Formal Education Is No Longer Enough
Wonderful comments from Maria Popova, who curates the Brain Pickings site (if you don’t know it, you should!). Maria was interviewed by Flora Lichtman on NPR’s “Science Friday”:
LICHTMAN: “On any given day, visit the website brainpickings.org, and you’ll find posts on topics ranging from Charles Darwin’s notes on marriage, to a birthday tribute to Julia Child, to the poetry of Patti Smith.
What do these bits of culture have in common? Well, one woman, Maria Popova, found them interesting. And it turns out a lot of other people found them interesting, too. Popova’s site, on which she posts three times a day, has about two million monthly readers, and she tweets, every 20 minutes I might add, to more than 200,000 followers.
Maria Popova joins me now to talk more about it. She’s the editor and founder of the website brainpickings.org, and she’s also MIT Futures of Entertainment fellow. She joins me here in our New York studio. Thanks for coming in today.
POPOVA: Thanks for having me.
LICHTMAN: So people – for people who don’t know the site, give us sort of a thumbnail sketch of what Brainpickings is.
POPOVA: Quite simply, it’s just a record of my own curiosity about the world and about the world of learning and of lifelong learning. I started while I was in college, and I was feeling a little bit let down by the education system and was sort of finding out these other things across many different disciplines that I thought were interesting.
And I started recording them, and then over time, it found its audience.
LICHTMAN: I mean, it found a huge audience. Does it surprise you that what you find interesting so many other people do, too?
POPOVA: Yes and no. It’s funny, I was listening about vaccines just now, and in a way, you know, modern medicine has approached this mission of optimizing the life of the body with such methodical rigor, but we haven’t necessarily done that about the life of the mind.
And the education system is, in a way, this antiquated universal vaccine model: We think that we can cram it all in a few years of formal schooling, and it’s going to protect us for the rest of our lives. But the way I think of learning and creative curiosity is as a kind of immune system against the life of mediocrity.
LICHTMAN: I like that.
POPOVA: It requires constant boosts and constant sort of shots against that and priming the mind and the creative muscle. And so I think on that level, people relate to having a resource that gives that sort of steady stream of these things in a very small and subtle way and not as formal as education but does enrich lives and enrich sort of our pool of creative resources.” Read more here.
I think Maria is absolutely right—our years of formal education are hardly sufficient to enable us to fully enjoy and engage with adult life. We need to keep learning, and a resource like Brain Pickings is one of many ways to do that.