The Curiosity to Learn

Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat details the way in which technology has changed the world in which business is done in the 21st century. In that, he looks at the types of workers who will prosper in such a new world, and then he ponders what type of person will thrive as workers, and how we might as a society ‘train’ them. He concludes, and I am simplifying here, that those who are broadly educated with a curiosity to learn will do best. And it strikes me as to whether this is a new insight or not. I’m no scholar, but haven’t those with broad training and a curiosity to learn more always been at an advantage?

I’ll leave that for others to reflect on and/or prove or disprove. I am intrigued by how he suggests we come by curiosity to learn. Steve Jobs, he says, finally began to grow in this when he dropped out of college, but then dropped in and took for a time whatever classes he wanted, fueling the breadth of his knowledge and his curiosity.

But more to the point, Friedman says that those who are wanting to really be prepared need to find the right teachers. A student once asked him what courses he should take to learn how to learn. His response is intriguing:

“Go around to your friends and ask them just one question: ‘Who are your favorite teachers?’ Then make a list of those teachers and go out and take their courses – no matter what they are teaching, no matter what the subject.” It doesn’t matter whether they are teaching Greek mythology, calculus, art history, or American literature – take their courses. Because when I think back on my favorite teachers, I don’t remember the specifics of what they taught me, but I sure remember being excited about learning it.What has stayed with me are not the facts they imparted but the excitement about learning they inspirited.

The parenthesis in his final sentence is very important:

And while it seems that some people are just born with that motivation [to teach oneself], many others can develop it or have it implanted with the right teacher (or parent).

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2 thoughts on “The Curiosity to Learn

  1. Anonymous

    This made me think of St. John’s College – campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe – which one of our children considered attending. Simply google the name; the first site has much info on their philosophy as well as the names of people the students read/study: Homer, Euclid, Chaucer, Einstein, DuBois, Augustine… and many more; and the required classes. The info includes thoughts similar to what you quote from Friedman. In the early ’90s it was said that IBM would hire any St. John’s grad – simply because of their broad “classical” education – knowing that they could then train them to suit IBM’s needs.

  2. MagistraCarminae

    And this made me think of the way our experience actually tells us that the ancients (medievals) had it right: a classical Christian education in the humanities broadly is really the best preparation for life. St. John’s is one take on that classical model.:-)

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