Category: education

[Updated] Being a polymath is good for innovation

Or, “a man can do all things if he will.”

From Aeon Magazine:

“To come up with [innovative] ideas, you need to know things outside your field. What’s more, the further afield your knowledge extends, the greater potential you have for innovation.”

“intense study brings rewards that are impossible to achieve by casual application”

“Monopathy, or over-specialisation, eventually retreats into defending what one has learnt rather than making new connections.”

As well as examples of cross-disciplinary innovation, potential problems with the division of labor, and why children learn “all the time.”

Article at:

Update: A related article from Wired:

“The most exciting inventions occur at the boundaries of disciplines”

“As Robert Twigger noted, ‘Invention fights specialisation at every turn.’ ”

“Mathematics is a gift, an unbelievably useful tool for understanding our surroundings.”

“More generally, the world of business and entrepreneurship actively encourages those who see connections between disciplines. One who can recognize a relationship between two disparate fields of ideas will more likely come up with the next, big, new thing. That’s investment gold.”

Article at:


On “Crossover appeal”

Statistician Andrew Gelman makes an insightful remark, one to keep in mind not just when reading published scientific papers:

Levitt buttresses his argument with the statement, “Chris Goodall [the person who made the walking/driving comparison] is no right-wing nut; he is an environmentalist and author of the book How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.” How relevant is this? Even a “right-wing nut” could make a good point, right?

More to the point, I think we have to be careful about automatically trusting “crossover” arguments. Do we have to believe something, just because it comes from somebody who we wouldn’t expect to say it? I worry that this sort of crossover appeal is so appealing that otherwise-skeptical commentators (such as Levitt) forget their usual skepticism.

[Emphasis mine.]

“What are the words I’m supposed to use in this conversation?”

“What are the words I’m supposed to use in this conversation?” may be a common mode in which a less mature and non-risk-taking student operates when interacting with job recruiters.

And yet, this should not be the mindset of “a 20-year-old who should have bright ideas and enthusiasm,” formed in the liberal arts, according to a recruiter from a consulting company, cited in a recent NYT article, “How to get a job with a philosophy degree.”

The article has more on the tensions between education for it’s own sake, and “getting that degree [only] so that I can get a job,” including insight into “student branding.”

flipped classroom = more active learning

“Imagine inverting the way instruction and homework is assigned. Instead of students passively learning during class time, students learn at home receiving instruction at their own pace. Class time is then open for an active learning approach where students get access to valuable time with the instructor.

“The instructor’s role changes from presenter of content to learning coach.”