Thoreau On Learning

“But,” says one, “you do not mean that the student should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?” …I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.

How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as mathematics.

If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and science, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where anything is professed and practiced but the art of life; — to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how it is earned, to discover new satellites in Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the monster that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar.

Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month, —the boy who has made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, or reading as much as would be necessary for this—or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the institute in the meanwhile, and had received a Rodgers penknife from his father?

– Walden and “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau

Learning is doing.

Try and fail.

Iterate and find what works.

Make it your own.

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