I wish I could write the following sentence and end this article there:
The secret to getting a good education is to do it yourself.
Unfortunately, most people aren't satisfied with this. Most people want you to tell them how to do it. There is no question that teachers can help students learn, but the best teachers are always the teachers who require their students to learn for themselves. They ask questions, gently nudging their students in the right direction if necessary—but only if necessary. The best teachers do not give in to the temptation—ever-present—to provide free answers to their students. Instead, they demand that their students work for their answers.
Every student needs the opportunity to figure out the principles of mathematics or physics or history for themselves, just like all those brilliant minds who came before and figured them out to pass them down to us. Every time we deprive a student of this opportunity, we communicate to them this demoralizing idea: that they are not as good as the brilliant minds from yesteryear. Is it probable that each of these students will not reach the heights of the brilliant minds of history? Far from it. In fact, the odds are resoundingly in their favor to become far more brilliant than their brilliant forbears—if we give them the opportunity. The reason is that because of our brilliant forbears, the process of reasoning through so many underlying principles of any discipline is greatly shortened by the work of those who came before. But the student needs to work to see why the principle presented is correct.
The simple truth is that a person has every bit as much opportunity to demand of themselves that they press on, without giving up, till they get the correct answer. Another simple truth: most of us aren't disciplined enough for this. And this is where teachers serve their true purpose: teaching self-discipline. Self-discipline is not automatic. It comes only through the external discipline provided by parents, teachers, guardians, siblings, etc. Homeschooling, which is self-evidently a superior model of education, often fails for this reason. Parents fail to teach their children self-discipline. Parents who find themselves frustrated by the success of their homeschooling efforts need to look at themselves to see where their own self-discipline may be lacking, and if they find no failures there, then they need to evaluate their process for transferring their own self-discipline to their children.
The tools of reading and writing are the only prerequisites for a student’s education. Any student who understands this principle and learns self-discipline will automatically have a superior education to those who sit in class all day to have bits of information poured in their heads.