Diary of a Financier

On Education

In Existential on Sat 31 Dec 2011 at 21:15

I’m a big proponent of the liberal arts education. I declare that under considerable influence of bias, as I’m a product of such a dogma. I’m not sure what matters this entry will cover, so I can’t really summarize it adequately here in my opening paragraph. Hang on…

My antagonist in high school & college was the syllabus. While it established a precedent for the school year, that precedent felt more like train tracks. Every time the classroom/extracurricular conversation turned toward something breathtaking, the iron rails of the syllabus deterred exploration.

Yes, a student needs exposure to a compulsory curriculum. Certain mathematics, literature and sciences are intellectually critical. However, academia’s greatest contribution to a scholar is the installation of intellectual curiosity. I declare this from a vantage of personal experience and existential thought.

When I trained for my athletics (baseball) as a kid, my Dad always told me, “if you cheat when nobody’s looking, you only cheat yourself.” I cheated myself some in college. My maturation and my experience wrought from university likely recompensed where my academic sloth left a void–and I mean that in the most honest, non-conciliatory way. I learned, but I mostly learned (and retained) only that which I wanted to learn. My grades were good, actually great, but I can attribute 10-15% to my learned ability to capitalize on the inefficiencies of the American academic system.

Something happened to me when I left school and entered the business sector. I was a novice, and my inferiority irritated me to the point that an intellectual curiosity burgeoned within. It reminded me of my atypical interest in collegiate fringe courses in classical art, religion, artificial intelligence, etc. The commonality among these courses was the absence of train tracks. Professors would start a class by planting a seed. They’d pose a question, then sit back to watch as students’ musings trained the growth of that seed. The conversations were engaging, passionate and brilliant like none other. They were bound by no unit of time nor place. They were higher education at its finest.

These academic experiences helped me consciously acknowledge the importance of original thought. I floated ideas of my own. Some were worthy of vigorous defense, research and collaboration. Others were worth only concession. Regardless, I was engaged, I was impassioned, and I apply that concoction as best I can in a professional capacity.

Delivering this entry today, from the helter-skelter clusterf*ck that is the business world, I mourn the fact that I never have an opportunity boundless enough to let me think. My mind is the greatest gift unto me and my fellow man, but I don’t have time to take it out of its box. I want desperately to let my mind run amok and see where it leads me, how it might contribute.

My New Year’s Resolution is to take some time to think. A scholar propelled by intellectual curiosity will have the gusto to derail his own train. That’s a good thing; that’s where innovation comes from.

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