I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
In past centuries and cultures (such as England in the 1700s), the “self-educated” person was often admired as someone who, despite not having the financial means for formal education, worked hard anyway to educate himself or herself. Perhaps some aristocrats still snubbed a self-educated person, but only because of ordinary social class snobbery.
In our day of greater class equality (at least than in 1700s England) and wider-spread higher education, reactions to someone whose only education is “self-education” would likely not be admiration but skepticism and strange looks. Degrees are credentials, and we depend on credentials. One could even say we’re obsessed with credentials.
However, that obession is changing. Millennials typically care more about ingenuity and results than credentials, and they are all too aware that degrees don’t guarantee good jobs anymore.
And with out-of-control tuition costs and an ever-expanding knowledge base available for free through the internet, some people are beginning to question the need for formal college education at all. A recent TIME magazine article reported that “for the past four years, PayPal’s Peter Thiel has been divvying out dozens of $100,000 ‘scholarships’ to kids who are willing to ditch university in favor of ‘self-education.'”
That’s quite a radical position, but it’s certainly intruiging. There would be a lot to take into consideration when seeking to replace a formal college education with self-education: one would have to be extremely self-motivated and disciplined to essentially homeschool one’s self; one would probably want to follow a traditional curriculum of reading, study, writing, and (somehow) language practice and labs/hands-on work to ensure a well-rounded, culturally informed education; and one would need to make peace with the fact that degrees still do open doors, if less and less so in today’s job market.
But regardless of the question about whether to factor college in or out, self-education is important for anyone. In this sense, “self-education” can mean a lot of things: teaching yourself to play the guitar, learning a language, watching TED Talks or documentaries, subscribing to open courses, or simply reading books with the intention of learning something.
A sense of personal and intellectual growth is a basic human need; it falls into the highest “self-actualization” category in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
But maybe some people have a greater need for growth than others. If so, I’m one of them! I LOVE to learn and always have. I miss school (but I don’t miss being financially dependent). And I want to learn everything! Since I also happen to be highly self-motivated and disciplined, I like to do nerdy things like make personal study plans with deadlines…because, really, there’s so much to learn and so little time!
But you don’t have to be extreme about self-education like me (or like Peter Thiel) to do self-education. Learn something new and boost your life fulfillment!