March 10, 2015

Fantasy Vs. Knowledge

Einstein by VityaR83

Just a quick food for thought for the day.

Einstein once said (or wrote, not sure which):

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

I think this is a great point to bear in mind when thinking about educational programs. I believe it's
good to understand the bases for certain ideas/theorems/etc, but I don't think that individual thinking should be discouraged. Simple regurgitation of a teacher's or professor's lectures should not be the goal of one's education, especially not when pursuing higher education. That is why I feel privileged to have attended a university in the U.S. and at a school where professors encouraged critical thinking and questions in class.

PS: This is my own opinion, of course, and like anything human, subject to fallacy. 
PS 2: I'm not saying American schools are necessarily the best. I'm also not saying that this point should be the only one to consider when comparing programs on a global basis. However, based on my own experience, I do not believe I would have blossomed to the same extent (or at least not as quickly) had I chosen a university in the "regurgitation" system than in the "free-thinking" one.


  1. One needs both, creativity (what you and Einstein call "fantasy") and knowledge, to achieve valuable results. Also, courage (we once discussed it, I think), conviction, and hard work. Sorry for stating the obvious. I am happy to hear that you praise your educational experience, but I know it could be better. One of the major difficulties that professors face is the wide range of students' abilities, expectations, learning styles, etc. Another obstacle is that the professors have less and less time for teaching, having constantly to do more and more in research and service. The university you graduated from, although still among the best as far as the teaching emphasis is concerned, is slowly yet markedly changing the priorities. Enough whining...

    1. Ah, I'm sorry to hear that. It's a shame when people try to change things that were already great only to make them match what everyone else is doing, especially since it means the program's losing its charm.

      And of course, I believe creativity isn't the only necessary quality needed for success, but I do feel it's a key component to have a richer experience. Otherwise, it's all about churning as many sheep as possible, and the joy gets sapped out of it. Of course, this is my own take on things.