The latest issue of the magazine has a profile of the famous whistleblower that traces his life history and his evolution from a hesitant and tentative participant in online forums for computer enthusiasts to an assured, self-confident, sometimes cocky, and even abrasive personality. It is behind a paywall but one of the authors was interviewed at length on Fresh Air and it made for good listening and the interview and the transcript can be found here.
What I found most interesting is that following his parents’ divorce, Snowden dropped out of school at the age of 15 and is pretty much self-taught. I am not surprised that he learned his computer skills on his own because that is how many do. But he uses language in such a careful, precise, and measured way that people think must require many years of formal education.
I have encountered many people who have very little formal education (certainly much less than me) but speak and write and think so well and so clearly that this no longer surprises me. But I can see how people who think that a lot of formal education, preferably at elite institutions, is a necessary part of becoming a mover and shaker are annoyed at the fact that this high school drop-out has managed to command the world’s attention.
As an aside, there was considerable media chatter at the fact that Snowden asked Russian president Vladimir Putin a question about Russia’s surveillance practices during an online Q&A by the latter. In this article, Snowden explains why he asked what he did.