Journal #3: February 18, 2008

    This week our essays from Einstein focused on education. Back in 1952 Einstein, in his essay “Education for Independent Thought,” is calling for the exact same things I am now. Fifty-five years before me Einstein was saying that the world needs creative free-thinkers, not fact-regurgitators.  He goes onto say that what is taught should be taught such that students perceive the knowledge as a “valuable gift” and not a “hard duty.” This is the problem, the University has settled on teaching things as if they are hard-duties or mere facts to be regurgitated at some later time. We as students aren’t truly encouraged to take the valuable gift offered and mold it in our minds as creative free-thinkers. The process of taking the porous young mind and shaping it so that it acquires a “vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good” has been turned into a process of mass-production. 

   As Einstein pointed out our education system has continued to over emphasize the competitive nature of the system and urge premature specialization into a field of knowledge. The competitive nature is the natural byproduct of mass producing individuals. We students are slung together in such a way that we are only left with the option of competing with each other. In American schools we see this competition encouraged with the “No Child Left-Behind Act.” A child is only “left behind” if they are competing to stay up with others instead of encouraged to learn at their own rate. If it takes longer for one student to master the material than another student it shouldn’t be a reflection on the quality of the students, and it most definitely should not be a punishment for the faster learner, which it has become. In an attempt to move everyone along at the same rate education in the public school system has been dumbed down so as to ensure everyone can master the material at a more or less equal rate. The horrendous side affect is the students who master it quickly are left bored, with their minds rotting from disuse.

    It is interesting that Einstein speaks against the premature of specialization of students and against overburdening the student with to varied subjects. My question of Einstein is at what stage does one switch from obtaining a generalized education (what we now call a liberal arts education) to specializing in the field one is most passionate about and adapt at. So far in my nearly sixteen years of schooling I have felt little pressure to specialize early, perhaps this is one area that the University has fixed overtime. I have however felt the pressure of too many various subjects. However, the pressure is not from a lack of interest in the subjects, but rather that they have been forced upon me with the same importance as my specialization. I believe that wide and varied education is important, that students should study, at least in overview, all fields. But this overview is a much different way of imparting information than for those who are specializing in the field. My interest for instance in classical literature is merely from an interest in self-enrichment, not a desire to master it as my specialty, thus in my mind how that knowledge is offered must be very different that my specialization. This is unfortunately not the case, instead in the current University all topics are taught the same regardless of why the student is presently interested in acquiring the knowledge.

   It’s been fifty-five years since Einstein wrote his essay, and things are still in a sad state in regards to the university and how it is attempting to mold the minds of the future. From our minds come the intellectual products that are the inheritance of the future. Without proper care and training that future is going to be rather bleak.

Comments

Very keen observation!