The Advantage of Self-Education


It is unreasonable to suppose that no one but a college graduate can be educated, in the broader meaning of that much-abused word. If a young man or a young woman is wholly undecided as to his or her future work, a four years' college course may help to a decision, but if one is determined to follow a special line of work, he can make more rapid progress outside a college, sometimes, than in one. If, for example, he has chosen literature as a profession, he can study under a tutor in the subjects he desires and progress twice as fast as in college. The courses in all our universities are calculated for a mediocre student, who probably gives more time to athletics and outside matters than to study. An ambitious young person, who is anxious to do something in the world, has to drag along with the others, however willing he may be to forge ahead. With a tutor, or home study, he can push along as rapidly as he is capable of doing, with no one to hold him back. It is possible to enter almost any profession after a course of home study, without a college diploma. I have often heard lawyers assert that those members of the bar who studied in offices were invariably the most successful ones in practice. They not only have the theory of law, but also know it in operation.

Some educators once made out a list of a hundred great men who lived in England during the half century from 1850 to 1900. They were principally men of the first genius, like Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, and Ruskin. They were greatly surprised when it was discovered that only twenty of the hundred had received college educations. The others were self-educated, or had studied under tutors at home. This must have been more than a coincidence, and to my mind it is a remarkable commentary on the success of the modern system of education. It means that the young man who can only study at night is under no handicap in the race for success because he is unable to spend four years in college. It is possible that he stands a better chance than the college graduate.

There are more ways than one of obtaining an education in this world, and only narrow-minded people assert that the university is the only gateway to a satisfactory life. A man can greatly improve himself by home study of the best books, and through contact with cultured people. Travel, too, is a great educator, for seeing a thing is a thousand times better than reading about it in books. I have known young men who have made the most of their opportunities for observation, who would compare most favorably with any product of our colleges. They have taken in the life they saw about them, and so are educated in the best and broadest sense.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

Misapprehension of Christian Science
August 7, 1902

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.