The Myth of the Autodidact

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that if information is available more and more people will tend to use it. I love that universities are starting to try to put at least some of their information and course materials out there for the public to use. (Of course, in most cases we, that is, the public, paid for these materials already). Let a hundred flowers blossom, as Mao apparently said.

This piece on free online courses (“11 Ways to Find Free Classes Online“) shows that there is a lot of this material available now, and more is surely on the way. My only gripe is that too often these sorts of things intersect with two unfortunate myths. The first myth is that technology will be able to replace teachers; the second, closely related myth is that of the autodidact.

People can and do teach themselves, of course, but for most of us most of the time teachers– and often classmates– are an essential part of the mix that leads to effective learning. Teaching, despite what the right wing often implies, is in fact a skill like any other, and not something that just anyone can do because they “care about young people.” Call that the Schwarzenegger myth.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Post Navigation