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Hear me out! Please carefully consider my examples and reasoning before you frown in puzzlement and proceed to bash me in your replies!
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The thought was simple. We have a large subset of people who have strong interests in topics, and who like to learn about and teach themselves as much as possible for the sake of learning and discovery itself. The term for being self taught is auto-didact. If you take a look, you'll see that some extremely intelligent people who have made huge contributions were auto-didacts. Go look at the wiki, you'll be surprised.
My thinking is that, we have many people who are already soaking up knowledge, information, and skills on their own, independent of any formalized institution. Perhaps they go to college to learn things for their career, but in their spare time, they have many hobbies and are learning so many things by themselves.
Here's where things get interesting. What if we had a non profit organization that paired up or grouped those of us with a curiosity for life itself so that we could pool our resources together and learn and discover what's out there? Free of charge.
It wouldn't be a physical place. It would be a social project. We'd aim to match up people with like-minded peers and they would use public libraries, public spaces, and in some cases, even each other's homes (but only for those who are comfortable and willing with peers they trust). It would have a site where everyone can contribute what they're learning and doing. So let's say we had 300,000 individuals who wanted to learn audio production. They'd have their own section: audio.learningsite.com. It would house videos, a forum, an IRC, a mailing list, a wiki, many sub-sites and blogs from respected individuals in that field, and more.
Maybe members can donate their old anything that would be useful. I can see this getting a lot of funding. For some fields, it's just genius. Even if someone is in university for the topic they're interested in (like, let's say Math), they can still come here and meet up with many, many, many more people than they would have met from university alone. Also, since the entire goal of this is to have people pair up to share and learn from each other, it's more collaborative and social, which is a good thing. I can see huge progress being made.
Note: just because this is independent of colleges and schools, does not mean that it will lack clear organization or intelligent individuals. I can see this being a complement to college, not an alternative.
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