This conversation is closed.

What do you think the world would be like if autodidactic lifestyles were encouraged as/more heavily than formal education?

It is the human condition to succumb to the consequences of both abiding by and violating the norms of society. We all live within the bounds of our own personal comfort zone which requires a delicate balance of individualism and conformity, whether we like to admit it or not.

What would happen if formal education escapes the believed code of "norm" and instead becomes widely seen at as a fallback, and self-learning becomes the primary focus and reward in itself for scholars, ordinary people, and all learned individuals?

What if the world were operated by people who learned on their own accord? In this imaginary world we are able to choose what we want to learn and study it whichever way we choose, by reading, seeing, doing, exploring, and discovering.

Would we be more efficient in our chosen professions? Would we be lopsided, knowing too much about one thing and too little about another? Or, would we instead see more minds resembling those of John Nash, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and other influential minds that may have attended school, but relied on their own ability to self-teach in order to learn what they are so well known for.

  • Apr 12 2013: I think one consequence would be more people who are much better educated..

    In my family, most of us do not learn well in the traditional classroom setting. We learn quickly in everyday situations, especially when a situation requires learning something new, or solving a problem that we have never before encountered. For a variety of reasons, we perform poorly in the classroom (except for my wife, who was outstanding in college). I think we would have achieved much more if we had been home schooled and provided the time and resources to pursue our own interests. I think this applies especially at the college level, where the organization of education into marketable courses which are priced according to standard credits is far too rigid.

    Now, I do not know just how common this situation might be, but even if it applies to a small portion of the population, these people have the potential to contribute much, much more to society if the education system could identify them at an early age and provide them with a more suitable educational environment.
    • thumb
      Apr 12 2013: Have you looked into the massive open online courses, or does that seem too formal a resource for your particular tastes? I am just wondering how these seem to those who don't like classroom settings.
  • thumb
    Apr 12 2013: Hi Tory,

    This is a great question.

    At the root of it is the issue which permeates much of the discussion - .. it's not easy to articulate, but I'll give it a go.

    The root issue is the difference between the notion of inherent computational potential and the notion of external systemic parameters. The former understanding is relatively new to the discourse. We can see that the systemic approach is in accord with Descartes' mechanical universe, while the inherent computational is more in line with Darwin's adaptive principles.
    So it becomes a question of control vs a question of encourage. The image is ancient - carrot and stick, rod and staff, right wing/left wing etc.
    The choice of outlooks categorises the champion - so from the self-serving outlook: the systemic mind will be seeking methods to enslave and harness, while the computational will seek to enhance potential of opportunistic gain (random harvest). Then from the social outlook: the systemic mind will seek to regiment and indoctrinate, while the computational will seek to encourage anarchy.
    As an anarchist (not to be mistaken with anarcho-capitalist), I can observe this:
    My son is autistic. He cannot function in the traditional classroom (tried it - failed) .. . This is actually a great study, because it turns-out that his autism makes him actively allergic to systemic control and can only learn auto-didactically. SO, as a home-schooled individual, has achieved and exceeded the standard curriculum - through self motivation and almost nil constraint .. he's my little weed, we don't teach him at all - we just allow him to learn. The only constraint applied is where he impinges on our own potentials - the boundaries are self-regulating.
    Will he become some kind of Nash, Marx or Darwin? Well .. that is not up to us .. we are not the masters of the future's history .. those of the Descartian belief assert that they are the masters of the future's history - and this, in my opinion is the downfall of Descartes
  • thumb
    Apr 11 2013: We all learn mostly through our own initiative, as formal schooling lasts a short time relative to the lifespan. In some countries many people have very little formal schooling, but that doesn't mean they are not learning anything. People without formal schooling or with little will learn some things less well than those who have the opportunity to learn from people more expert and skilled than they are.

    You can compare countries to see what the literacy levels are for countries with requirements and traditions of nearly universal formal schooling and those without or look at countries that used to have few people engaged in formal schooling and then increased access to such schooling.

    I doubt that you will see many of those interested in scholarship and in pushing the boundaries of knowledge forego the opportunity to learn from and engage with those with exceptional expertise and insight.