Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Well-rounded" or effective?

As a follow-up on my earlier post on being well-rounded...
I used to be embarrassed by not having any higher education. Well, better make that "any formal higher education". But not any more. I make more money than most people I know with a university education, and I can talk about most things as intelligently as most people.
Not to mention people have told me that the enforced reading in college ruined their enjoyment of reading for many years. (!)
Is your goal to never in your life be embarrassed by your lack of knowledge, or is your goal to be effective and have fun?
From Barbara Sher:
This is my favorite excerpt from a book I loved in college: Barefoot Boy With Cheek by Max Shulman:

Asa Hearthrug, from Appalachia or some such place, has been accepted to college and is speaking to his freshman advisor to decide which classes he should take. The advisor has been telling him a story about a dinner party at the house of someone who didn't go to college, but became immensely successful and wealthy:

"...The house was filled with prominent people. A hundred-and-twenty-piece orchestra was playing. When we went in for dinner the table groaned with all sorts of expensive delicacies. And at the head of the table sat Kyrie, the monarch of all he surveyed.
"But during the course of the dinner a well-dressed young woman leaned over and said to Kyrie, 'Who was the eighth avatar of Vishnu?' and Kyrie, for all his wealth and power, did not know the answer!"
"How ghastly!" I cried, throwing up my hands.
"Yes," said Mr. Ingelbretsvold, "You will find that sort of thing all through life. People come up to you on the street and say, 'Does a paramecium beat its flagella?' or 'How many wheels has a fiacre?' or 'When does an oryx mate?' and if you have not been to college, you simply cannot answer them."
"But that cannot happen to me. I am going to the University," I said.
"Ah, but it can," Mr. Ingelbretsvold answered, "It happens to many who go to college."
"But how?"
"You see, my boy, a great many people go to college to learn how to *do* something. They study medicine or law or engineering, and when are are through they know how to trepan a skull or where to get a writ of estoppel or how to find the torque of a radial engine. but just come up to them and ask how many caliphs succeeded Mohammed or who wrote Baby Duncan's Whistling Lung and they stare at you blankly."

"I shuddered. 'Oh, please Mr. Ingelbretsvold," I begged, "what must I do?"

[Here's an edited list of what Mr. Ingelbrestvold told him to write down.]

"Ready. Here they are: Races and Cultures of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa; Ethnology of India; History of Architecture; Greek; Latin; Sixteenth-Century Literature; Seventeenth Century Literature; Eighteenth-Century Literature; Nineteenth-Century Literature; Twentieth Century Literature...American Government, British Government; Chinese Government...Lett Government...General Psychology; Pyschology of Learning; Psychology of Advertising...of Literature...of Art..of Behavior; Norwegian; Swedish; Danish..Statistical Sociology; Penology; Elocution; Speech Pathology; and Canoe Paddling.
"That will do for a start. As you go into these courses you will find others that will interest you too."

...[They discuss becoming 'well-rounded' and an irrelevant mystery story and finally, Asa asks an important question.]

"Just one more thing, Mr. Ingelbretsvold,"I said. "I don't know quite how to say this, but I think I would like to be a writer when I grow up. Will the program you made out for me help me to be a writer?"

"Why, bless you, child," Mr. Ingelbredtsvold said, "you follow that program and there's nothing else you can be."


Anonymous said...

You know, I prefer to think of myself as "big boned" rather than "well-rounded"... ;-)

Okay, that's out of my system. Now, more seriously, my case is the opposite in a way : I went to university, even graduated, but after some time and a few personal issues, I realized what I wanted to do and become deep inside didn't have anything to do with this "higher education". Some high learnings you can go no place to learn. My grandmother is near illiterate, but she's way smarter than some college graduates I know...

Of course, those who can earn a living by doing what they love are very lucky. Like this guy I heard about on the 'net, makes money out of looking at gorgeous naked chicks, the lucky sonova. Especially with an name impossible to remember, Enola Somethinghouse or whatever...
I wish he would hire me. But I'd settle for [just] winning the lottery.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I know him, Loke Topmouse. Smug bastard.