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University Provides an Outline, Not an Education

“I know that no university exists that can provide an education:

what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner a direction and guidance.

The rest one has to do for oneself.”

-Louis L’Amour, "Education of a Wandering Man"

I recently read the memoir of novelist Louis L'Amour, "Education of a Wandering Man". L'Amour wandered the country from job to job as a hobo during the Great Depression with only a grade school education. As he traveled and worked he read all the books he could get his hands on. He made money to eat and read. In addition to reading, he listened to others share their stories and stories of others.

His memoir resonated with me because like L'Amour, I felt my schooling only provided a few guiding moments, but not much of an education. It wasn't until my late twenties I discovered a love for reading old books, and this seems to be where my education began.

I identified in his book what he would define as a good education.

A good education is not found in a school

“I know that no university exists that can provide an education: what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner a direction and guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.3)

“The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities, and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is available to anyone within reach or a library, a post office, or even a newsstand.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.2)

“Acquiring an education has many aspects, of which school is only one, and the present approach is, I believe, the wrong one. Without claiming to have all the answers, I can only express my feelings that our methods of instruction do much to hamper a child in learning. Our approach is pedestrian. We teach a child creep when he should be running: education becomes a task rather than excitement.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.84)

“The roads to knowledge are many.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.87)

A good education comes only with a self-driven desire to learn

“There is no reason why anyone cannot get an education if he or she wants it badly enough and is persistent.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.15)

“If one really wants to learn, one has to decide what is important.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.2)

“For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived.” (Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.21)

“Then, as many times since, I did not read from one book alone, but started several, anxious to get the flavor of each one and reluctant to wait until one was finished before dipping into another.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.50)

“I studied purely for the love of learning, wanting to know and understand.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.85)

“Let people know what you are looking for. Often the best information will come from the least likely sources.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.151)

“Associate with the noblest of people you can find; read the best books: live with the mighty. But learn to be happy alone. Rely upon your own energies, and so not wait for, or depend on people, wrote Professor Thomas Davidson.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.195)

“The beauty of educating oneself as I was doing, or as anyone can do, is that there are no limits to what can be learned. All that is learned demands contemplation, and so one is never at a loss for something to do.”

(Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, Pg.200)

“I do not need help, I need time.”