November 28, 2010


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The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. — Albert Einstein

High school students at TEDxIBYork and Schulich MBA students at the Philanthropic Leadership Workshop got me thinking about formal education in today's fast changing world.

By the time you graduate, part of your education is already out of date. Yet what you've learned is far different from what your parents and potential employers know. You're behind and ahead at the same time.


Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing. — Albert Einstein
We learn in different ways. Despite best efforts, that's where formal education may let you down.

Maybe you excel in a classroom setting with a fixed syllabus, homework and exams. Online video may be your thing. You might like reading books or listening to them. You may work better in isolation or in groups. Or a combination of the preceding.

Once you find out what works best for you, go to it! Do try other ways occasionally. The ways you learn may change. I did well in school but cringe at the thought of taking another formal course. I now prefer self-study "just in time" learning for what's important at the moment.


You adapt to your environment. You think like your peers and community. Even rebels conform to the norm for rebels. You may not notice that others think differently until you're exposed to other perspectives. As you decide if those views have merit, you have the opportunity to change your thinking and perhaps your life.

There's a drawback in becoming an MBA, engineer, doctor, accountant or fund raiser. We risk becoming more like our peers than the people we want to help. Our solutions tend to be similar to our peers'.

As in The Matrix, it's not evident that you have a distorted view of the world around you. I didn't realize this until nine years after university. I thought my actuarial training gave me a clear view of the world. Instead, I found that I thought like my peers actuaries and was puzzled when others couldn't see what was "obvious" to us. Since then, I've focused on getting exposed to different perspectives and understanding them. Synthesizing disparate sources gives you a unique lens on the world.


Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
— Albert Einstein

You'll eventually find that what you learned in school doesn't matter. Knowing that may help you through boring material taught by dull teachers. Education teaches you to think on your own. Once you do, you're equipped to adapt and  thrive in the ever-changing world.


Podcast Episode 94 (3:50)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS Albert Einstein also said "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

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