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Self Learning Stigma

There is a stigma placed on people who learn through self study rather that institutionalized study. They are less worthy in the eyes of the public.

Certainly, when someone has credentials from a respected institution, it means that they must know something. They put forth the effort to receive good grades, awards, and certificates.

Or, possibly, it means that they have endured a process to get through courses they had no real interest in, and forgot most of the things they forced into their brains by rote memory once the course had ended.

Not to mention the tendency of academia to strip the creative mind away from people. The more a person can spew back what is fed to them, the better there grades. Creatively deviate, however, and you might notice a grade drop.

Mind you, I find there are many benefits of the college/university process. That being said, I think everything I had learned at college, if today’s Internet, technology, and stores of information had been available in the late 80’s and early 90’s,  could have theoretically been self taught. That, of course, does not mean people would actually make the effort to self learn without that piece of paper to show they have made the effort. But what if they do?

The drive to self study means that there is a real interest within the person that does so.  They truly care about the topic. And when someone truly cares, they become the real subject matter experts – certificate or not. Certainly many people in academia care about topics. It does not follow, however, that one needs to be part of an academic institution to care about and become an expert in a topic, or that following such academic lines means that one does care about those topics or is an expert in them. Some cannot afford the expense or the time of school. They work full time jobs to pay the bills.

Self learning enables people to learn on their own time without putting them into debt. It enables them to access the abundant supply of resources that are ever expanding.

And with the Internet, self learning is quicker and easier than ever before. Unfortunately it is an uphill battle to gain the respect needed in your area of expertise.

In philosophy, for example, the problem comes when someone makes a case and they are dismissed entirely due to a lack of institutionalized credentials. It matters not how knowledgeable the person is or how solid their arguments are. It matters not that there are people with PhD’s who make extremely illogical arguments. The person without the credentials is dismissed out of hand. The term armchair philosopher is thrown at many people who deserve as much respect as those that have gone through a large block of their life in institutionalized study.

Also, the argument from authority fallacy is rampant amongst many. People make a claim given to them by an authority, and as soon as someone challenges them on the claim they refer to the authority. They cannot, however, go head to head with the challenge. They have taken the authorities word for it without actually looking at the logic of said authority. And when someone without the same institutionalized credentials makes the challenge, they will say things like:

“Are you a professor of X? Such and such is.”
“Do you hold a PhD in X? Such and such does.”

They put people on a pedestal instead of trying to understand the logic themselves to see if such a person really is deserving of that pedestal.

We need to move away from this mentality. I don’t mean that we need to take away from the effort a person put in to go to school.  I just mean we should not dismiss those that do not. The age of self learning is here and getting stronger each moment. No longer are people limited to academia for knowledge and wisdom they wish to obtain. Most information is readily available to the majority of people in developed countries. The ways in which such information is being disseminated is changing rapidly. Boring lectures and bloated droning textbooks are still here, but losing ground as teachers begin to use technology in the classroom.

To be honest, I do not foresee teachers or professors existing in the future with the exception of certain manual labor fields. Instead there will be guides for lab work and “information directors” who will assist students with how to use technology to find all of the answers they require. Most lectures will be recorded in various media forms by the best of the best. Everyone will be able to have standardized learning experiences from recordings of the best teachers. Question and answer databases will expand and students will learn to answer their own questions. Once technology and self study reaches a certain point, how we determine if someone has knowledge and how we give credence will need to change. This is the future.

The point is, people need to start reducing the sigma of those that self learn. The boundaries are blurring between those in academia and those that are self taught. With the Internet and new media, the public can be the arbiters of who has expertise and who does not, based solely on what a person produces. A piece of paper on a wall is, and always has been, a very shallow arbiter.

Are you a self learner? What is your take on the future of self learning?

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