Growing up, I would wake up each day thinking, “The best part of today is that I have one less day of formal education.” School was not only a burden to me but also hindered my desire to learn. Though this sounds confusing, it makes perfect sense; I am an autodidact and would far prefer to learn subjects of my choice at my own pace.
An autodidact is a self learner. They are someone who would rather steer their own education toward subjects they want to learn. Typically, most autodidacts actually enjoy learning more than most others, they just simply don’t get along with traditionally structured learning. Looking back in time, the number of autodidacts has increased as access to information has increased.
Being an autodidact has been an interesting journey for me. In school, my mind would compete with my teachers’ time, as I constantly liked to think about other subjects. I would get home and spend time still thinking but never about school, other than enough to pass a test or satisfy a mark. Some of the subjects that first caught my attention were animal sciences, plant sciences, mechanical sciences, and business.
By the time I made it to middle school, I was sure that I was going to be a marine biologist and study the ocean forever. I looked into my options and chose to go to Norfolk County Agricultural High School. Once enrolled in Norfolk Aggie (as it is known locally), I soon learned the amount of book and lab work involved in marine science and lost interest. I decided to move over to their agricultural mechanics department. This was a great decision due to the low number of students in my class compared to all others, allowing me far more me-time than any other school possibly could. The other great part was that we only had to do formal education for half of the day and the rest was hands-on.
While in high school I would spend my time thinking about new subjects like water, politics, education, information, and intelligence. Each of these subjects would take up a lot of my time, meaning that my grades would slip, leading to disappointed parents. I did not blame them for feeling this way. They were cultured to believe this learning machine would produce one perfect adult by the end of it. I knew in my head that I was going to continue to follow my path and educate myself as I saw fit.
One of my biggest challenges at this time was relating to others on many levels. For example, when others were watching sports, I was consuming information. When others were busy on their phones scrolling through FaceBook, I was face down in my own phone, feverishly reading about my current favorite subject. This desire for knowledge has lead to a lot of introverted behaviors, which I have since learned to monitor and cope with.
After high school, I went on to a tech school, American Motorcycle Institute, where I became a certified Honda mechanic. This was not a bad form of learning for me because it was hands-on, but I still struggled. Each day, the lack of agency to steer my direction and choose my projects made education tough. After graduation, I got a job at Bettencourt’s Honda as a mechanic and shortly after decided it was not the career for me.
The reason I did not like working the motorcycle repair job I had was because it really took away my time and made me focus on the job at hand. Though I was a good mechanic, I would spend my time staring at the bike thinking of something like a desalinization plant and how I could make enough money to own one. Where would I build it? Then I would notice I needed to get back to producing, as I was a number in the system and the system did not have time for me to expand my brain. My job was to do what I learned in school and do it well, not to learn more.
After leaving Bettencourt’s, I did what any good American child does and I went and got me some more Edjumacation?!? I decided to enroll into Massasoit Community College in Brockton. Though locally it goes by names like Massatoilet, Umass Brockton, and many other jokes, it is a very good school. What is not very good is the poor attitude of a dejected American kid like me who was confused by the system. While at Massasoit, I got my associates degree in criminal justice.
Classes were toughest for me in this school because, though I hated to be at school in a classroom, I could always enjoy watching people. While at a community college in a predominately middle class society, you learn what first world problems are like when you listen to their daily complaints. Everyday I would listen to some young person talk about how great they were and how they were only at this school because of this or that. They would go on to talk so much trash about the school. The funny thing is, they lived in their parents’ basement and had nothing, but felt they were better than that current moment.
I never hated these students for this though, because just like my parents, they were more victims of a system. A system where we have been taught to believe we can print perfect people by creating curriculum, tests, and structure. This leads to parents and educators pushing the youth to pick a future and a program so they can be an adult and have a job when they get out of college. This is so far from realistic, and if they were in an expanded learning environment where they were able to explore and make their own choices, they would be inspired. Heck, I was even here so the world would see I went to college. For what?
Shortly after school was out, I knew I would never use my criminal justice degree be a police officer either, as it too was not the right fit for me. As I began to learn more about politics and government, I felt that I could not uphold a law in a system where I did not ultimately make the decision. Taking away a person’s freedom is a huge responsibility and if I was to do that, it would have to be my own decision. I could not go out and enforce the law of the man taking away people’s freedoms based on a politician’s idea of what is good for them.
Thinking back over this vast space of time, the autodidact in my mind thought, “Man, what a giant waste of time!” That was when it hit me; it had not at all been a waste of time. I had been steering my path the best I could in the world that was given to me.
One thing I learned in life is that it is easy to complain when something does not go as planned or as we hoped. Though it is a hard pill to swallow, life is what it is and if a system is built, you must follow it until you create a new system to replace it or be ready to have a hard battle. The great part of today is that the freedom of information has now lead to a new way we can educate ourselves. The more information that becomes available to the world, the faster it will progress.
My thoughts are that, in reality, everyone is an autodidact. It is called being human and we all have a quest for knowledge but most are yet to be inspired. When you put the right information in front of the right person and they are inspired, there is a light that turns on. Once that light is turned on, they will never be able to turn that light off and will look to forever feed the flame with more information.
In time, I am sure we will see the change of public education systems. Children will be able to forge their own paths. People will thrive and so will all the information they have. People love to share information because they are so emotionally attached to it. As long as information continues to progress towards being free, we will always be a greater society.