“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
― Mark Twain
Somehow within recent decades, we have lost the beauty of education. Somewhere in the mists of curriculum overhauls, tech preparedness, and other reform, we have come to believe that education is schooling.
Ask any small child about education and they’ll all respond with a story of the classroom, the books they’re studying, and the other children they study around. Some of them thoroughly enjoy it (I was one of those) but most detest the daily routine of sitting in a desk and waiting on a bell to ring.
Ask any teen about education and the response is even more drastic. While there are a quiet few, ostracized by their peers, who enjoy the system’s method of teaching them, the majority of students respond with a hearty negative perspective on their assignments, classes, and homework.
Ask any young adult who has recently started college. You’ll see a picture of deadlines, procrastination, and countdown to graduation. The biggest highlight of education is the social life.
Then ask parents, lawmakers, and other influencers on this world of education. “Education is important,” they say, and so they promote schooling with renewed fervor.
The problem with equating schooling and education is this: we’re killing people’s love of learning. When you mention the word “education” the picture most envision is an event to be graduated out of, not a lifelong quest for knowledge and wisdom.
What needs to happen so that education can be understood and appreciated once more? It takes a mindset shift. It’s not something I can expect to change on a cultural level, but I’m optimistic enough to believe that this idea can impact the world one life at a time.
Self-Education: The Mindset Shift
Self-education is simply education in its purest form. It’s the recognition that no other individual, system, or group has control over what you learn and don’t learn. It’s the choice to take advantage of the resources available to you. It’s taking responsibility for the outcome of the ideas you interact with and the things you can create with the ideas.
But above all, self-education is recognizing that you don’t need an arbitrary credential to dictate what you learn in this world. It distances standardized tests and degrees from the pure joy of learning something new and applying it to your life.
Self-Education In Today’s World
Information has never been more accessible. In fact, it’s so easily available that we take it for granted much of the time. In our hands lies one of the most powerful computers to date, yet many of us never take advantage of the educational availability we have directly in front of us.
Never has it been easier to sit down with some of the greatest minds in history. Audible, Youtube, iTunes, and other audio/ video sources make it possible for any individual to engage with big ideas practically anywhere, anytime. It’s as easy to hear Aristotle’s ideas as it is to access the latest political gossip.
Never has it been more convenient to interact with others on ideas you find interesting. I recently attended FEEcon with Praxis participants and staff. It was a whole semester’s worth of economics packed into one fast-paced, fun event. Many other conferences like this are available. You know when you go that no one is going to be forced to attend; they’ve all paid money to be there because they want to. It’s not just some required class for credit.
Never has information been more cheap. I can go to the library today and access millions of books for free. Even better, many of the classics are already online in PDF format if I don’t want to leave the comfort of my home. Google makes it easy for me to quickly research any question I have about the world. I can log into thegreatcoursesplus.com and watch courses created by experts in practically any field for a small fee each month.
Never has it been easier to showcase the things you’ve learned in the world around you. You can build a website quickly and blog about the things you’re studying. It’s simple to guest blog on sites related to what you’re reading. Social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter quickly impact your network and can be leveraged to establish your expertise in a subject.
What this means for you
I don’t care if you’re homeschooled or public schooled. I don’t care if you’re a dropout or if you detest them. I don’t care if you’re 20 years old or 60.
You’re the CEO of your own education. You don’t have to rely on a boss to tell you what to learn and how. You don’t have to wait on colleagues to dive into ideas that you’re passionate about. You don’t have to wait on an institution to give you a go-ahead.
Take advantage of the unique set of advantages that the world has to offer today. Learn to be your own credential. Embrace a love for education in its pure form.
Then go share this idea with someone else.