Monday, October 13, 2014

Learning To Learn

This awesome clip of Messi when he was 10 years old is fun to watch even for people who haven't got the football bug like me. His control of the ball is incredible even when he isn't much bigger than it. The final minute of the clip shows him doing a drill, or at least something he could practice for hours by himself that isn't 'playing football'. I would love to see a time-lapsed clip of the even younger Messi learning to do this. What inspired him to put the hours in?


My friend Stuart and I had a debate after I had read 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother'. I have long been impressed by cultures that have education deep in their bones. Amy Chua tells her controversial story of bringing her daughters up in a very hardcore way to become fantastically talented at very specific disciplines. Despite the difficulty of the upbringing, and not being sure I wanted it for myself, I was a jealous enough of the remarkable talents that intense learning can bring that I wished I wanted it for myself. Stuart was less forgiving of the Tiger Mother, and less concerned about the rise of competition from individuals with that work ethic. In fact, he is less forgiving more generally of parents determining their children's paths. A liberal education would expose children to lots of different things and as they grow up, shifting attention as children do - eventually they will find the thing they love and pursue that bitterness free. Andre Agassi, for example, is famously bitter about his path having been chosen, even though it did work out rather well in his case. I haven't read 'breaking through' - the Polgar sisters story yet, but came across them in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.



'Polgar and her two younger sisters, Grandmaster Judit and International Master Sofia, were part of an educational experiment carried out by their father László Polgár, who sought to prove that children could make exceptional achievements if trained in a specialist subject from a very early age. "Geniuses are made, not born," was László's thesis.[10] He and his wife Klara educated their three daughters at home, with chess as the specialist subject.' Source: wikipedia

The difference in their story from that of Chua is that the experiment involved creating a family environment where Chess was fun. From the way it is described by Gladwell, there was more carrot and less stick, and so less conflict. I don't think the goal is to have to create geniuses, but rather learning how to instill a love of learning. It seems the Polgar experiment achieved that.

I suspect Stuart is right about allowing freedom being more appealing. The world is skewed to specialists at the moment, but perhaps the future belongs to creative individuals and being creative is about connecting the dots.
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