Make Your Own Grad School

I think I’ve had enough of formal schooling, but I have to admit I miss burning the midnight oil with fellow grad students. I miss talking to nutty people who have the fire inside, making the best use of available resources on borrowed funds and time. I’ve thought that becoming a professor could provide some of that missing energy, but I’m pretty sure that organizations and myself do not mix—especially bureaucratic ones. Because of this, I’ve been slowly learning to build my own institutions…going freelance, forming small creative groups, blogging…

And then I thought: why not apply the same thing to teaching, and build my own design school? It would be a combination of hands-on learning with hands-on insight, borrowing some of the methodology from the apprenticeship system, but capturing best practices as we built up a body of expertise. A “working school”, if you will. The foundation would be the person-to-person network of expertise, with all voluntarily contributing to the Program, and by extension the development of our professional practice. “Accreditation” would be by virtue of association with the program; its public reputation would rise or fall based on the quality of what we did and put out there for the world to see rather than some committee!

Apparently this idea is so last-month, as Joel Spolsky is already doing it with the “Fog Creek Software Management Training Program”.

Spolsky has written before about being inspired by Philip Greenspun and arsDigita, back when that company was still cool…remember they had their own Computer Science program? ArsDigita (through Greenspun) was the first company I became aware of that put a human voice on what they did. By human, I mean something like heart backed by technological idealism. Alas, it didn’t last. When the bubble burst in 2001, we all learned that heart alone wasn’t enough to create a sustainable business. Now we have Web 2.0, and people like Joel Spolsky building the human infrastructure that will help get everyone there:

The idea of this program is to develop a new generation of leaders for Fog Creek, but we think that it will be great preparation for a career leading, running, or starting any kind of high-tech company or team. If the program is successful we expect, in the long run, to churn out about twice as many graduates as we need for our own purposes, so many will tend to head off to start their own companies, take a high-level position elsewhere in the industry, or go back to graduate school. Either way we think it’s a fantastic opportunity for ambitious, smart geeks who don’t see themselves as programmers.

This is incredibly cool…be sure to read the philosophy behind it too. The announcement starts off with a great story about working in a bakery as a teen, learning the ropes from the ground up. Apprenticeship! Mentoring! And great writing!

I’ll be very curious to see how it all works out. Best of luck, guys! Rock on!