Project Polymath was conceived after two years of long and thorough examination of the faults of typical modern academic institutions. Thoughts on how to rectify these problems yielded the following principles, which underlie the vision and plans of the university:
Full potential: Any education worthy of the term must strive to draw forth a student's full potential. It is not enough to stop halfway and proclaim “this student meets our standards”; the loss of potential accomplishment already resulting from this attitude is incalculable. The question we ask should be “Does the student's education meet the student's own standards?” Will it fully serve student goals and complement aptitudes? If not, the education is insufficient. Talent should never be left to wither.
In other words, the student's purpose is central to the student's education.
- No artificial barriers: There is no reason to hold a student already demonstrating mastery of a subject - it wastes the time of everyone involved. Let students move on as they are able and willing. Requirements for advancement should be predicated only upon ability.
- No conflicts, no servitude: To set one student's freedom at odds with another's - or the freedom of the students against that of the faculty - or the freedom of the individual against society - is a false dichotomy. We believe the primary purpose of a proper education is to help students identify and attain personal visions, applying the skills they learn in service of their own goals. Since these ideals improve the status quo, helping students attain their individual dreams ultimately benefits all of humanity. Thus it is self-defeating to build a system that sets these goals at odds with each other.
- Creation is a virtue: Creation gives purpose to knowledge. Bringing new ideas, new perspectives, and new implementations into the world moves us all forward. A proper education thus not only imparts knowledge, but encourages its use.
- Open-minded: Although we encourage students to scrutinize and judge ideas, and to adopt them or not as they see fit, we recognize that censorship can easily destroy creativity and block the expression of revolutionary ideas. Therefore, we encourage students and scholars to be open rather than closed-minded and intend to create an environment and culture conducive to brainstorming and educated risk-taking.
- Intellectual egalitarianism: A good idea is a good idea, whoever generates it. Anyone with a promising idea should be free to pursue it.
- Don't presume: Students know their own goals best. It is not the place of the educator to presume what a student may wish to do with his or her education, but rather to provide the student with the tools necessary to attain his or her own goals. Thus, any opportunities such as internships, faculty-sponsored research, and studying abroad should be entirely voluntary, never required. We can recommend and guide, but we should never force. The student should always have the final say in matters concerning his or her own career.
- Keep it real: Advancement of the status quo (and thus innovative leadership) requires authentic and potentially unconventional thought. Although such leaders have granted society many of its advancements, they are typically ostracized for the unconventionality inherent in their dedication towards unique self-determined visions - even as they strive to aid their detractors - and thus most established systems prove inadequate to their developmental needs. We hope to foster an environment that is unique as our students, encouraging identification, development, and pursuit of such visions - for they are the foundations upon which the future is built.
These principles outline what we believe to be the ideal university: a place of learning and creation where students and faculty may find limitless tools to achieve their own goals and realize the full extent of their talents, however diverse they may be. As simple as this may seem, we have yet to find an existing academic institution that operates under these principles, or even willing to integrate with a new program governed by them. This necessitates a new solution.