Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Learning Can Be Cheap

by Tamara Martfeld

The cost of education is increasing every year. Schools at all levels state they do not have enough money and increase cost at rates larger than inflation. Colleges and community colleges where one used to be able to take a single class for a special interest or increasing knowledge in a field of work for a small fee now charge significantly more or will not offer the class to people who are not full-time students.

There are other options. This article does not address how to obtain a college degree for less money, but rather how to get some of the ad-hoc knowledge which can be useful. I do not know if all the options are available outside of the Unites States of America, but some of the options are available almost everywhere.

The most obvious and most overlooked option for education is the local library. Most public libraries are hooked into a network with other libraries so that they can obtain material from libraries throughout the country, including the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is supposed to have every book in publication within the United States. Libraries also have teaching videos, historical recordings, newspaper archives, and other material which can be used for learning. Every subject is covered in some way. If you are trying to learn about Albert Einstein or Abraham Lincoln, why not do so through the newspapers and other publications which reported information about them while they were alive? The information gleaned from such sources may be far more interesting and accurate than the information which has been filtered and sanitized through history. If you are not sure how to use the library resources, ask the librarian. They are there to help you. Libraries (at least in the United States) are generally free.

Books and manuals, which I categorize together, are another obvious option. Much of my supplemental training has come through books as this was the option most readily available to me. There are many books written specifically as a training course. Other books cover the current trends in a field, a specific method of accomplishing a task, or even general “how-to” books which cover many topics. These are good options when electronic devices are not available or are inconvenient to use. This option is also great to use on a commute unless you are driving.

One option many forget is simply watching others and learning from them. For example, I had the unique opportunity to watch and learn how different management styles affect employees. I was working at a fast food restaurant in my teens and during my time there we had 11 managers. We had the manager who thought he was too good to do any work, the manager who always pitched in above and beyond what was expected, the manger who got too close to the employees, one who specifically tried to alienate employees, and even an excellent manager who went bad. The staff turn-around was very low during that time frame, so I saw how each style affected employees. I have often felt I learned more in that restaurant about running a business and managing than I did obtaining my degree. You can watch people who are physically present with you or you can watch high-profile people covered by the media. Those in the media are likely to be censored in some way to provide the media with the type of coverage wanted, however, lessons can still be learned.

The internet and You Tube in general are also great resources for education. You Tube has training videos on many subjects and I understand it also has specific courses one can take on-line (I have not checked out the courses). The internet is full of information on all subjects, however, be careful of the source of the information – you don’t want medical advice from an uneducated ten-year-old. The information can be very interesting, and if you follow the links on the pages you hit additional information can be found. I have used the internet to research religions other than my own so that I could understand the background and belief systems of people I encounter. I made sure I was hitting sites which were official for the specific religion I was researching at the time. It was very informative.

Museums are another abundant source for self-education. There are museums for almost anything you can think of – some rather surprising, such as a museum on SPAM (the meat) or the works of Schultz (Peanuts comic creator). You can learn archeology, art, history of almost anything, and even architecture (museums in older buildings) from museums. Many are free, and many others offer memberships which can be used in other museums within a given network to cut cost. Museums are well worth visiting as a source for learning.

Hopefully you can find one of the above options to suit your needs for furthering your education, supplementing your knowledge, or even help you more fully understand a topic you are formally studying.

In the meantime, if you are one of those celebrating a holiday this week, have a happy one! If you are not celebrating anything this week, have a great time anyway or join one of the celebrations. The celebrations I know about are celebrating life in some way, and that is always worth celebrating!

Have a positive and optimistic time until next time.