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Why isn't autodidacticism encourage more in our society?

  1. Apr 2, 2009 #1
    You would think in this day and age, there would be a lot less people attending college now that subjects taught in college are not restricted only to college classrooms any more, but instead college attendance has increased dramatically in the past 50 years. In the early 20th century, only 3 percent of the population went to college. Now 25 percent of the population attends college.

    I know you won't be able to get a job in physics without an advance graduate degree in physics. However, it is possible to perform physics experiments in this day and age where the latest scientific research papers are available on demand to everybody and not only available to the physics community and where different versions of lectures on physics , from introductory physics to general relativity popped up on the web everyday, and there is ample software available like matlab,mathematica, and maple to model your experiments. You can easily communicate your scientific ideas to members of the physics community via the web. People at the LHC give lectures and seminars on the experiments at LHC /.Hey, If Einstein was able to developed his ideas for Special Relativity in a swiss patent office and Issac Newton was able to developed his ideas on motion and gravitation on his Uncle's farm, why a mere mortal who doesn't possess Einstein's and Newton's genius who resides in the information age can't developed there own ideas related to physics. ? autodidacticism should be promoted more and encouraging kids to attend college should not be promoted as much, especially since most college graduates never used there degree in the field they decide to have for a career. You save lots of money by simply looking at the information provided by some universities and other individuals online, why s attend college and drown in thousands of dollars worth of debt once you obtained your degree when every subject taught in college is also available outside the ivory towers of college?

    Colleges today are not like Plato(or was it Aristotle ) academy where discussion of ideas between students and professors were often promoted more than given students grades , tests, homework, etc. In fact, I don't even think plato's academy gave out grades to students back then. Students and the teachers would meet together in a group and have discussions on there topics of interests.
     
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  3. Apr 5, 2009 #2

    russ_watters

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    You answered your own question: the point of college is to give you qualifications for getting (and holding) a job. It is impossible for a potential employer to verify the knowledge of a person who is completely self-taught. Perhaps more to the point, few people are mentally equipped to properly teach themselves, so they don't even know if they got a good education! The world is littered with crackpots who thought they didn't need a formal education.

    Also, considering Einstein was a phd, it is tough to figure how he is an example that supports your thesis. He worked in a patent office because he couldn't find a teaching job. So what? Many of his early theories were not developed in a lab, so they were something he could do on his own, but I suspect that if he had no credentials, it would have been a long time before anyone who mattered would read his papers.

    Nor does Newton work as an example. You can't get a degree in a science that you invent unless you start a university and award yourself one!
     
  4. Apr 5, 2009 #3
    Einstein is an example because he did not have a physics advisor to assist him with his project. He did not immediately go to graduate school once he graduated and he did not graduate with honors either, since his senior thesis project was given poor marks compared to his classmates senior thesis projects. Had it not been for Max Planck, Einsteins work would have been largely ignored by the scientific community. Did I mentioned that Einstein tauhgt himself calculus and differential equations in his early teens without the helped of a teacher.




    Newton is an example because much of his contributions to physics were not in college but where on his Uncle's Farming. It doesn't matter where your produced your scientific work or developed new scientific theories; the only thing that matters is that you have or you developed the self-discipline to focused on the projects that you are interested in.
     
  5. Apr 5, 2009 #4

    symbolipoint

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    Mathematics might often not (have) needed much technology nor laboratory activities; Physics and most sciences really REQUIRE laboratory equipment. The typical common person does not have access to sufficient equipment and rooms/buildings. The person must either attend an institution which defininitely reduces much of the autodidactic part of his learning; or has ways to obtain some room and equipment (either by suitable employment or being rich) to use according to his own self-directed learning.
     
  6. Apr 6, 2009 #5
    Yes thats true, but it also depends on what subdiscipline in physics you choose to study. If you choose to studied a physics discipline in theoretical physics, for example, they tend to place emphasis on thought experiments are than physical experiments that involved expensive laboratory equipment.
     
  7. Apr 9, 2009 #6

    russ_watters

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    You made a false connection, there. I did not say that all self-educated people are crackpots, I said that crackpots are typically self-educated. The statement is not reversible. In any case, a couple of those are really odd examples.... Malcom X? He wasn't even a scientist and I would argue not even a philosopher! Edison and Franklin were primarily inventors and contributed little to pure science. Descartes and Socrates were philosophers, not scientists.

    In any case, I will clarify: it isn't impossible to educate yourself, nor is it impossible to make a contribution to science if not formally educated - it is just extrordinarily unlikely for a non-formally educated person to do so. And it gets more difficult with time, as theories get deeper.
    That's just plain not true. Teaching is a serious thing and most people are not born even with an understanding of how to properly learn. They have to be taught how to learn. What creates crackpots is curiosity (which everyone typically has) mixed with a misunderstanding of how to approach learning, leading to learning things wrong.
    Saying it over and over again doesn't make it true. We have real evidence that it isn't and that evidence is the fact that self-taught people rarely make a positive contribution to science. There are a lot more people out there without a degree than with one, yet virtually all contributions to science in the past 150 years have been done by people with secondary education. If you can think of one example I'd be open to hearing it...
    Much of that is wrong, but in any case, that's called "moving the goal posts", since you started by arguing about people with no formal education and now you acknowledge that he did have a formal education, and a lot of it.

    Yes, Einstein was smart enough to teach himself quite a bit on his own. And he was also smart enough to realize he needed a real formal education both to get a job and make a difference in science - exactly what you are arguing against. He may actually be the perfect example against your point, since I will agree that he was smart enough to educate himself far better than most could, yet he still chose the formal education route.
    Regardless of if that is true, you are arguing against your own point. I agree that it is difficult to gain the credibility needed for people to pay attention to you: that's part of the reason a formal education is important! That was in the second sentence of my other post!
    Agreed and irrelevant. The corollary to a true statement is not automatically true. That's some bad logic you are using there. Did I mention that understanding how logic works is one of the keys to learning how to learn...?
    How can you not see how silly it is to use Newton as an example of someone who didn't take physics in college when physics didn't exist for him to take?!?
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2009
  8. Apr 11, 2009 #7
    I never said Malcolm X was a scientist. I said you can teach yourself any discipline that you are interested in, not just science, as long as you have some kind of access to the knowledge of your discipline. . Malcolm developed an strong interest in reading and knowing more about the African Disapora and islam while he was in prison. So yes, I do considered him an autodidactact. Descartes may not have officially been a scientist, but he is one of the persons responsible for igniting the Scientific Revolution in the marked by the age of Enlightment and greatly influenced Newton. I never said that Franklin great contributions to pure science,, but he made significant contributions to our understanding of electricity. Most physicists(past and present) don't make any significant contributions to the fields that they do there research in. Michael Faraday, a high school drop who first job occupation was bookbinding, but taking an apprenticeship with a scientist made majors contributions to magnetism and electricity.

    Usually , the people that are labeled crackpots are usually other fellow scientists, not people outside a scientific community. If you hold on to a scientific theory and ignored all other scientific theories that contradicts or finds flaws in your scientific theory, then you will be a crackpot, whether you have a formal education or not. As long a person without an advanced degree is exposing themselves to the same knowledge that members of the scientific community are exposing themselves to, and that person follows the scientific method, and is reading and analyzing the same scientific journals that members of the scientific community are reading, I don't understand why then a person without a college degree should more likely be labeled as a crackpot than a person within the scientific community.

    curiosity creates geniuses just like curiosity can create crackpot. It can go both ways. Maybe there aren't many self-taught people making real contributions to science because there are not that many self-taught people or the scientific community might exclude them because they might believe that only the person who formally holds a degree opinions merit more what the opinions of a person who does not hold a degree in science. I would like you to show me the evidence that says its is extremely unlikely to teach yourself physics or abstract algebra. Please don't just make blanketed statements. Show me some case studies that a person has an extremely difficult time learning on your own. I given you a number of people who have successfully taught themselves on their own without holding a formal degree.

    I think this mentality that you have to hold a degree in a field or discipline in order to have any ounce of credibility should change. Because again , Issac Newton made many of his contributions to physics without the assistance of a higher authority in the natural sciences on HIS own ! He read the works of Descartes and read Euclid's work The Elements on HIS own time. He was not formally introduced to trigonometry while attending cambridge college. Scholars and biographers of Newton say that he was an ORDINARY student at Cambridge U. and made many of his MAJOR discoveries in physics in his HOME in Woolsthorpe. Although Cambridge praised the philosophical works of Aristotle, Newton spent most of his time reading the latest philosophical works of Descartes, and the astronomical works of Descartes, Kepler, and Galileo(never understand why people don't referred to Galileo by his real last name like most scientists) on HIS OWN!!!! Therefore, that makes Newton a partial autodidact.

    The only reason you truly need a formal education is only because other scientists will look at your work.
     
  9. Apr 11, 2009 #8
    Wouldn't you need feedback from a teacher on your progress to make sure you're not making bad habits? Also, wouldn't you progress at a quicker pace in a formal education system where the syllabus and course outlines are all handed to you on a silver platter. Everytime you are doing some wrong, or even if it was right -- but performed in an inefficient manner, you've got a professional there to quickly point out your faults.
     
  10. Apr 11, 2009 #9

    russ_watters

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    I didn't see where you said that - based on the OP and most of the rest of what you said, I figured you were talking about science. Regarding other disciplines, such as politics, people can teach themselves and make a contribution because such disciplines are not as rigorous as science. You don't even have to have correct ideas (if there even is such a thing) to make a contribution in politics, so it really isn't a useful example.
    That's a false connection: crackpots are not "fellow" scientists, they are the ones outside of the scientific community, trying to get in. By definition, someone inside the community has already been accepted as a scientist and is not a crackpot. It is very rare for a scientist to become considered a crackpot (Pons and Fleischman are a notable exception) and vice versa.
    True, so that doesn't really tell us anything about whether being self-taught works and produces more than the occasional decent scientist. Again, you are incorrectly assuming the inverse of a true piece of logic is also true. Ie, the fact that cars have wheels does not automatically mean that all wheels are on cars.
    Four reasons, at least two of which I have already stated:
    1. They lack proof of proper knowledge (and a scientist doesn't have an infinite amount of time to evaluate all claimants).
    2. They have already demonstrated a choice to avoid the scientific mainstream, which implies their thought process may be non-mainstream.
    3. In reality, such people rarely ever exist. People conclude that it can't happen (often) because it doesn't happen often.
    4. The process of learning via the mainstream has a way of weeding-out the crackpots, as the learning processes are fundamentally incompatible. This means crackpots have trouble getting into and staying in mainstream scientific pursuits.
    You've given me several questionable examples out of the many thousands of people who have made contributions to science. I submit that your difficulty in finding examples is evidence few examples exist. You won't find any studies about this because it is quite simply to basic to bother with.

    More importantly, even you must concede that to encourage it would be harmful. Ie, lets say 10% of people are capable of becoming well educated on their own. That means that for every 10 people you convince to self-learn instead of going to college, 9 of them will be worse off as a result.
    I already explained why he isn't a good example, but beyond that, he died almost 300 years ago! Times change and what was at his time cutting edge is learned by many high school students today. Because science and math are getting more complicated, the need for more education is ever increasing.

    Engineering, for example, was once a trade as opposed to a scholarly profession. It was formalized and regulated into a scholarly profession about 100 years ago due to the large number of people killed in the 1800s by bad engineering. Today, most states in the US require that professional engineers have a college degree (in addition to taking a test) as proof of their knowledge. My first boss was a self-educated PE, but he's the only one I've come across so far.
    I've given many reasons why you need a formal education - that was only one of them. Frankly, it just sounds to me like you are bitter about a personal situation involving this issue.
     
  11. Apr 11, 2009 #10

    russ_watters

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    This is perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the OP's thesis. How would you even know if you are picking up bad habits or forming incorrect conclusions if there wasn't someone there to point them out and help correct them?
     
  12. Apr 11, 2009 #11
    I said you don't need to go to college , ie spend money on institutions when there are an infinite number of resources( some provided by numerous universities like MIT ) where lectures provided by professors are available to the students. And many solutions manuals are freely available to the a student where they can go look out how they can go and compared the problems they solved vs. the solution provided by the solutions manual. Cramster.com is such a website that provides its solutions to student. And if you are having trouble with physics problems, you go to various forums and asked people for have. My main arguments have been that a person of this stage does not need to be in a traditional university setting to achieve the same education a person receives at a traditional university. You seemed to be against teaching physics concepts yourself and you seemed to believe that the only way to learn disciplines like physics is to have someone else teach it to you instead of learning physics from a textbook. I don't need a professor or any teacher to sit in front of me and explain Maxwell's equations to me or teach me Newton's 3 laws of motions. I can learn all of that pertinent information from a textbook on classical mechanics or Electrodynamics. Most of my professors have based there lectures on what is outlined in the textbook assigned for the class.
     
  13. Apr 11, 2009 #12

    Evo

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    As usual pentazoid, you post just to hear yourself talk. You don't listen to anything anyone tells you. You don't want to listen. You were banned before and given a second chance and you haven't changed one bit.

    Good luck in life.
     
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