Richard Muller, a professor of physics of UC Berkeley, gave a great response on Quora to a question about majoring in the three fields of math, computer science, and physics. He wrote in length about the need to have a variety of skills. It reminds me of Robert Twiggers‘ emphasis on what he calls polymathic synergy (1 and 2). He cited Robert Root-Bernstein on the varied interests of Nobel Laureates:
Almost all Nobel laureates in the sciences actively engage in arts as adults. They are twenty-five times as likely as the average scientist to sing, dance, or act; seventeen times as likely to be a visual artist; twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature; eight times more likely to do woodworking or some other craft; four times as likely to be a musician; and twice as likely to be a photographer.
That’s a pretty big difference.
Muller says basically the same thing:
To be really productive in your future life, you will need a broad range of skills. You can’t learn them all as an undergraduate; 4 years is way too short. All that can really happen is that you can get a good solid introduction to a wide range of fields, and that will enable you to develop them over the coming decades.
If you triple major, you will not have room in you schedule to take electives in courses that could trigger a life-long learning in the breadth of fields that will likely prove invaluable to your career.
And he adds how his ability to write clearly has helped him in his own career, writing grant proposals, journal articles, and books. In fact, it was his clear writing in a journal that led to Addison Wesley asking him to write a book on the same topic.
Lots of good tidbits from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street:
“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” — Petronius Arbiter
“[M]ost of what we say and do is not essential. Eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself, is this necessary.” — Marcus Aurelius
The Debunker Club, organized by Will Thalheimer, is focusing on debunking Learning Styles this month and have devoted a page to resources to this end. An excerpt from that page:
Probably today’s most ubiquitous learning myth is that people have different learning styles and that these learning styles can be diagnosed and used in learning design to create more effective learning interventions. This myth has resonated and spread throughout the world’s learning-professional community probably because it hints at an idea that seems sensible — that people learn differently. Unfortunately, there are dozens and dozens of ways to separate people by type, so it’s hard to know which distinctions to use for which learner, for which topics, for which situations. More importantly, the research evidence shows clearly that using learning styles in designing/deploying learning does not reliably improve learning results.
Danny Crichton at Techcrunch makes some good points on the difficulty of getting people to engage in online education due to lack of time, motivation, and work-related payoffs:
What the world is discovering is that humans are going to be humans (a discovery we seem to make a lot in startup-landia). We failed to ensure that motivation and primacy were built-in to these new products, and in the process, failed to get adults to engage with education in the way that universities traditionally can.