Friday, March 02, 2007

My Point of View

One of the consequences of growing up and gaining perspective is realizing just how little one understands of the world. There are times when I'm afraid to say anything during a conversation because I feel like anything I say would be somehow incorrect. In the past, I would often dismiss things I didn't understand as boring or irrelevant. Over time, as I come to understand some topic better, I find that it's almost always more interesting than I previously thought. In many cases, it takes some external push to place value in wanting to understand the topic better.

For example, I used to think watching baseball was almost as boring as staring off into the eternal darkness. But when my hometown White Sox were doing really well in the playoffs a couple years ago, I started watching a few of their games. After a while, I caught on to many of the nuances which dictate the flow of the game, and it actually became quite interesting.

This line of thinking, of course, leads to the normal conclusions one would expect (e.g., how one should carefully consider the point of view of everyone and everything and not make hasty assumptions). But it also leads me to another somewhat surprising point of view: it seems to be in support of institutionalized education. Schools (in theory) force students to learn about topics that they might have been biased against learning (often for no particularly good reason). For example, I used to think that complexity and computation theory (the most theoretical area of computer science) was really boring and useless. I've since changed my mind after having taken a course in the topic (as required by my PhD program). I'm not championing the current implementation of institutionalized education within the United States -- it certainly has its problems. But it's perhaps more useful than some (including myself) would like to believe.


Dan said...

I'm concerned that in a lot of cases, the current implementation actually backfires destructively and is worse than nothing. When you're in a PhD program this will hopefully not be the case for a varierty of reasons, but forcing kids to 'learn' something in counterproductive ways may well turn them off of topics they otherwise could have discovered they enjoyed.

Yisong said...

Fair enough.

Navreet said...

ehn, I never thought I'd think of compilers being interesting. But, the backend stuff can get pretty cool. Same goes for the OS class..

Yisong said...

Well, I suppose you can't be expected to find all things interesting. But in that specific case, some knowledge of compilers is an enabler to more complex which might otherwise elude your understanding (and interest).