Regardless of whether you have the resources to attain formal education or not, self-teaching proves useful and fulfilling any which way you try to spin it. Scrutinizing formal education down to its basics the flaws are more than apparent.
On a first glance it is quite intrusive, often times boring as well as lacking practical application. It happens, in most cases, at a speed not of our choosing, rarely being in sync with our interest, passion, willingness to learn at a certain moment.
Self-teaching, on the other hand, provides myriad of ways to approach it, is quite flexible, offers a model which, when perfected, allows you to progress in areas way beyond what formal education can afford to teach.
The premise is simple – self-teaching is more flexible, organic like, in sync with your passion and interest, your way of learning things, and differentiates from play only by a razor.
Self-teaching is complementary to formal educational methods
Known as Autodidacticism, this concept is being used more and more even in schools and universities. The idea is to give students the space and freedom to tap deeper into their potential for developing methodology when approaching a subject, hence starting to make knowledge easier to access via free sources and make the whole educational setting more obsolete by the day.
This, in its core, is a philosophy promulgated even way back by one the most renowned pedagogues of all time, John Amos Comenius, who is considered the father of modern education. Comenius stood by the concept of lifelong learning, and believed that his goal is not to give the student knowledge, but teach him how to get it.
Later on, by the middle of the twentieth century in most socialist countries in Europe and throughout the world, this concept was almost abandoned and replaced by marxistic ideology and marxistic pedagogy.
In the States though, led by John Dewey, the idea of pragmatism in the learning process led to progressive education and liberalism. As an advocacy of democracy, he reflects his views on education, and aims towards making the process more liberating, more flexible.
In addition, he believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning. In a way, he laid down the foundation of American educational systems, and advocates of more progressive learning systems such as homeschooling cite his name over and over.
Certainly, things can go out of hand, and people can take the bait of low hanging fruits, gathering their information from less credible sources. Nowadays, we can see online tribes being motivated to learn on their own. Have you ever observed a vegan debate? Or the anti-vaccination community? Or perhaps the current debate on the carnivore diet that is inspiring people to go zero garb and forget about plants altogether?
When people start to delve deep enough, they may end up taking a very strong position on something that seems way off. But we will talk about this in a minute.
What we mean when we say self-teaching?
This and probably asking about the broadness of the results we should expect with self-teaching is more appropriate to ask. In a nutshell, self-teaching stands for almost everything you try to learn by yourself, every type of knowledge that you can acquire. From complex topics down to the most rudimentary of skills and tasks, it can be applied just the same.
It its basis, self-teaching is the process of acquiring knowledge out of the typical classroom setting, and without the need of a mentor.
(note – mentor can be replaced with a virtual mentor. A person who passed knowledge through a certain medium, and one you’ve decided to follow on your path towards better understanding of the subject)
Years back this concept, albeit in its infancy, was still able to produce results. Now in a world of information being accessible in the blink of an eye, it gets easier and more efficient by the day.
Even Hemingway was self-taught
He and many other proclaimed novelists, poets, artists, graphic designers in fact. And this was way back, when self-teaching was still in its infancy; at least in comparison with today, with what kind of resources are now available.
After finishing high school, he was on his own way to form and upgrade the skills that brought him fame and fortune.
“… He read for hours at a time in bed”, recounted his sister Marcelline. “He read everything around the house–all the books, all the magazines, even the A.M.A. Journals from Dad’s office downstairs. Ernie also took out great numbers of books from the public library.”
His father wanted him to go to Oberlin for college, but Hemingway decided to become a reporter for the Kansas City Star.
The usual progression with self-teaching
As to be on the clear, this concept is in play even before we can account for it consciously. As children we teach ourselves almost everything about the surroundings, about ourselves, about how things are supposed to work.
While receiving formal education, this process subsides, takes the back seat and stays there for as long as we are in the need to learn something out of the curriculum. Depending on the level of creativity, and taking into consideration the fact that we are all different, self-teaching may appear in some form here and there even during our formal education.
However, the process usually takes a full swing once we are aware of our interests, passions, and chose to follow through with them.
Steve Jobs realized, as late as after his freshman’s year at college, that he had a growing passion for typography. It was then when he started taking classes and tried to use every chance as to get his hands on literature that will allow him to improve in this particular field. As the passion grew, the time spent on learning about it was increasing as well. A classic tale of self-teaching went well.
We teach ourselves about things that we interact with on daily basis. Then as the maxim goes that necessity is the mother of invention, we try to learn more about things that can come handy in everyday situations. Next come things we feel passionate about, things we are curious about, our lifelong interests.
Pursuing a passion in the form of a hobby allows a deeper understanding of this process all by itself. Deciding over which aspect of it is more appealing for further learning, finding the books, blogs, magazines, online forums and publications, we may notice the pattern of gathering information, the way in which we pursue it further or disregard it.
The flexibility of the whole process, and the fact that no one is cracking the whip behind us as to dictate the speed and dynamics of our progress, makes the whole journey more enjoyable, quite more fulfilling.
Then we find the mentors in our surrounding; talk about our interests, ask questions. It is in no time that we start finding our own ways to approach the topic, to come up with something innovative and creative.
Image credit: By Sara Madden