The University of Your Book Shelf


I think the world and our education system has gravely underestimated the value of self-education.  The prevalent mentality among people seems to be that significant learning is something you do at a desk in front of a chalkboard with a teacher in a room (preferable air-conditioned) at specific times of the day with people of a specific age.  It is as if somehow the learning you do on your own does not count.  It does not qualify or quantify.  Now, I think this attitude is changing as people become more savvy about where and how to get information, but nobody wants to open their mouths and say it out loud.  So I'll be the brave one and say it:

"You no longer have to go to a specific school to learn things now that we have the internet." - Seth Godin

Okay, Seth Godin said it first - but hey, proof that I believe in being a good student.  Before you go crazy on me, know that I am not against going to college or having teachers or getting a degree.  I'm doing all those things...I'm just a little bit more creative about how I do it.  I want people to know that the way we go about acquiring our education is changing...for the better.

Just compare the attitudes.  This doesn't apply to everyone but it is a reality that the average person who graduates from college never goes on to read another book.  What does this say about the education system?  We have isolated the act of learning so much so that students have mentally placed education in a box - it is something that happens in an institution and not without the aid of someone "qualified" to teach us.

Yes, we need teachers, but we do not need to confine our positive experience of them to grade school or college.  Because of the internet, they are all around us, 24/7.  I can go on youtube and watch video after video of talks by Fulton J. Sheen or the Pope or anybody practically.  I can look up talks on TED of people who are leaders in a myriad of fields.  I can read the insights of entrepreneurs who are freely giving their advice about exactly what I am interested in...exactly what I need to know.  I can go on Oxford University's website and take their online course on Bronte Literature and communicate with teachers and fellow students via chatrooms and email as I sit at my desk drinking coffee on an island far, far away from campus.

The fact is that we are not teaching our kids the deepest, biggest, greatest and most profound lesson that they can possibly learn.  A lesson that has the power to serve them in every facet of their lives for the rest of their lives.  And that is that they have the power to teach themselves.  They have the power to create.  They have the power to be the Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, or Mozart at whatever they want to do.  Why don't we do this?  Maybe we are too busy and consumed with teaching facts.  In an interview I listened to recently, Seth Godin, a popular author who writes about the post-industrial revolution, stripped this problem down to the hard core issue when he spoke of how we are making kids memorize all these facts when we should really be teaching them how to look them up.  Dare we teach in a way that puts the power in the hands of the student?

Once upon a time, memorized knowledge of facts and mass conformity was a valuable asset.  However, that was during the Industrial Age.  The world has changed...but our education system has not.  It is beginning to, yes, but few are the schools and colleges adapting to meet the needs of students today.  Because of the internet and technology, the world and the way it works is changing at lightning speed and the new economy that is rising is in need of people who are brave enough to take risks, make mistakes, find answers, initiate, be creative, innovate, learn multiple skills, take responsibility for themselves and understand the value of life-long learning and self-education.  Is the education we are giving our kids effectively preparing them for such a world?

At the moment, the learning that I am receiving from the books on my shelf, my experience in the marketplace, my roaming on the internet is giving me eons more in value than what I am learning from my textbooks which are still bent on a student's capacity to memorize facts and follow the rules.  And maybe that is the way it should be.
Michelle RohrComment