Discovery

Published on: 21 Feb 2007 by Anders Conbere

I believe that without a doubt the most important thing that any human can do is create, to craft, to Make. This can manifest itself in many ways, music, programing, archetecture, teaching, writing. These are all creative acts.

When I first was going through school (elementary up through highschool and into college) I understood that I loved science. I didn't know why, but looking back it's because it was what was enabling the process of creation for me. I'm not a terribly gifted writer, nor am I much of an artist, I've got a bumb ear, and my eyes are for design. But I can make stuff, I can logic things out.

In high school it became even more apparent this was a love. In my chemistry class we made calorimeters, we figured out what an unknown salt was, we made trebuchets. This in my mind was what was encompassed in the sciences. What else would you do in physics than attempt to build and discover that which rules our world.

In college the first thing I learned was that I wasn't going to be making things. I was cramming a lot in my head, but there were no labs set up to build junk. There was no professor staying after school to help you gather materials, I can't think of a single class in college that asked me to build something with my hands. I understand now that what I probably wanted to be doing was engineering, but we didn't have an engineering class in my high school so I didn't really know what was involved in that.

Despite all this In my last year of college I learned something that I believe is possibly the most important thing I learned in my entire educational career. I was taking a class in abstract linear algebra. The year before in abstract algebra I had found that I could get the feeling of making things through mathematical proofs, and decided to see if I could get out of taking an entry level math class by jumping into the grad classes. This class was taught by a man named Branco Curgis, an truly incredible man with an energy about life that you don't often find.

Sitting in a Curgis class is not like being lectured in any other class, it's more akin to watching a jazz musician, or watching a painter finish a masterpiece, it's watching the creation, the discovery of mathematical principles unfold. Lecture would often be interrupted to stop and pause "Oooooh my goodness what is THIS!, oh dear this can't be right... wait! Maybe it is right! Oh this is quite the discovery". It didn't recognize it then, but that words important, and it's context is more important. Nothing we were learning in that class was new, it had all been figured out centuries ago, but there it was, he used the word discovery. A discovery, and this is the part I think we as a culture have forgotten, is a deeply personal, and individual experience, simply because it was discovered once before, because it was thought out by someone eons before you does not diminish in the least it's importance and significance.

What's important in this is to realize, this is true of EVERY new experience you have, every new idea and every new discovery you make. Understanding this we can investigate learning and it makes school fun. Suddenly when you're doing homework, and you figure something out, that isn't just a trick that is useful in finishing the assignment but a new discovery. As such is certainly warrants investigation! In fact a single discovery made over the course of an assignment is much more important than the assignment itself.

I began to enjoy homework because I would discover something, then seek to prove it, then possibly discover that it was true (in a pure sense), and this would make homework exciting!

Discoveries are creating, they are making of ideas, and yet in our school systems we don't emphasize this. We have forgotten how to teach our children to create. We are so caught up in them knowing facts and basic skills that we've forgotten that discovery is what drive innovation, and that like anything in live one has to learn how to make discoveries. Until you decide to make every discovery you make as important as those made by the likes of Einstein or Newton, you can never make a unique discovery. Until you can recognize a new thought for yourself as individually important, you can never begin to impart that importance on the world around you.

We need to remember how to discover.