A school is not going to teach you how to teach yourself, unless you pay through the nose. Public schools aren’t even interested in teaching anymore according to Jonathan Taylor Gatto, if you believe him. He was New York State teacher of the year back in 1991. Yes, that was a while ago, but he’s been telling all of the dirty little secrets of compulsory schooling since then.
What do you need to learn so you can teach yourself for the rest of your life? Three things: Hooked on Phonics (TM), a B.S. detector, and a kitchen table. It used to be called the Trivium, and the formal names of those three items are grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
An eager student can learn to read in a matter of weeks. After that it depends on what you do with it. You can fill your mind on junk just like sitting in front of a T.V., or you can read and discuss good books. Grammar. Rhetoric. Great, but what if someone is covertly or overtly trying to pull the wool over your eyes? You need a B.S. detector: Logic. From simple syllogisms to fallacies, to hypothetical and disjunctive propositions and inductive and deductive reasoning, there probably wasn’t one single day in school when…wait a minute, your head is spinning. Syllogism? What is this guy talking about?
I’m talking about being able to tell when someone is trying to slip one past you, usually to sell you something or to get you to sell your soul for something. Suffice to say, especially if you are a cashier or assembly line worker, there are powers that be, who don’t want you learning how to teach yourself. You might learn too much, find a way to more efficiently do what your employer is doing and cut into his profits. Trivium has a strange way of doing that to a person.
Trivium is the surgery in Flowers for Algernon. Ah, but dang, you probably haven’t read that. Do so, it is one of those those great short stories that sticks with you and teaches you things throughout life.
Shut off the television. Pick up a book. Not just any book, but one of the thousand good books that can help to open the door of understanding the 100 Great Books (though you can get them much cheaper on eBay). By pondering and discussing the 100 Great Ideas that shaped our culture over the past 3000 years, you’ll probably be too smart for your own good. But even if you only get part way through any of this, you will start making connections like never before, and you will find that you were lied to from kindergarten through graduation. Education is an end in itself. It is a goal worthy of your continued attention. You don’t have to walk into a classroom to get educated, you can do it at your kitchen table. Once you decouple the idea that education is for employment, you’ll find that there are a million ways to turn a buck. You’ll also find that once you take charge of your own education, the student will be a better product of the process.