There is probably no other American as revered as Benjamin Franklin.
This inventor, scientist, statesmen and founding father of our country
still influences modern life every time we vote, flick on a light or
visit a library. What’s more amazing is that Ben Franklin was almost
entirely self taught.
Although he received some formal schooling, from the age of ten on
up, Franklin’s accomplishments were almost entirely as a result of his
own desire to learn. And this was in a day and age when books were rare
and expensive, and knowledge a rare and valuable commodity.
As we move further into the 21st century, the idea of self-education
is going to continue to broaden and expand, making the life-long learner
the most valuable person in the workplace, not the person with the
fancy (and outdated) degree.
That’s not to say that formal education is
going to go away. There will always be a need for excellent universities
and inspiring teachers. But the person who takes it upon himself to
learn and explore topics—to broaden their own horizons—will always enjoy
an edge, whether it be in business or as a citizen.
And what an amazing time to desire self-education! Never before has
so much knowledge been so readily available. What would Ben have thought
of Google, Wikipedia or TED Talks?
It’s said that the sum of all human knowledge—everything we know about
everything—is doubling every 18 months. New discoveries in science,
technology and astronomy are happening almost every minute of every day.
The most remarkable thing is that these discoveries are almost
instantaneously available to anyone with an Internet connection.
Even more amazing are all of the systems, tools and resources that
are popping up everywhere that offers people the chance to learn about
any topic they desire. Want to learn how to design a web page? There are
lots of free resources to learn HTML and CSS coding online. Struggling
with math, science or physics? The Khan Academy offers
anyone the change to learn or (re-learn) anything from basic addition
to advanced Calculus through a library of over 3,400 video based
lessons, again for free.
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Beyond cost lies the fact that so many people learn differently. Some
are auditory learners, others visual. One student might thrive in a
classroom where the teacher simply talks while another slowly slips
further and further behind. With all of these new interactive learning
systems comes the potential of true differentiated learning. Now more
than ever, anyone can learn anything in a style that is tailored to
their specific learning style.
This means that the person who struggled
in school–the person with ADHD, or Autism or simply anyone who hated
sitting in a classroom all day when they wanted to be exploring the real
world outside—anyone now has access to the knowledge they want or need.
And what’s most amazing is that no one really knows where this will
lead us. It has only been within the last one hundred and fifty years
that any type of education, even rudimentary learning, was available to
anyone but the most privileged. Now, a villager in Africa can take
classes at MIT, Stanford or Princeton.
What types of new discoveries are going to be made? And more
importantly what kinds of people will we see taking up the challenge to
better themselves and the rest of the human race through education.
One thing is for certain, never again will lack of education be an
excuse for anyone on Planet Earth to learn what they need to learn to
survive, learn a trade or get ahead in life. Right this second, there
lies at your fingertips the entire Library of Congress,
the writings of every great thinker and the combined knowledge of 2,000
years of civilization. All that’s required is a thirst to learn and a
burning question that needs to be answered.