They teach themselves from an early age, have many deep interests, rather than just one. And they are very persistent, even in the face of rejection…. One interesting thing that’s emerged is that so many of these highly creative people are autodidacts. They are people who teach themselves. That makes them almost misfits in the educational system that they get put into. It would be nice if educators were aware of the existence of autodidacts and the need to give them slightly different education experiences, to nurture them. SOURCE: Connecting strength and vulnerability of the creative brain.

The source quote above came from a recent PBS Newshour segment on the link between genius and what we call mental illness. I have downloaded the original article and will likely do some additional post on related areas of it in the near future but for now I want to talk about one aspect of this article which is autodidacticism.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered the term “Autodidacticism”. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

Autodidacticism or self-education is self-directed learning that is related to but different from informal learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is “learning on your own” or “by yourself”, and an autodidact is a self-teacher. Autodidacticism is a contemplative, absorptive procession. Some autodidacts spend a great deal of time reviewing the resources of libraries and educational websites. One may become an autodidact at nearly any point in one’s life.  Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts.

I was surprised to learn that this is actually a defined process because it fits me to a “T” even in my early years but especially after I became deaf at the age of forty. Except in college where I didn’t have the physical hours to do it, I have always been off studying something on my own.

You could say that autodidactisism is just a fancy word for “self taught “but I think it goes beyond that concept mainly in its intensity.  Some of the more famous examples of autodidacts in history are Leonardo da Vinci and Abraham Lincoln but there are thousands of other accomplished creative people who fit that label.

In my earliest years I spent hours reading books by various American authors particularly John Steinbeck, Jack London, and other of that genre. I often read before I did my homework as the latter just bored me. I think I gleaned my leftist tendencies during that period of my life and just didn’t realize it until much later in life.

I have always been a self-study even before I was deaf but especially after. Communication in classroom type activities just took too much energy that I thought was better spent just doing the learning myself. After many many hours of studying and practice I became recognized as the guy who really understood software development. I taught myself to program in several different languages and made up tools to help me in my work that ended up on many others desktops. It was not until my work got the attention of a passing vice-president in the very large corporation I worked that I officially made the switch from circuit design to software tools. It was where I actually belonged in the first place.

Being an autodidact is just who I am,  even before I know it….

2 thoughts on “Autodidacticism….

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word, only the term self-educated. Using google…the tool of choice these days…I can see a list of famous people who are considered autodidactic, It includes many writers, poets, musicians, inventors….a long list of notables. Self directed learning requires great discipline, focus, and critical thinking, not to mention intelligence. We can all do a quick google search but not everyone has the patience or desire to go further…as you do with your blog topics. Your readers are the beneficiaries of your work, so please continue for a long time. 😋


    1. Hi Jane. I had a hard day at the soup kitchen today and am ready for a nap but thought I would respond before that 🙂

      In some ways it is basically self-educated but what makes it unique is as you say the intensity of the process. I spent probably thousands of hours teaching myself to write software. I recall one time when I started programming on my TRS-80 on Friday evening after work and didn’t leave the keyboard until Sunday afternoon. That is INTENSITY…

      Now I can’t seem to get through an 16 hour day without a nap. Getting old is hell but….

      Thanks again for the compliments…


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