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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion » User review

Fundamentally changes the way you look at learning, and as a result, at life...

  • Feb 23, 2013
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I'm frequently told I need to read particular books as they are great, excellent, or whatever. Because I have a horrible backlog of reading material, sometimes I finally get around to getting the particular title. If I go that far, usually I'm predisposed to like the book. On a few rare occasions, it goes beyond like... more into the realm of "I'm not going to be the same after this".

Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion by James Marcus Bach is one of those rare books. It took me a year before I got around to getting a copy via inter-library loan. It took me all of two days before I ordered my own copy from Amazon so that I'd forever have it in my possession. I'm even going to use my embosser to make sure I don't lose this copy, and that it gets back to me if anyone borrows it. There are so many things that are right about this view into learning by someone who didn't fit the normal cookie-cutter approach to education that we all experience in our typical scholastic career.

Dangerous Ideas - Schoolteachers don't like me very much; I Am a Buccaneer-Scholar - What's that and so what?; The First Buccaneers - A free people, skilled in many arts; What I Do and How I Do It - Eleven elements of self-education; Mental Mutiny - I tried to think - but nothing happened; The Silence of the Clams - The value of low-pressure learning; Happy Learning, James! - Discovering my passion, overcoming my fear; Emancipated Minor - I quit school and lived; Guaranteed Not Stupid - How do I know I'm any good?; No Prey, No Pay - Buccaneering at work; Treasure Map - The power of a personal syllabus; Dr. Bach - Buccaneering in the long run; Epilogue; At The Helm; Acknowledgments

Bach details his story of how he dropped out of school at 16, unable to make sense of what, how, and why his teachers were asking him to learn things. But instead of ending up at a minimum wage job as a "failure", he figured out how to educate himself. This led to a job at Apple leading a large team of software testers... at the age of 20. He's now recognized industry-wide as an expert on software testing (and a number of other things), all done with the backing and accreditation of nothing more than an eighth grade graduation certificate. :)

The term buccaneer-scholar denotes an attitude to learning that comes from not being restricted or funnelled into a standardized "one size fits all" approach to education. It's the ability to wander, explore, and learn about the things that appeal to you, and to find where one fits into the world based on your own needs and interests. It's not a condemnation of formal education or schooling. Instead, it's a recognition that not everyone learns in the same way, and the *ability* to learn on your own is more important than sitting in a classroom and being taught. As he relates in the opening pages, many teachers and educators find his message disturbing, incorrect, and dangerous. On the other hand, he's proof that learning to learn is just as important (and actually even more so) than just learning something.

The number of things that resonated with me in this book would turn this into a huge review. Suffice it to say, there weren't many chapters where I came away with nothing. In general, my biggest take-away was the realization and recognition of a number of factors that are holding me back from advancing to the level I want to attain in my current career path. Even better, I came away with the tools, inspiration, and motivation I need to break my current patterns and get on track with where I need to go. I think I knew a number of his principles (and my hurdles) before I read the book, but this made them solid and obvious... something I could act on instead of feeling burdened over.

Every year I try to look back and figure out what book(s) meant the most to me or affected me on a deep level. There's no question that Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar will be at the top of the list for 2013, and it may well be the most important book (on a personal level) I've read in the last five to ten years. This isn't just information that will improve some aspect or segment of your life. It's information that will fundamentally change your life, period.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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About the reviewer
Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
About this product


This is an informative and entertaining account of how to acquire a great education and a good job without classroom instruction or, as Bach puts it, how to become a buccaneer scholar. At 20, he became the youngest technical manager at Apple Computer and probably the only one whose highest academic credential was—and still is—an eighth-grade diploma. Now in his 40s, Bach runs a successful consulting business, and his work has been assigned reading for students at Stanford and MIT. As this book makes clear, Bach is also a gifted teacher. The steps along his road to achievement are detailed in clear chunks. Anyone looking for an instruction manual on how to get a high-quality education without having to show up for classes will find all they need here. The book may also be a healing balm to parents whose children are struggling in school, providing both with helpful tools.(Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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