Full Disclosure: I did over three years at George Mason University (Pre-Law) and probably won’t go back to finish. I say probably because you never know with these things, and my perspective is obviously prone to change. I harbor no Ill-will towards GMU as long as we’re not personifying my wallet. I enjoyed my time there because of the people, which is probably the case for most college students. The education was invaluable but that education didn’t come from the professors or the classwork. The lessons I take with me and do my utmost to pass on came from other students. Hackers to be exact. Hackers, wanna-be hackers and those of us who didn’t know what we wanted out of technology, we just knew….
“There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path” – Morpheus
I have a friend who is a mathematical genius. He was doing complex algorithms in elementary school. We can be quite sure his 5th grade teacher didn’t teach him how to work out these problems. Yes, someone once told him when he was a toddler that 1+1=2. Somewhere along the way he took that and ran with it. This progression of intelligence that occurs outside (and sometimes in spite of) the “traditional” learning experience seems to be a common denominator for people like Jobs, Gates and Brin.
My genius friend once asked me, “How much do you think we really learned in school?” This was just after I drew spider-man on a math final telling my teacher, “I already got into college.” So of course my immediate response was “nothing.” “School isn’t about learning, its about passing grades.” In my haste i failed to realize that I did learn something from endless days fighting ADD while listening to lectures i’ll never remember. Education must be a personal choice. In countries like Nigeria education is not a mandate. Yes we pay for our education through taxes, but over there someone has to write a check. The underprivileged remain just that. The sentiment cultivated from this environment is that education is precious. Its certainly seems more difficult to cultivate this same sentiment by mandating children sit in a room and listen to individuals who may not even be fully invested in the lessons.
Where does Google fit.
I was pretty late to the game. I may have been as old as 16 when i took apart my first computer. Before I left for college at 18, I had built a production studio in parents basement. (It was shitty sound but we loved it.) I had also hacked my first Nokia Phone and would soon move on to a Sony Ericsson. In doing these projects I don’t remember feeling any fear. This is a direct result of having a great search engine and finding people as curious as myself on the forums. I distinctly remember being scared to death for math tests, Spanish tests, the SAT’s…you name it. This was mostly because I didn’t learn a damn thing in school. Sure, I memorized an inordinate amount of shit. Nothing really learned. You see, I never had to go out and find the information for myself. Napoleonic war? Read this text we provide you. History of Slavery? Read this text we provide you which contains no commentary from actual slaves or their families…not even a word from the families of Africans who aided the slave trade. (Like mine.)
When you let people cultivate and mediate the importance of your information you are doomed to memorization. These days I don’t wonder about anything. I ask questions until I have enough information to make an informed opinion. Even if that opinion is that i’m not smart enough to know what i’m looking at. Google Search is the by far the best way to achieve this state of being.
These computer geeks who’ve become my idols make it clear that its not about being the smartest person. Its about knowing how to find the smartest person in regards to a specific subject. The utilization of these sources doesn’t actually make you smarter, but we all know how important perception is. When people ask me questions and I tell them “Google it,” there attitudinal response is usually a good indication of their willingness to learn anything. I on the other hand attend Google University everyday, and this is one school I hope to never graduate from.