The question of whether or not a person can consider themselves educated needs to be put in context. In a country where the majority of people are illiterate and have little knowledge of the ways of the world outside their immediate vicinity, someone who can read, read and do simple math, but not much else, can be considered well educated. On the other hand, if you take the same person and surrounded them with academic types from Oxford and Harvard, it would be a stretch to call them well educated.
In another context, we can see plenty of those who attend the world’s top universities themselves are not well educated. This doesn’t mean they can’t read and write properly, they can’t name the world’s oceans or they’ve never heard of quantum theory (although there are plenty who can’t and haven’t). It means they have been educated to a basic level and not much more. Free education for the masses, at one level, is supposed to give students the tools to pursue their own education – the ability to read and write, perform simple arithmetic and follow logic. Whether they use these tools or not is of little concern. It is usually preferable that students don’t pursue their own education and decide to follow the fortunes of a sports team or start to show an interest in ‘shopping’ and being good consumers.
School education aims to create a sense of civic and social duty in a student. They learn that the system they grew up in is the best and that their government is benevolent. They learn that they owe a debt to their country which can be paid off by sacrificing at least a major portion of their life in labor. They should be ready and able to begin their working lives without having to be educated any further by the companies which employ them.
The fact is that the system doesn’t need a large number of educated people. But it can promise to reward those who indebt themselves up to the neck in order to get ahead. Which is why you see high school graduates going on to pursue further studies in non-subjects such as ‘management’, taught by weak teachers using shaky materials. Even those institutions which employ great teachers and teach serious subjects are often simply conducting business. Most of their students go into the workforce knowing a lot of things about a very narrow field. That’s hardly educated.
As mentioned, however, you most likely do have the skills to pursue your own education. Even if you don’t think you’re great at writing or math, etc., you can improve these skills. You’ll need to get used to reading carefully, making notes, cross-referencing and so on. This all takes time. If you prefer to get your ‘facts’ from Wikipedia, you’re not going to enjoy educating yourself. You won’t be thanked for it. Educated individuals are more likely to end up in prison than on a good salary.
Get yourself a comfortable and suitable chair for studying in – Office Chairs Only has a number of options. Make sure your desk it at the right level and your study is lit well and maintains a comfortable temperature.
There are free courses available which teach you how to study more effectively. Try following one of these courses along with a simple course such as Persuasive Writing. Studying by oneself is difficult and, if possible, you should join some online discussion groups for the topics you are studying. If you can find mentors, even better.
Go through works and exercises on traditional logic, critical thinking and rhetoric. At the same time, start reading through (carefully, not rushing) different works relating to the fields ofliterature, history, math and the sciences. There is no time limit set on your studies, so allow yourself to be as thorough as you can. Write what you think you know and then rewrite it. Debate with others or ask them to assess your work and give feedback.
Give in to your natural interests – if you find you are interested in Roman history, you may enjoy learning Latin and pursuing studies in archaeology. If you enjoy solving problems, you may want to continue your education in a laboratory environment, where you can put theoretical solutions into practice.