School rewarded getting good grades above all else. So if I was confused about something, I was discouraged from taking the time I needed in order to fully grasp the concept. Instead, I crammed and memorized facts I didn’t even understand in the hopes that I would be able to use them to pass the next test. And even if I understood what was being taught, it wasn’t beneficial to me to go ahead to something I had an actual interest in learning because that meant I would fall behind the prescribed curriculum that my grade was based on. In essence, the entire school system actively discouraged me from taking control of my education because my grades (and by extension, I thought, my “future”) depended on me learning a set amount of material in a set amount of time.
This problem is inherent to the entire educational system as a whole. And with tuition costs rising and the value of a college degree declining, the UnCollege movement is more crucial than ever before. Consider what you gain from being in a situation in which, among other things, you are encouraged (and often required) to do the minimum amount of work needed in order to fulfill the goal of getting a good grade. By not going to college, you get to do what you’re truly interested in rather than being constrained by a curriculum you have no control over. Instead of being extrinsically motivated by grades and other things that don’t even matter in the long run, you have the chance to pursue projects you have a genuine interest in and as a result, are more motivated to put lots of effort into. Finally, as an added bonus, you end up with something to actually show for what you’ve done rather than vague, often meaningless grades.