Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ray Bradbury on the Public Library

" I never went to college. I went to the library. " -- RAY BRADBURY, American science fiction author, interviewed by AARP Magazine.

The introduction to a recent edition of Bradbury's short stories published in the Everyman's Library series tells of his remarkable career. From grade school days he was writing stories. His aunt read to him from L. Frank Baum's series of Oz books when he was 7. She began to read to him the stories of Edgar Allan Poe when he was 8.

Bradbury's college was the Los Angeles Central Public Library. He began his process of self-education upon graduating from high school and completed his self-directed curriculum at the age of 28.

Obviously, few people can be successful as autodidacts the way that Bradbury was, but there is something of value in his example. Instructors are essential in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) curriculum, but in the areas of the humanities and the social sciences, one may be all the better off by being one's own instructor.

I don't mean to knock college. I went to college and never left. I am, however, skeptical about the proposition that more college graduates means more human capital. Return on that investment long ago began to go into decline. One must suspect that the general college degree has been pushed into a "bubble" status as overblown as that in which housing came to be.

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