I first read David McCullough’s address to Boston College, “The Love of Learning“, several years ago. I agree with his opening reminder that, “The importance of education has been a prevailing theme in American life.”
In this particular reading, I am especially moved by McCullough’s statement, “But, information, let us be clear, isn’t learning… Facts alone are never enough… One can have all the facts but miss the truth…If information were learning, you could memorize the World Almanac and call yourself educated. If you memorized the World Almanac, you wouldn’t be educated. You’d be weird!”
So often we equate education with the random stuffing of facts and figures and trivia in to our brains, ready to recall at a moment’s notice. Only, we often lose that which we stuffed in. Once, in grade school, I memorized all fifty states in alphabetical order as a classroom assignment. Today, I’d be lucky to remember even half of them in that order. To what purpose did this serve, other than to impress my parents with the high value education I supposedly received that day in school?
I often find that we grasp a person’s knowledge base on these arbitrary ideals. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, we call these required items “Standards of Learning”. However, proving a student has learned these standards does not necessarily mean they gained that which is the most important.
In 1909, Harvard University’s president, Dr. Elliot, compiled a 51-volume anthology of classics dubbed “The Harvard Classics”. It was his postulation that, if read for fifteen minutes a day, this “five foot bookshelf” would provide the elements of a complete liberal education. Mr. McCullough continues this thought by encouraging the graduates of Boston University to continue reading, both modern and classical works.
The love of learning is more than preparing to win at Jeopardy. It’s a lifelong habit.
This is why I read. This is why I enjoy tutorials, the Open Courseware Movement, and sharing my learning with all of you. There is never a time when you stop learning. The day I stop learning will be the day I die.
Watch David McCullough’s address here:
What do you do to continue learning? Was there anything in Mr. McCullough’s address that particularly moved you? Have you embarked on the challange to read The Harvard Classics? I would love to hear about it.