This I Believe

William - Hampton, Virginia
Entered on December 5, 2006

I have found that my best teacher has always been myself. Not to say that what I’ve learned in the more traditional establishments has been useless in my endeavors as a human being here on planet earth, but, if anything, what my schooling has taught me, up until this point, is just how to learn. The actual learning, I believe, has always been left up to me.

Back in elementary school, whenever I would ask what a certain word or phrase meant, maybe wondering what the capital of Guam was, or some other random bit of information, vital to whatever I was trying to get accomplished at the time, I would be told to “look it up”. I always resented that answer, knowing that the teacher knew full and well what I was talking about, and was simply being a jerk by not giving me what I wanted.

After a while, I suppose, I stopped asking questions. Both, my current and previous teachers would probably scoff at that statement, and I think that, at first, it had more to do with me not doing any of my work than it had to do with anything else. But, the statement is true, in the sense that I no longer ask how to understand certain ideas or concepts, once they’ve been explained to me, clarification being the only exception. Understanding all of what’s been explained is my responsibility alone, not theirs.

Besides, it couldn’t be easier in this day and age to find the answer to whatever question is thrown at you. The internet has seen to this acceleration of the learning process. Simply type your question in the right field, and boom, there’s your answer. What is the capital of Guam? The capital of Guam is Hagåtña, formerly known as Agana, and situated on the island of Guam’s western shore. It took all of three seconds to look that up, and there wasn’t even a teacher around to tell me to do so.

Think about every “eureka” moment you’ve ever had during your studies. Maybe it was when you realized why the order of operations works the way it does, or how words of a poem fit together in an iambic pentameter. Whatever it was, you figured it out on your own, nobody else could or would or did put that moment in your head. When that huge knot of confusion finally unfolded, you figured out, for yourself, just what the heck was going on.

I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t take less credit for what you have learned out of the science book or during an English lecture. If anything, you should take more credit for yourself, even if you weren’t the first to discover the capital of Guam. The book didn’t teach it to you, and it didn’t open your eyes for you, you did all of that on your own. Or, at least, this is the way that things have been for me, I believe.