Books versus Guided Study: Which is Best for Life Learning?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 8th Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/20fj599_/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Education

We can all pick up a book and read about any topic we desire and with enough reading we can become quite knowledgeable on the subject, but does that make us an expert? Well it should, but of course expertise requires more than studying a set of books, or does it?

All the Books in the World...

The following is a recently uncovered quote from an anonymous source which gave some pause for thought:

    One might read all the books for a thousand years but without a guide nothing would be achieved.

This immediately triggered a questioning mind, and a reaction that this is a misguided thought, but is it? If we consider those skills where there is physical activity associated with them, such as the learning of Karate, Kung Fu, or Ju-jitsu then it is certainly true that all the reading in the world will not enable the student to gain any knowledge other than the theory or psychological aspects of the art-form, yet they also require guidance of the physiological aspects, which need to be taught by a guide or master and thus combine the knowledge with the skill, both aspects are important in becoming a master in the future, yet for other disciplines a keen mind should be all that is required to gain an understanding of the topic.

How many lay people have won legal cases when they have properly prepared themselves on the legal aspects of their case? The number is surprisingly high and there have been many a high powered, high paid attorneys embarrassed by the loss.

A Keen Mind, Lay person or Professional?

If you read all of the books published in the last thousand years about a specific topic then it would make you a very knowledgeable indeed, in many respects books bring with them specific guidance and wisdom which will be interpreted by the reader (yet the lessons from a thousand years ago should differ from the lessons of today because of how society has changed over that time), it is true that someone who reads all the books on psychology will know a lot about the subject but without specific training they cannot become a psychologist; which requires both the knowledge of the field and the specific training in order to qualify and practice in this field, plus the backing of a professional governing body which introduces checks and balances but it can also act to limit the scope of professional activity. The rules are sensible and well thought through with practical elements that are designed to protect society as a whole.

Yet there are many places that the professional will not go that the informed lay person might, and if you think about it the professional has to live within certain ethical guidelines that the lay person is not bound by. It could be asked why would you bother reading about a subject you have no intention of following professionally. Look though at most politicians, few, if any, have ever studied politics - this is a field of study that seems to guarantee a career in the civil service.

Formal Education

Modern society demands formal qualifications for many jobs and rightly so, you want to be treated by a doctor that has qualifications, expertise and a proven record. The trust we place in a formal education system gives us this, the doctor or lawyer has spent seven to ten years studying in order to qualify in their chosen field and they may have many more years of study behind them when they are a specialist e.g. a brain surgeon or a intellectual property lawyer. Society expects to trust our professionals and we recognise the efforts they have put in to gaining their qualifications, this is right yet part of the twist here is that not every professional acts professionally in all situations - some bring the reputation of their profession into disrepute by their unprofessional or even criminal conduct; proving that they can also fall prey to the dark side of the human psyche and ultimately professional or not these aspects have the potential to affect us all.

A formal education can be good, but from a societal perspective it can sometimes compartmentalise people - how many times have you heard the challenge "what can you know about this subject you have no qualification in it?", whether or not you have qualifications does not mean you must be devoid of an opinion (whether well or ill informed) about any topic you care to choose and of course when it comes to opinions there are always two (or more) sides to select from and the ill-informed gut-feel has as much right to be heard as the logical, well reasoned, argument.

Ultimately a formal education goes only so far, then common sense and practical knowledge take over.

or Not?

The local plumber has been working at his trade for more than forty years and he has no intentions of retiring any time soon, he has no trade qualifications other than the apprenticeship hat he served as a youth, he keeps up to date with all aspects of his trade, including all gas and water regulations, with every new advance in his field he reads and understands how new technologies function and has practical knowledge associated with installing a wide range of appliances.

His trade is now moving towards certification in many areas such as gas installation and this man is not certified yet he knows more than the average 22 year old that is a certified gas installer, and the lesson here is that certification is not necessarily a guarantee of good work.

Indeed any person can study any subject they choose to, especially in the modern era where the Internet makes so much available to so many, if you pick any topic you are unfamiliar with and you study it for a month then the chances are you will have built up quite a knowledge of this new subject, the possibilities for self-study in this era are boundless. There are examples of lay people fighting legal cases and winning against the best lawyers money can buy because they have researched all elements of their case, they had no guide, no sensei, no master to help them find the one element that helped them fight for their ideals against impossible odds and succeed.

Your knowledge will grow in leaps and bounds simply by taking to the books and studying anything that interests you, but if you wist to become a lawyer or doctor as a result of your studies then it is essential to attend a structured course - you still have to take time to self study in order to know the subject well and become recognised as an expert in the field, but the person who purely takes the route of self study can never practice medicine or law; ultimately the use to which you desire the knowledge surely determines the mode of study and for good general knowledge then self study is perfectly acceptable.

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Tags

A Keen Mind, Books, Expert, Expertise, Formal Education, Formal Qualifications, Guide, Knowledge, Lay Person, Master, Professional, Self Study, Sensei

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar Buzz
9th Mar 2013 (#)

Kudos to you, Peter, for this wonderful article! Thank you.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
9th Mar 2013 (#)

This is truly a great article Peter...thank you...

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author avatar M G Singh
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Peter you have a knack of touching subjects that are of great interest. Thank you

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Good thoughts, Peter. I have seen few without formal education, but blessed with an abiding inquisitive mind, outsmarting professionals in the field. Also, the way they judge people - that no books can teach. Professionals have to keep up with the latest trends in the field; these apply to all fields. What we studied ten years ago is history with the way technology is changing. I know some software engineers despairing at the way their field is ever changing. They are in effect riding a tiger, they cannot afford to dismount, take a breather! siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
11th Mar 2013 (#)

Today we face the challenge that any professional in any field that you care to mention will find that in the current day it is necessary to learn and re-learn the profession, almost from the ground up, the things you learnt 10 years ago seems to mean nothing now.

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author avatar Ptrikha
12th Mar 2013 (#)

Being from IT field, I cannot but agree with you fully!

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
10th Mar 2013 (#)

When we want to know how something works or ticks Peter , we do well to consult the appropriate manual. My manual for life is my Bible . It truly is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet.
Bless you for this interesting post
Stella

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author avatar C.D. Moore
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Excellent Article, Peter

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author avatar johnbee
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Good write. The Manual of Life and the Commentaries for Life are numerable in knowledge as guides in life. go to revjbn.simplesite.com.

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author avatar Retired
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Guides are good, and books have their place, but there's no substitute for the "school of hard knocks." I know... I am a summa cum laude graduate of this school... Superb article, thanks!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
11th Mar 2013 (#)

The University of Hard Knocks has many great graduates, such as yourself.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
12th Mar 2013 (#)

Very well said, thank you Peter...

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author avatar Ptrikha
12th Mar 2013 (#)

Well written, guidance is necessary to become expert in a subject. Without guidance, knowledge cannot guarantee things though nothing is impossible even by self study and practice.

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author avatar Rose*
14th Mar 2013 (#)

The key thing about formal study is that it teaches you to question opinions.

Whereas if you only learned through books, you might end up simply accepting what is presented without questioning or seeking other points of view.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
14th Mar 2013 (#)

Rose, I am not at all sure this is true. Read two books, let us say on the subject of war, and one was pro-war the other anti-war and you would have to question opinions because they would feature opposite views; just because it has been published does not mean that it is correct.

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author avatar johnbee
14th Mar 2013 (#)

Well said and very informative.

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author avatar paulojunior85
20th Apr 2013 (#)

Great article!
Tha sensei in the picture that created the Aikido.
Thanks.

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