The most important thing is insight

Another one less than enamoured with talent. William Faulkner in a Press conference, University of Virginia, May 20, 1957. (The audio is here)

“At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that — the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.”

Does Curiosity Kill More Than the Cat?

curiosity can distract men from secular obligations by so occupying their minds that there is no room left for other considerations. These men (and women) fail to register the pain of animals subjected to experiments in the name of knowledge, pay no heed to the social consequences of their investigations, and take no heed of the warnings issued in Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (not to mention the myth of Pandora and the Incredible Hulk).

They are obsessive and obsessed and exhibit, says John Henry Newman, something akin to a mental disorder. “In such persons reason acts almost as feebly and as impotently as in the madman: once fairly started on a subject, they have no power of self-control” . They have no power of self-control because they have no allegiance — to a deity, to human flourishing, to community — that might serve as a check on their insatiable curiosity.

Source: here

Rethinking Digital Homework

From CNN

“Insoo has a difficult math problem as homework. He posts it up on Naver Knowledge iN, a popular online Q&A service with some 70 million entries. Within about 10 minutes of posting, someone chimes in with a good answer, and Insoo awards him with some “Knowledge Power” points — knowledge-based economy in action among 14-year-olds.”

Laurent remarks that Korea provides

“an opportunity for Europeans and Americans to have a preview of what their society might be in a near future. Most of the important technological trends start in Korea five years before they hit us. Think of citizen journalism (started by Ohmynews in 2000), social networking (Cyworld, 1999), or knowledge sharing websites (Naver Knowledge iN who became Yahoo Answers for us).”

And that sentiment seems to be backed up here

All of which presumably ties in with “bottom-up education”.

From a teacher’s perspective, I think it’s great news that children can find so many different sources of help. And it’s great that they stand a good chance at becoming more skilled in collaborating, co-operating and thriving in a knowledge market of sorts.


Perhaps the homework scenario skews things a little? Education is about many things, but presumably a couple of the key goals are encouraging curiosity and fostering understanding. To go online to quickly get some answers so you can quickly finish your homework (and do well at it) is a wonderful skill, but I wouldn’t have thought it’s the goal of the homework exercise.

How, then, can we rejig homework to encourage all of the above – curiosity, understanding, and collaboration?

Well, step one might be to look at the research that homework helps academic achievement. I’ve just bought this to try and find out more, and Harris Cooper at Duke seems to have done some interesting work. Even if it does help, there are pros and cons:

“Most of what homework is doing is driving kids away from learning,” says education professor Harvey Daniels. Let’s face it: Most children dread homework, or at best see it as something to be gotten through. Thus, even if it did provide other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on kids’ love of learning.

Step two might be to try to, ahem, make homework enjoyable. Get children using their collaborative skills and their own interests to fulfil that horrendously named thing, the learning objective. Perhaps we should be asking the children how they could learn more about, say, perimeters and area at home, online, together or all three.