The Purpose of Education

In Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937, Napoleon Hill had very interesting things to say about public education.

“The missing link in all systems of education…today may be found in the failure of educational institutions to teach their students how to organize and use education after they acquire it.”

In other words, education is not just about stuffing your head with as many facts as possible.  It’s about training your mind to recall facts and use them systematically in your work.  We’ve all met people who are very educated, but just can’t seem to use their smarts to solve everyday problems.  We often call that syndrome “lack of common sense.”  But it might be more accurate to call it “lack of organizational skills.”

Social scientists and psychologists are beginning to think of intelligence not as a yes/no proposition, but as a set of skills, some of which may be stronger than others.  Definitions of intelligence include:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought
  • Ability to comprehend relationships
  • Ability to evaluate and judge
  • Capacity for original and productive thought
  • Traditional education certainly doesn’t enhance all of these abilities.  At its best, education should provide you with the skills to understand new concepts, file and recover them for future reference, and apply them to new situations.  These are also skills you can work on yourself, without the benefit of a formal classroom situation.

    In today’s dynamic business environment, knowledge is not nearly as powerful as the capacity to learn.  Situations and technology are changing too rapidly to hold on to knowledge; what is true today will be obsolete tomorrow. 

    This is not a new concept; even before Napoleon Hill wrote about in the 20th century, Confucius said, “Learning without thought is labor lost. “

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