If you work in law enforcement, you’re certain to eventually be confronted by one big common denominator in the criminal element: a lack of education. Beyond the mere expectations of having a formal college education suitable to build a career with, most of the criminal class is without even the basic high school diploma, and quite a few more are without even the basics of grade school.
It is true that a small portion of the criminal base is also educated – we have the so-called “white collar” criminals and of course, symptomatic social crimes such as drug addiction and domestic violence happens across all classes. But for the large part, it is notable that a distinct lack of education is to blame for the majority of the criminal class failing to find a more socially acceptable means of achieving a livelihood.
The difficulty here is that by the time you’ve recognized the problem, it’s too late to fix. We can encourage children as much as we want to to not drop out of school, but the only ones likely to listen to us are the ones who wouldn’t have dropped out in the first place. The adults we get out of the system who are already showing a criminal record are already too fixed in their habits and unlikely to return to school anyway – especially since the school system isn’t in a great hurry to take them back.
Perhaps we should have the schools enact a “no-release-until-graduation” policy – where you are considered truant if you are not attending school for as long as you live without a diploma. Yes, we can sit here all day coming up with one brilliant solution after another.
Yet we throw legislation at the school system like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s all to no avail. Every president we get launches an ambitious plan to reform education, include every child, beef up curriculum, hire more teachers, build more schools, write better text books. What else can we do? We shovel billions of dollars at the problem; the problem just gets bigger. If we simply raked all the dollars into a pile and burned them, would the problems be any worse?
While our under-educated criminal class isn’t specific to the United States, the sheer poverty of our education system is compared to other countries. Consistently, other countries soundly trounce our students in competitions. The United States shows up on those list of rankings of the industrialized countries, and here we are in 12th place, 16th place, 25th place. How is this happening? Adjusting for currency, the United States spends more and gets back less on its educational system than any other industrialized country.
And yet, here we have the autodidacts. Don’t know what an autodidact is? Well, there goes the educational system failing people again! An autodidact (it says in the dictionary) is a mostly self-taught person; is typically someone who has an enthusiasm for self-education and a high degree of self-motivation to attain it. Such ability has led to the success of many famous and successful individuals in history.
Autodidacts are especially prevalent in technology. These people simply educated themselves for free at the public library, got a computer as soon as they could afford one, educate themselves daily on the Internet, and picked up a technology-related trade simply by practicing it at home until they got good at it!
Yes, you could take business school to learn spreadsheets, but what about just downloading a spreadsheet program for free and reading the help file? People do it every day! Autodidacts fill out part of both the drop-out quotient, and those who attain a degree anyway.
The degree is usually “just enough” while the autodidact continues to educate themselves on their own. A related concept is a “polymath” an old expression meaning the same thing. Imagine if somebody taught themselves higher mathematics just by figuring it all out on paper.
A partial list of autodidacts includes Ray Bradbury, Andrew Carnegie, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Walter Cronkite, Philip K. Dick, Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Larry Ellison, William Faulkner, Bobby Fischer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Buckminster Fuller, Bill Gates, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Ernest Hemingway, Jimi Hendrix, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Jennings, Steve Jobs, Michael Keaton, Stanley Kubrick, Ralph Lauren, Rush Limbaugh.
Abraham Lincoln, Steve Martin, William McKinley, Herman Melville, H. L. Mencken, John Milton, James Monroe, Bill Murray, Florence Nightingale, Penn Fraser Jillette, Edgar Allan Poe, John D. Rockefeller, George Bernard Shaw, Quentin Tarantino, Nikola Tesla, Leo Tolstoy, Harry S. Truman, Ted Turner, Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Whitman, Steve Wozniak, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Chuck Yeager.
It is ironic that some of the same people who rejected traditional education are now the people who produced much of the work held up in educational institutions as an example for students to emulate!
There you have it – some people won’t complete an education even if it’s handed to them on a silver platter, and other people will pursue an education with such dedication that they are able to do a better job of it themselves than the most famous Universities.
Clearly, there is a point to education that we’re just not getting. Perhaps understanding the factors associated with autodidacts will lead to a better method of inspiring today’s generation to do something more worthwhile with their lives.