On Education

Some of my favorite discussions of the value and importance of education, as well as discussions about approach to education, are found in surprising places. For instance, Robert Ruark’s The Old Man and the Boy is a charming, fun story set mostly in the context of the outdoors- hunting, fishing, sailing, etc.

However, in chapter 22, when the boy is doing poorly at school and sees no use for it, the old man surprises him with a defense of education. Amongst other things, the old man says:

“Knowledge is an accumulation, like a pack rat hides things. Things you never knew you knew have a way of popping up later. You’re supposed to fill your skull with a lot of things, against the day you might need one of them. And remember this, too: you can’t pour a gallon of knowledge into a one-quart brain. The idea is to make the brain big enough and flexible enough to handle what it has to handle. I want to see some better marks next month, or we might just find ourselves not shooting any quail this fall. That ain’t a threat. It’s a suggestion. Let’s go catch some fish.” (247)

The boy doesn’t take to this right away but begins to see the value of education and begins to thrive in school. One error we allow too often is the disconnect between education and the outdoors. There is no reason why they ought to be thought of as so separated. And, that is a great image: “you can’t pour a gallon of knowledge into a one-quart brain.”

I can’t capture the full chapter here, but it is well worth reading.

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