael Ellsberg
You can listen to the audio of the call below.

I was excited about this call, because I got to focus less on the typical “how to” stuff that I write and talk a lot about, and instead got more philosophical. We talked about the ways traditional education can “school” our minds into conformism, and how to counteract these effects by “deschooling” our minds.

“Deschooling” means learning to value innovation over conformism, an individual path to development in your life over one-size-fits-all curricula, and real-world practical intelligence over classroom learning sheltered away from real-life experience.

You might think this is all airy-fairy new age stuff. On the contrary, in today’s uncertain, entrepreneurial economy, in which chaos and upheaval are the new normal, the rigid, bureaucratized, rule-following ways of thinking that you typically learn in school—in which all creativity and on-your-feet practical thinking is beaten out of you for being too unruly and disobedient–can be harmful to your economic health.

Listen to me and 19-year-old Dale Stephens, one of the leading lights in the world questioning traditional broken models of formalized education, in a wide-ranging live discussion. We had plenty of time for answering audience questions lon the line. We ventured deep into controversial and usually-unspoken topics around the rebellion against the bureaucratic mind-narrowing of traditional education, and the new revolution in self-education and life-long learning in America and across the world.

We’ve got for you a raucous, unscripted, uncensored dialogue about how to deprogram your mind from bureaucratized, overly-formal education, and find freedom in self-education.


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  • Reply Deschool Your Mind: A Dialogue With Dale Stephens & Michael Ellsberg - UnCollege September 24, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    […] Register for the call on this page. […]

  • Reply Leonard October 6, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    Michael, you are so on target with everything in your new book. After graduating from RIT with honors what I actually learned was superficial. There was no way I could go into business for myself with the knowledge I had acquired.

    Your take is exactly where I’ve been coming from regarding formal education but have not articulated it nearly as well as you have in your book.

    I’ve always been an advocate of, if you wnat to know how to do something go out and learn it on your own or find someone who can teach you. The missing link in my life has been finding a mentor and knowing how to network to achieve my goals. You have supplied that missing piece for me.

    The Internet didn’t come into existence until a long time after I graduated in the 60’s. The educational system is broken & out of control cost wise. The educational ROI is a disastor. It needs a major overhaul. These campuses are so elaborate with so many unrelated educational facilities and an out of control overhead. The real value of the cost to get an education is out of line with the results achieved by the the graduates.

  • Reply miltownkid October 10, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    So I red your guest post on Tim’s website the other week (I’ve been telling a lot of people to go read it) and I was working on my website today and noticed that one of my “most read” (in the past 2 weeks or 2 days or something) articles was titled 4 Reasons Why You Should Wait To Go To College After High School. I read it (again) and was like “HELL YEAH!” Then I was like “I need to insert Michael’s post here for people that keep finding this post!” and that’s exactly what I did. AND… I’m a bipolar soul brother so… I “know your pain” (had my last trip to the mental health resort back in 2009 and… as I type this my girlfriend wants me to check in with my doctor because… well that’s a different story. :) ) Now… I’ll actually read this blog post!

    School needs to have a “test” to figure out who the autodidacts are and base their learning on that fact. I suspect that… we all are autodidacts and school sucks the life out of us! (I say it first hand teaching English in Asia, I didn’t meet one kid that didn’t like learning! I met a ton that didn’t like school. :P )

    Thanks for being awesome!


  • Reply Thomas October 26, 2011 at 6:21 PM


    In line with this uncollege post I just completed reading your book today. BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! As a father to a kid just graduating high school this summer I have be unlearning some things–and learning some better things; like, college isn’t enough OR isn’t the answer at all.

    I must admit though, as a parent, these are scary concepts to wrap your mind around. Because the question becomes, okay, “stop-out” of college…but, what if your kid isn’t the next founder of something like Facebook? What if your kid hasn’t come across their passion? As parent you may say to yourself “okay, college may be the legacy thought process but what else is there if my kid doesn’t fit the model of those Michael highlights in his book?”

    The above is my playing devil’s advocate. I agree 100%–there are skills needed in our age that our school system does not teach.

    BRAVO! Again. Thank you for this great gift. I’m buying a copy of your book for my son.


  • Reply Ton S November 4, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    This is to Micahel. If you are a book author and went to college, but believe folks should basically have both book smarts and street smarts, which is not bad, what makes you an expert on being an entrepreneur? If you follow traits of an “outlier”, as a guy who is only 34, how can someone take you as a resident expert if you don’t have the 10yrs or 10,000hrs of experience.

    In this day and age of self-promoted and self-professed experts, just because you interview folks and wrote a book, doesn’t make you some entrepreneurial expert or how to change ones life, does it?

    What say you?

  • Reply Greg B November 29, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    Great book man, I finished it reading it recently and is definitely one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read. When I was reading your book I came up with two ideas that I’m now in the process of executing.

    It’s so true that schooling is not needed to succeed. Many times it is actually worse, since it does destroy your creativity. School tries to make everyone do things exactly the same way. Even though innovators usually are innovators because they do things differently than others did.