Lecture 30 October 1956 Education: Point of Agreement
Now, I have known, been very fortunate to know in my life, quite a few real geniuses, chaps that really wrote their names fairly large in the world of literature and science, and I consider myself very fortunate because they are very rare. What made them so rare? I found something very peculiar about these fellows; they were for the most part taught in peculiar schools; they were taught in some YMCA school, or they were taught by some Englishman that ran a little college that wasn’t very big, for difficult children up the street up there. They were all taught, it seems, in some kind of an off-breed school. This is real peculiar. And because the school existed to a large measure to take care of people who were slop-overs from the usual educational system and so forth, there wasn’t much “education” involved. The fellow would come in, he’d be interested in something, and therefore the headmaster would give him his head, that’s all. One chap, by the way, who gave us solid fuel rockets and assist takeoffs for airplanes too heavily loaded from aircraft carriers and all the rest of this whole panorama of rocketry, who formed Aerojet in California and so on, (the late Jack Parsons, by the way) was not a chemist the way we think of chemists. He was not taught in the field of chemistry beyond this fact: there was a little professor who opened up a school (and nobody could do anything with Jack, he was a pretty wild boy), and though, they sent him over there and this fellow found out that he was interested in chemical experiments, so he turned him loose in the laboratory and gave him a lot of encouragement. And this was quite a man.
Now, it was very interesting, very interesting: this completely sloppy method of education is apparently quite workable. Now, that doesn’t mean that every man we have around who is a genius or is brilliant in some line or another has been educated in that fashion. Some have actually survived the other educational system! It does, however, take a high survival level. You have to really be a fighter; and these boys, many of them, bear the scars of this.
Well, now this becomes important to us today because we live in a complicated society which requires many skills.