Back to School

My first days back to school have been rather routine. See people you haven’t seen for a while and catch up. Go back to class and learn things that you didn’t know before. Take buses that run slowly. Walk past construction sites that have been ongoing since you started. Sigh.

The funny thing is that this time, I have grown a lot since my last stay. As I have been saying on this blog for a while, I have become skeptical of people who rely strictly on everything they read without doing any conscious understanding on their own. I could read every book ever written and still be a complete idiot. It is good to read as much as we can as many brilliant thoughts have already been had. But, the goal of human society isn’t to learn what has been learned and repeat it, but rather take what has been learned and build upon it.

I was talking with someone yesterday and realized how easy it is to impede this goal of common learning and understanding. When talking about politics and world issues, we should never have a hard time explaining concepts since they are usually very universal. But when the “educated” mind runs loose one is able to throw in all sorts of complications in an effort to sound more intelligent. The end result unfortunately is a less understood statement that ultimately is limited by the readers previous knowledge. Good scholarship in such matters should be understood by all regardless of background.

My reasoning for this is quite straightforward. Imagine you wanted to explain to someone why they owed you $5. If you pulled out some old Greek philosophers and 5th year economics you will simply confuse the person, but will probably get you the money. Did this help the person understand anything at all? No. They are left feeling stupid and slightly unimportant. A better way would be to use language that was understood by the person but then explain how that simple info is part of a larger theorem by such and such and is part of X field of study. You then don’t sacrifice understanding for sounding intelligent. Instead, you improve your clarity and stabilize your argument since it no longer hinges completely on another persons work.

Well, that’s my two cents anyways.

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One Response to “Back to School”

  1. Pie Man Says:

    Amen dude. Amen.

    Which is why I don’t use “big words” unless required. For example, a field-specific phrase like “political economy” might be required to show profs that you know what you’re talking about. Engineers may do the same. Using random Latin words in a paper, IMO, reeks of elitism. I tend to use the standard professional writing benchmark for max reading level: Grade 7. nothing more. I prefer coherency over “overwhelmingness” even when BSing an exam I didn’t study for. Learned that the hard way >_<


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