Sunday, September 17, 2006

Born to learn – Intellectual curiosity

My parents probably provided the initial spark but I also had a tremendous inner desire to comprehend the world around me. I was intensely curious from age 5. By age 8 I was already better educated in astronomy and paleontology than 95% of adults. By the forth grade of elementary school my vocabulary exceeded that of most college students. I was able to do this partly because my parents taught me to read at age 6. In elementary school, in downtown Baltimore, I realized that most kids did not have my measure of curiosity about the world.

They were all taught to read and if they did not want to use that new ability toward greater understanding, so be it. Our society held plenty of promise for them. They could one day work at the assembly line or the steel mill or construction or maintain our highways.

Most humans are not born intellectuals. Most humans are born toilers. We should not try to alter this natural state of existence. The concept that every child must become a thinker is very modern indeed. This concept did not exist in the 1960s Baltimore City Public School system. Before 1980 you either took vocational classes, as the majority did, or you attended Baltimore City College or Baltimore Polytechnic Institute to begin preparation for future intellectual pursuits. I chose BPI because of my love of science and engineering, other friends chose BCC for their love of the liberal arts and still others chose vocational schools for their love of working with their hands. Some like getting their hands dirty and others do not. It is natural selection at work. Don’t mess with Mother Nature.

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