Autodidacticism and You

What does a teacher do?

Posted by Tyler Maxwell on April 23, 2019

“Do not wish to jump immediately from the streams to the sea, because one has to go through easier things to the more difficult.”

Thomas Aquinas

Autodidacticism, From the Greek autos meaning ‘self’ and didaktikos meaning ‘teach.’ Ergo, to teach one’s self. My claim is that this is the only way to learn. I am not making a claim about the quality of educators or educational institutions. The circumstances of the student at the bottom of their class at Harvard University and the valedictorian at Trump University have little or nothing to do with their respective institutions.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. -Isaac Newton

Portrait of Newton by Godfrey Kneller, 1689
Portrait of Newton by Godfrey Kneller, 1689

We are riding on the crest of the wave of knowledge mankind has accumulated to this point. Knowledge is cumulative and it’s cultivation is an organic, collective process. Isaac Newton, knew this of course. It’s easy to forget that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But, here’s the ‘so-what?’ that motivated me to write this.

It is a pedagogical given that a lesson presented by a teacher, regardless of the teacher’s skill, will only be effective with a subset of students. What is it about the students who seem to “get it” before the rest of the class? This is a can of worms I want to quickly close right after having opened it.

What does it mean to teach one’s self?

Teaching is creating an environment where learning can take place. Teaching is helping students to climb onto the giant’s shoulders. To teach yourself, you simply need a ladder. Here it is:

Bloom's Taxonomy
Bloom's Taxonomy

‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ is to teaching what F = ma is to physics. Every teacher has written, thought, and been lectured about it ad nauseam. There is a reason for this; Mr. Bloom was on to something. An exhaustive treatment of Bloom’s Taxonomy would lead to the old tldr which no one wants. This is a great resource. Take terms you don’t know and make flashcards. It seems the current trend in education is to view required memorization as tantamount to corporeal punishment. This is a damn shame. Step one is to learn the vocabulary. To be continued…