June 25, 2022
“Education is not the learning
of facts, rather it’s the training
of the mind to think.”
— Albert Einstein.
When in college i trained my mind to think.
The process has never ended.
Of all the useful lessons learned in college, critical thinking is the most essential.
For critical thinking to transcend, it must be ensconced in a nurturing environment. In my case, this began with leaving my parent’s home. In campus residence self reliance and dependence on friends and mentors gave me respect for myself and others. This respect opened my mind to the possibilities of life.
I acquired discipline with repeatable study habits. No procrastination. No delegating study to a lower priority. I started promptly and finished with determination. I studied matters thoroughly, researched the details, compared opinions and came to careful conclusions.
My lessons did not focus on what a thing is, but how it works. Engineers understand this concept. There is always a cause and effect in the chain of every system.
I made mistakes. Lots of them.
Without mistakes there is no learning. The real learning skill is to modify your behavior to avoid a mistake the next time. It is only then that you really understand.
Midway through college i changed majors from pre-med to English. Instead of memorizing volumes of text and taking endless tests I organized my days around exposure to great thought.
I sought out the most enlightened writer-professors on campus. I was able to organize all their classes on a Tuesday – Thursday schedule. On those days my alarm went off at 5am. When dressed and showered I had breakfast in the dining hall (a great social environment), then attended my first class at 7am. The last class got out at 8pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I listened to lectures, received homework projects, turned in reports and took final exams.
On Wednesdays I spent the day in the library researching.
From Thursday through Monday I read and studied, attended study groups, listened to visiting lecturers, had a beer or two at the local pubs and sometimes hitchhiked around the region (always with a book in my back pocket).
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”
― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”
i tried religion and ultimately traded it in for the truth that the world around me spoke.
As Vice President of my dormitory i learned leadership. The great basketball player, Adrian Dantley, resided in my dorm. One day he ducked into my dorm room holding a basketball in one hand (i kid you not). He asked,
“Rick, how do you study?”
i asked, “How do you remember all those complicated basketball plays?”
He said, “I read through them, draw diagrams, then run them over and over in practice.”
“Exactly,” i said.
My exposure to the science of pre-med taught me the scientific process of critical thinking.
My experiences in the college of Arts and Letters showed me how to apply that process to life.