On the Folly of Specialism

So where did we ever come up with the idea that the ideal achievement in knowledge is to become a specialist?

A generalist knows how a thousand things fit together, but the typical specialist knows only his particular specialty, and has little clue how it works with the rest of the world. Who in his right mind would want to be like that?

My voice teacher had known the famous nuclear physicist, Albert Einstein. She told me about him being an hour late to a meeting one day because he had stopped while walking across campus at Princeton to watch a butterfly that was slowly flapping its wings. Even though it was “not his field”, he studied that butterfly for an hour—and with excited CURIOSITY. And you should read that man’s views on politics and government. He was by no means “just” a scientist, but a philosopher, too.

So why can’t we be like Einstein in the NUMBER of things about which we care? One does not have to be a genius to care about things. Plenty of people have high IQ scores, but don’t care about much of anything. In fact, they don’t even care when they are WRONG.

But any simple farm hand can be good at caring—at curiosity—at learning—at growing. However it was that intellect managed to get higher billing in America than does caring, it was a stupid turn of events. (Could it have been the idea of a specialist?)

There’s an entire world around us and a million things to be observed and learned about it. “Specialist” is sometimes nothing more than a fancy spin word for one who has decided not to care about most of it.


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