How to be a Creative Genuis #9

2 01 2010

Life lessons for the childhood of Einstein

9.   Develop independent thinking

  At the age of eight I entered the German secondary school. But I would learn mostly on my own.  The German school reminded me of when I watched a military parade marching through Munich.  School was like a vast machine with people who had no thinking for themselves. School contained strict teachers and the students just memorized facts not expected to think.  If a student answered too slowly or incorrectly a teacher might rap him on the hand with a ruler. There were no questions or independent thinking.

  I had a poor memory for words and thus had great difficulty in school. Amazing I still have a hand.

 I was prepared to accept any sort of punishment rather than learn to babble something strictly from memory.  This destroys a pupil’s curiosity and sense of individuality, most precious gifts that an education can and should nurture and reinforce.   The only thing that interfered with my learning was my education.

Most teachers waste their time by asking questions that are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning is to discover what the pupil does know or is capable of knowing. It is not so very important for a person to learn facts.  For that he does not really need school, he can learn them from books.  The value of an education is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.

It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom.

Yes, it is true……..I was expelled from school for asking too many questions that teachers could not answer.                 

Look at my picture from the class photo for the Luilpold Gymnasium  1889  only one smiling.

I moved to Italy where the schools were more encouraging.

I learned independent thinking.  At the age of 11, I was reading the mathematician Pythagoras.  I became obsessed with proving the Pythagorean Theorem and was able to do what most college students could not do. At 12 read the writings of geometry of Euclid and at 13 started reading Immanuel Kant and other philosophers.  I read all the science books and magazines I could find.  I had questions I wanted answered and I had a hunger for knowledge.  

 Many students sit passively and just learn what they are supposed to.  I wanted to do more than my teacher said. I wanted to be in the drivers seat of my learning.  Do more than you have to do!

  If man does only what is required of him he is a slave, the moment he does more he is a free man. —Cicero  

  So I read and learned as much as I could on my own.

 The aim (of education) must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life achievement.

     Develop independent thinking

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