Will this be on the test?

I was reading an article the other day on one of my favourite science blogs and this phrase came up. The article was actually about how few scientists there seems to be in US politics compared to business people and lawyers, but it was this particular point that really struck home with me.

The point the author was trying to make is that people are interested in what they need to know to get the job done (which is great), but aren’t interested in learning anything beyond that, even if it’s interesting, informative and might actually be useful to their future jobs (which is bad).

Homer Simpson: I am so smrtThis attitude I think, is a very rare but very good example of true close-mindedness. There are some people who are only interested in learning what they think they need to learn to get the job done, to pass the test or to get paid and nothing matters beyond that. There’s no desire to learn for the sake of learning. No thirst for knowledge.

Now I don’t want to get too high on my metaphorical horse and preach that everyone needs to be or should be an intellectual, but nevertheless this attitude depresses me. What is particularly depressing is that this is a learned attitude. All you need to do is look at a child to know this is true. The little buggers are constantly exploring, constantly learning new things to the point they get annoying with constantly asking ‘why?’ At what point did we train this beatifully inquisitive nature out of them?

Speaking of children, I can remember one such occasion back in high school where a young lady ask me “How did you get so smart?” (seriously embarrassing question by the way, but true). I thought for a brief moment before responding “I read”.

The look on her face was pure depression. It was as if to say “Oh, I have to work for it?” She very quickly changed the topic after that.

It’s not like I was telling her she needed to read newspapers and scientific papers. At that stage in my life those kinds of materials bored me to death. This conversation took place in the school library, in the fiction section! Reading any kind of literature is good. It opens you to other points of view and ways of thinking, even in fairy tales.

Honestly I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make here. I don’t know how bad this is or even whether I think it should be changed somehow. Or even if it can be changed. Only that it depresses me. There’s a kind of strange joy that many people take in being deliberately ignorant. The girl in the above story, I have no doubt she wasn’t interested in reading because it was uncool. And that’s the sad part. Firstly that it’s not cool to be smart, and secondly that being cool is more important to people.


-Ignorance is not bliss. Nor is it cool. Stay inquisitive.


About Jamie D
I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner working in 3D animation and multimedia. I also have a keen interest in technology and education.

8 Responses to Will this be on the test?

  1. Dumbo says:

    Isa stay edumakated long time.

  2. ChrisThaLedg says:

    Top post ol’ boy.. take the scientific element out of it and you’re onto something.. how about replacing scientists with psychologists? This seems to be similar sorts of behavioural traits that come with the mighty subject at school..
    At the end of the day.. if people are happy with the lack of will to want to learn more about something, then that’s all dandy.. it comes down to personal choice.. sometimes its a particular area that spurs people on to want to learn more.. a thirst for a subject rather than a thirst for knowledge in general.. I’m a bit of a sports buff and I’ll do anything for a subject in that area.. put something else in front of me and my thirst for wanting to know more is out the window.. I’m fronted with this daily at work.. sport is my trigger.. some who lack that thirst, may have trigger points for other specific areas, some that they don’t know yet.. at the end of the day, it comes down to parents at first.. when kids get into VCE, its up to them.. we know in that age bracket.. relationships, alcohol and other influences get in the way.. in local footy, the numbers from Under 16s to Under 18s has the biggest drop.. it comes down to personal choice..

    • archdragon87 says:

      “Top post ol’ boy.. take the scientific element out of it and you’re onto something.. how about replacing scientists with psychologists?”

      Sorry mate, I really must not have been clear enough in the original post. I wasn’t talking about scientists in politics. The article I linked to was, but I was only taking one very small point out of that article and leaving all the political stuff to him.
      By the way, psychology is a science, but the real question is, do you really want a psychologist as your Prime Minister? Scary thought 😛

      “a thirst for a subject rather than a thirst for knowledge in general”

      Well that’s certainly not an issue. What worries me is when people deliberately avoid learning. Take the original question as an example “Will this be on the test?” If it’s not on the test the person asking will likely just forget about it, thinking it’s irrelevant. But just because it’s not going to be on the final exam doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
      You’re right, it does come down to choice. But as much as I respect people’s right to make that choice doesn’t instantly make it a good choice. I just wonder if there isn’t something that can be done to push people towards making the choice to at least be open to learning different areas.

      • ChrisThaLedg says:

        Haha.. sorry, didn’t read the link =P A psychologist as our PM.. I’m leaning towards having a bricky as our PM.. they wouldn’t say much but do a truck load! =P

        You’re right in being worried about people delibrately avoiding learning.. there is the tendency for some to completely ignore specific facts if it proves to be irrelevant and it appears worthless to them.. I’m with you, there should be more done to push people to make the choice to learn about different areas, but only if its important to them. I think people have that attitude especially if they are doing a subject that they don’t particularly like and they’re aiming to do enough to just get them through.. I did a subject called “Fashioning and Gender” as a filler in my course and only aimed to do enough to pass because in the big picture.. feminism and fashion just didn’t interest me.. there is that sort of attitude going about especially when it involves education. If the question of.. “will this be on the test” was asked.. I think teachers should be pushed to say that there is a very good chance that it will, or a simple yes.
        People learn in different ways.. some are fascinated by reading and learning through text, others will learn more by doing.. give a man a hammer and show him to build a house, he will build you a house.. give him a book that shows him how to build one, he will likely struggle.. again, I’m guilty.. I enjoy reading about something but I get much more out of it by being there and seeing it done.. different teaching skills.. I value the choice of nutting out what information we see as important to pursue more or not.. ENTER scores are just a number to get you into Uni, so a lot of skills and knowledge gained is likely to be replaced when you go to Uni.. maybe only some of those skills will be handy from Uni when you go into your work place.. within three months, I’d forgotten most of what Uni taught me because I needed the knowledge of work to replace that because the writing style is different.. at the end of the day.. its up to the educators to stress the importance of each bit of knowledge and push the necessity to research or do more practical work of a certain thing..

  3. JohnMWhite says:

    I feel your pain, archdragon. I saw this attitude as I grew up and was pretty much steeped in it at school. Even some of the teachers were annoyed at too many questions, and did not want to delve into any topic beyond what was necessary to pass the test. What troubled me the most was that these were children I was surrounded by, children who by their nature are supposed to be curious and inquisitive, but they were largely numb, becoming passive recorders just waiting for sufficient knowledge to get on to the next stage in the video game of life.

    I just do not understand it. Where did their curiosity go?

    • archdragon87 says:

      There likely a whole heap of contributing factors. I think you’ve stumble upon one in your post there when you referenced the ‘video game of life’.
      There’s an attitude towards life whereby if you do the right things, get the right job, meet the right people and basically, tick the right boxes you’ll be successful.
      People don’t seem to realise that getting your arse handed to you every now and then is great and can make you a better person. People are afraid of failure of any sort. I’ve come to believe it can be a good thing.
      You see this same trend echoed in education too. What matters is the grade you get, not what you actually learn. It’s why I view major exams as a waste of time. Cram the day before then forget everything over a beer or two later that night.
      And as much as I hate to admit it, technology is probably a contributing factor too. Why learn anything when you can just Google it? I’m of the opinion a shift in education is needed, whereby people don’t focus so much on facts (which can be easily obtained these days) and instead focus on critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.

      As to how we go about implementing some of these changes…well that’s a little harder…

  4. Nikki Petrovich says:

    Question: Why would a scientist be involved in US politics? It is politics not science, therefore, shouldn’t all questions or investigations be conducted by people who have an understanding of that specific area. Perhaps I read it wrong- but the article read that you were saddened by a small number of scientists in US politics, with the implication that this presents an ethical issues. I must say I find this argument astounding. Realistically a scientists feild of study is science, a politicians legislation, and a lawyer’s legislation and law. Therefore, it only seems logical that there is a limited number of scientists involved in US politics considering most scientists area of study does not include bills, legislation or law -whereas a politician’s / lawyer’s does.

    • archdragon87 says:

      “Perhaps I read it wrong”

      Yes, you read it very, very wrong. The article I linked to was about US politics. Mine had literally nothing to do with politics.

      “with the implication that this presents an ethical issues”

      No, I’m pretty sure I very deliberately stated I didn’t know whether this was an ethical issue…”I don’t know how bad this is“…

      This post was meant to be nothing more than a brief look at an attitude that has developed (or maybe it’s always been present, I don’t know) in our society whereby people are only interested in what information is needed to pass a test, whether that be a literal test or a job. As I think more about it now, I think the real problem with this attitude is that people aren’t interested in why they need this information. As long as the answer is right there is no need to understand the underlying principles. This means that although they may pass the current test, they have limited understanding of how to apply the principles to future tests.

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