CORE VALUES - Education

Intelligence can be learned

Just as you can go to the gym to get your body into shape, you can exercise your mind to get it into better shape. This is not just wishful thinking - it is backed by recent research in Neuroscience. Neuroscience has shown us that mentally stimulating activities will create new connections between your brain cells, regardless of how old you are, and that such connections form the basis of all your knowledge and abilities. This means that you will become more intelligent the more you use your brain. It also means that there are no more excuses for having a mind that is not in great shape. The ideas that some people are born intelligent and others are not, and that they will stay this way, are no longer acceptable.

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."
- Joseph Addison

Make as many mistakes as you can afford

After all, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn. If we try to avoid making mistakes, we will end up paralyzing ourselves by not trying out new possibilities or taking new risks, which is one of the biggest mistakes we can make.

Fun science fact: in computer programming, there are algorithms called neural networks that simulate how a human brain learns. They have been used for computers to successfully recognize faces and drive cars, among other things. In a neural network, learning only happens when the machine makes a mistake - otherwise the algorithm never changes.

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
- Albert Einstein

The most important knowledge is not factual

Most of the time when we talk about knowledge, we think about the explicit kind of knowledge that you can summarize in facts, figures, and formulas and easily pass on through Powerpoint presentations. But the more important knowledge is the intuitive knowledge that we get only through experience. Savvy businessmen who develop strong and accurate gut feelings to guide their decisions, skilled public speakers who can 'naturally' captivate their audience, and the 'gifted' math student who can apply his knowledge to solve problems that were not taught in class - all these are examples of intuitive knowledge. In fact, if there is one thing that Psychology has taught me, it is that most of our knowledge, most of what drives our everyday decisions and behavior, is intuitive rather than factual.

Athletes understand intuitive knowledge very well - when an athlete practices his technique, he gains intuitive knowledge about playing his sport. And just as it is possible to develop an athlete's intuitive knowledge through focused practice and coaching, it is possible to develop a student's intuitive knowledge of any subject matter. A math teacher who emphasizes concepts and understanding over methods and formulas, asks questions rather than giving answers, engages the student in creative problem solving and lateral thinking, and emphasizes practice and real world examples is a teacher who emphasizes intuitive knowledge over factual knowledge.

"What one has not experienced, one will never understand in print."
- Isadora Duncan

An education is something you give yourself, not something you get

There is a myth that you need to go to an institution to get an education, that you need a teacher to learn something new. This is emphatically not true. There is only one person that can give you an education, and that is you. If you are motivated enough, you will be able to get a good education by yourself - by reading books and manuals, browsing the web, networking and sharing knowledge with the right people, participating in local clubs and organizations, etc. In fact, many talented entrepreneurs have learned their craft this way. Also, if you go to an institution for your education, you will find that you get out of your education what you put into it. A good school or teacher can surround you with opportunities to learn, and a great one can motivate you to use these opportunities, but t is up to you to use them.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink."
- English Proverb

An education is not an economic good

When people speak of an education, they often mistakenly equate an education with a degree, but the two are not the same. A degree is an economic good, something into which you invest time and money to improve your salary or job title. Many degrees also come with an education, but there are ways to get degrees without an education, like professional certification exams, and ways to get an education without a degree, like reading a book or receiving coaching from a professional.

An education, on the other hand, is not an economic good - it is a personal good, synonymous with personal development. It is a set of real world skills and knowledge that you can use to unlock your ability to make a difference, and it will show in the way you think, solve problems, and deal with people. Everyone walks out of a school curriculum with the same degree, but with a different education. Your degree will get your foot in the door, but your education will enable you to reach your goals.

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"
- Derek Bok

A good education is sticky

The best measurement for the quality of a class or a book is not how much you have learned from it, but how long you keep your knowledge. A good education is taught in a way that makes its knowledge sticky, so that it will stay with you for the rest of your life rather than just until the final exam.

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."
- B. F. Skinner

Presentation skills are at least as important as subject matter knowledge

Part of the job of a teacher - in fact, the key part - is knowing how to convey their expertise to others. This involves many skills, like the public speaking skills to hold the attention of an audience, the ability to put oneself inside the mind of a novice (something that becomes more and more difficult for experts), and knowing how students learn and retain information.

"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre."
- Gail Godwin

Do not get the best education - get the one that is best for you

Selecting an instructor or school is a personal choice, so keep in mind that there is no such thing as an official Best School or Best Teacher, but there is a best school and teacher for you. For example, if a school is #1 in the rankings of your favorite magazine, this does not necessarily mean that this school is #1 in your opinion, or that it is #1 in the particular department or major that you are interested in, or that its curriculum matches your learning style, or that you would fit into the culture of this particular school, or that you will get ample opportunities for personal development outside of the school. So, when selecting a school or instructor, make the decision as personal and specific as possible, taking into account your particular needs and learning style and the teacher or school's particular strengths and weaknesses.

"The shoe that fits one pinches another"
- Carl G. Jung

A good teacher is one who makes himself obsolete

The purpose of a good teacher is not so much to give knowledge to the student, but to teach the student how to gain knowledge himself. The ideal scenario is that the student has learned how to think for himself and no longer needs the assistance of the teacher.

"Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime"
- Lao Tzu

Learning is not just for students

Today, professionals need to constantly learn about new technologies, new business models, new companies, new tricks and techniques - they need to become lifelong learners. It is no longer good enough to just go to school to learn a trade, then check 'learning' off your to do list and head out into the real world to practice your trade. I don't know if this learning model was ever accurate in the past, but it is definitely not accurate in the modern economy.

"Childhood is a state of mind - an ongoing quest for learning. I, for one, don't want to give that up, and I don't think anyone else should either."
- Raph Koster

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