Learning is not a product of schooling

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” - Albert Einstein

As connection speeds increase and the ubiquity of the Internet pervades, digital content reigns and the Internet is seriously revolutionizing education. And in this era, free education has never been so accessible. The Web gives lifelong learners the tools to become autodidacts, eschewing exorbitant tuition and joining the ranks of other self-taught great thinkers in history such as Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Paul Allen and Ernest Hemingway.

And it is not just the lifelong learners, which means those that have finished “school” but the young could be started on the route of lifelong learning here as well, and that without the need for the brainwashing institution called the “school”.

I have been one of those very lucky ones that I forgot all about going to school and never actually set foot in one of those buildings in anger. I learned to read and write being taught by a friendly adult and after that was given access to a library second to none.

It was there were I “graduated” to some extent and I can vouch for the fact that learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire learning and knowledge.

What was a university in the real old days? It was a place where people went to “read” a subject and primarily this was “reading” books on the subject at the libraries of those universities. Lectures came later.

With today's facilities things are so much easier. One has to be but careful not to take everything that is being found on the Internet as 100% the gospel truth and one needs to use discernment as to what is true and what may not be.

Entire university courses and lectures are now found on the Internet, for instance.

10 years ago in April 2001, Charles M. Vest, the MIT President at the time, announced that the university would make its materials for all its courses freely available on the Internet. This initiative, found at OpenCourseWare, has enabled other teachers and lifelong learners around the world to listen and read what is being taught at MIT. 5 years later, in April 2006, UC Berkeley announced its plan to put complete academic courses on Apple’s iTunes U, beginning what is now one of the biggest collections of recorded classroom lectures in the world. One year later, in October 2007, the school launched UC Berkeley on YouTube. According to Benjamin Hubbard the Manager of Webcast at UC Berkeley, the school has had well over 120 million downloads since first sharing videos online, which they began doing in 2001.

Both Yale and Stanford have followed suit, and even Harvard has jumped on board in the last two years. Open Yale features free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars, supported by funding from the William and Flora Hewlitt Foundation. Outside of the U.S., some of the most selective universities in India have created a vast body of online content in order to reach more of the country’s exploding student population. At Stanford, you can freely “attend” The Stanford Mini Med School featuring 3 year long series of courses by more than thirty distinguished faculty, scientists and physicians.

The world’s encyclopedia is as weightless, free and instantly accessible as Wikipedia, which is quickly gaining legitimacy in the education sphere. Using the Internet, you can learn a new language or delve into the depths of metaphysics with just a click of a mouse. The Web has unlocked the keys to a worldwide virtual school, potentially leveling the playing field for students around the world.

Having said that, however, as regards to Wikipedia, we have to be careful with some material as, in theory and practice, (almost) anyone can put up an entry on Wikipedia and/or edit other entries. It is, therefore, possible to manipulate and distort the truth. Then again, not all books bring honest truth either.

The availability of (free) lectures and other contents is absolutely, as far as I am concerned, amazing and with help from such sources you and I will never learn out and continue learning – so at least I hope – to our dying day.

Theoretically, everything that is out there on the web in knowledge in one way or the other can help us, depending on the subject matter, to continue learning and studying.

I am now in my 50s and I am still learning in my favorite subject categories and many other matters too and it is this availability of materials, mostly for but the cost of the Internet connection, the I would want to have anyway, that makes leaning no so much fun.

Einstein was right as to the learning process and school and schooling definitely overrated.

© 2011