Mark Twain supposedly said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” which I used to think was a pretty brilliant way of thinking about what learning means in its broadest sense and I guess I still do to some extent. Twain frequently expressed cynicism toward the education system of his day, warning us of the perils of slavishly and perhaps even blindly thinking that school was the answer to learning. For Twain “All schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal valuable knowledge.”
Now look, I love Mark Twain. He’s a masterful storyteller and I still remember now how I felt reading Huckleberry Finn as a teenager. I was mesmerised by the language but it’s the human relationship between Huck and Tom that really got under my skin and stayed with me over the last 20 years. There’s no doubt Mark Twain wrote one of the great American novels and, to my mind, deserves his place on the top table of literary greats.
However I disagree with Twain on schools. I loved school, in fact I would go as far to say it changed my life.
Being in an environment where I could read and discover was a magical experience for me. I was like a sponge and was addicted to learning from the age of 11 and don’t regret the fact that I spent so much of my younger years buried in a book.
For me, school was transformative but thinking back now, it was the people – the irreverent teachers, the peculiar professors and my circle of studious friends – that really made school and University such a special time. Maybe Mark Twain didn’t encounter the type of life changing characters I did, perhaps if he had, he would have thought about school differently?
I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity over the past decade or more of launching ‘schools’ or modern day versions of schools for ‘lifelong learners’. These programmes have allowed those attending to discover and learn about everything from data journalism to street photography, from food writing to Roman history. Quite a few of those who have ‘graduated’ from some of the longer formed, intensive programmes such as writer, SJ Watson, have had such life-altering experiences that were beyond their wildest dreams. Steve became a number one international bestselling novelist – topping the charts across the world with his debut Before I Go To Sleep. Now a full-time writer, the ‘school’ Steve attended literally changed his life. You would have to ask Steve to be certain but I feel confident in saying that there was something about the people on that course and the peer-to-peer feedback he received – good, bad and all the shades in between – that made it such a valuable experience.
This month, Huckletree is launching its version of a school – a school for the curious; the show-not-tell programme for entrepreneurs, designed to give the budding Steve Jobs out there everything they need to think, move and scale like a startup. I think this is wicked and, of course, I am bound to say that – but I really do think it is great. And the reason is that we have gathered together all the knowledge, experience and expertise at our disposal and developed an 8-week course which promises to be a hot-house of practical learning.
Our network of amazing professionals from Google to Nike, Twitter to Butternut Box are all teaching sessions as part of the programme but – if I had to bet – I’d say the thing about the school I am most excited about is seeing those attending interacting together, challenging each other, supporting one another. That’s where the magic happens. Human relationships are key. Twain knew that – just re-read Huckleberry Finn if you are in any doubt.
Find out more at huckletree.com/alphaschool.
Applications for Alpha School close at midnight on 15th September.
Applications will be reviewed and successful applicants will be informed no later than 29th September. The course will start in October and run weekly on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, concluding on 5th December.