The power of being self-taught

By: Evan Shaub-Senior, Communication

My time in college has taught me about the power of being self-taught.

Some of the most influential thinkers of our time were self-taught. Two people who come to mind are Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison; they were both incredibly intelligent individuals, but they came from very different backgrounds.

Einstein received some of the highest merits possible in the education system, earning a PhD in experimental physics from the University of Zurich in 1905. Edison, on the other hand, only attended three months of formal schooling. He lived at home learning from books that his mother gave to him.

That’s not to say something like college isn’t valuable, rather the opposite. College is valuable because it teaches you how to teach yourself.

On the surface it would appear that Edison is the more self-taught individual of the two, but that’s not necessarily the case. Einstein started teaching himself basic engineering at the tender age of 10. He was smart enough to realize that his best opportunities would come through the system of formal education. Being a part of the educational field gave Einstein access to resources that he might not have had otherwise.

Edison felt the opposite, but for a very similar reason.

Edison thought that the educational system held him back. He rejected the system’s rigid and hierarchical structure, opting to work for Western Union instead running telegraph messages for the Associated Press.

Eventually Edison invented the first publicly affordable light bulb, along with other practical creations cementing his place in history.

While the Edisons of the world may not have needed to finish school, for just about everyone else, going to school can teach valuable lessons that may not seem like they apply to the classroom. Those lessons can be the most important ones you learn in life. What college is so effective at doing is teaching us the importance of hanging a question mark on just about everything stated as fact.

Depending on your major, the experience you get at this university will be different. I bet most of the successful students at this school would say they’ve taught themselves most of what they know. It’s not the teachers’ fault; that’s how it’s supposed to be. A good teacher knows their students will learn more about the subject if they can make them genuinely interested in it.

While being able to work well in a group may be essential to getting things done in life, no effective group work is accomplished without someone taking a large amount of individual responsibility. People like Edison see a problem and try to think of the best possible solution.

Both Einstein and Edison saw the social norms that existed during their respective times and decided to question them.
It led Einstein to develop his now famous theory of relativity. Edison started General Electric and has over 1,000 different patents in his name. Without a doubt, both men changed the world. They both knew that progress never comes from being stagnant.

To quote the great Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver, “it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Take what you know, apply it to your life and make something out of it.