In the Shavuos edition of this year's Inyan magazine I saw an article about Alef Beis that asks the following question on this passage from Avos D'Rabbi Noson, Ch.6 (Version A):
What were Akiva's beginnings?
It is said: Up to the age of forty, he had not yet studied a thing. One time, while standing by the mouth of a well in Lydda, he inquired, "Who hollowed out this stone?" and was told, "Akiva, haven't you read that 'water wears away stone' (Job 14:19)? - it was water falling upon it constantly, day after day."
A case occurred, a Nochri came in front of Shamai; he asked, how many Toros do you have.
1.Shamai: We have two, written and oral.
2.The Nochri: I believe you about the written Torah, not about the oral Torah - convert me on condition that you will teach written Torah to me!
3.Shamai angrily drove him away.
4.The Nochri came in front of Hillel; Hillel converted him. The first day, Hillel taught him Aleph, Beis, Gimel, Dalet; the next day, Hillel reversed the order of the letters.
5.The Nochri: Yesterday you taught differently!
6.Hillel: You rely on me to know the letters - you can also rely on me regarding oral Torah!
2. Some day , he knew that he will no longer be Akiva, but Rabbo Akiva, the great Sage from whom many will come to learn. He will receive many questions. One day a questioner will ask him how to teach Alef Beis, and he would not know. This is why he started again from the beginning.
One sometimes encounters rabbis whose learning did not start from Alef Beis. They gained a lot of knowledge but missed absorbing the authentic attitude and feeling of Yiddishkeit. They can handle the data but not the Spirit of the Law. They can answer technical questions but not teach the inner dimension. They don't understand why something that is not clearly forbidden might still be inadvisable. R. Akiva did not want to become such a rabbi, and, even though he could read, he elected to start his education again from the beginning.