My father’s approach to education can be summed up in two ways. The first relates to how he would respond to gaps in our childhood knowledge. Typically he would say, “How come you didn’t know that? Jesus Christ, I knew that when I was your age.” The second was his response if I shared a new piece of information and found, to my surprise, that he already knew it: “You’d be amazed how much I learn in the next few years”. As the years went by a very simple question about education formed in my mind: “If you know all this stuff, why don’t you tell me about it?”
I do not recall him sharing much information, learning or wisdom in my childhood years. I have met many people in the years since then who exhibit similar traits. Things that they have learnt are kept secret but are used occasionally to show how smart they are. Throughout my adult life I have tried to take the opposite approach. Information, learning and wisdom are for sharing. Don’t keep these things to yourself.
It’s possible that my approach to education goes too far the other way. My willingness to share what I have learnt might put people off but I’d rather give it a go than keep things to myself. I trust people to understand things, to gather information, to become enthused about something. You might not be into language, or music, or Shakespeare, but you are probably into something. And if you are, you can share it with me.
My father knew more stuff than my mother did. He had read more books. He had retained more information. But my mother shared everything she knew. She had gathered wisdom, about people and about how the world works. She did not keep these things secret. She also took an interest in what we were learning. It was, for me, a much better approach to education.