The college of life

In 2005, British historian Paul Johnson wrote one of my favorite articles on leadership in Forbes magazine.  You can read the whole thing here.

Whenever I encounter discussions on education, one piece of that article always comes to mind:

Courage without judgment is pointless and may be dangerous. What makes a person judge wisely? It is not intelligence, as such. Clever people with enormously high IQs often show scarifyingly bad judgment. Nor is it education. When I need advice, I rarely turn to someone with first-class honors from a top university. I turn to someone who has knocked about the world and cheerfully survived “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

When you’re going under the knife, do you care more about whether your surgeon had first-class honors from a top university or whether he has performed the operation many times successfully in the past?

Education has its place. But so does “knocking about” in life. Our incessant call for ‘more education’, no matter the cost has a devastating opportunity cost that few people consider. It shelters people from knocking about in life.


1 thought on “The college of life

  1. Today, many of our “learned” professions have managed to convince the political class that a formal education in particular schools that specialize in these professions is necessary “to protect the public.” One typically thinks of medicine and law, professions that were originally learned not in formal schools, but through self study and apprenticeship, but the list has expanded to include an endless variety of professions whose members have sought – in the guise of protecting the public – a form of legalized monopoly to protect themselves from competition and hence harm the public. One thing is for certain, formal education benefits (a) those who are in the business of selling formal education, and (b) those who are using a degree to limit entry by their potential competitors. Smith would shake his head in disapproval.


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