Monday, November 16, 2009

What would Einstein do? (part 1)

As the Baby Einstein phenomenon shows, our culture sees Albert Einstein as the ultimate icon of intellectual achievement, and with good reason. It is interesting, then, to read some of Einstein’s own thoughts about education:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

I am opposed to examinations -- they only deter from the interest in studying. No more than two exams should be given throughout a student’s [college] career. I would hold seminars, and if the young people are interested and listen, I would give them a diploma.

It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening with too much and too varied subjects . . . . Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality.

[T]he gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Part 2 here; part 3 here.

..How can I comment?