Thought University: Thinking Cannot Be Outsourced

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Thought University dre baldwinIn high school, all of us students were required to purchase a $90 graphing calculator from a company called Texas Instruments. The calculator, we were told, was necessary for the type of math courses we would be taking throughout our 4 years.

[One of the most ridiculously wasted $90 of my life as I don’t recall one thing that calculator taught me that ever applied to my life before or after high school. Not that the thing didn’t work — it worked perfectly and performed some very complicated functions that I could never explain in words — this is more of an indictment of the American educational system’s one-size-fits-all method of educating its youth. Completely bullshit waste of time and money… This topic will have it’s own post.]

In my 10th grade math class our teacher would routinely pose a question to the class that was open for anyone to answer. The question would be the type that normally draws blank stares of confusion from its subjects, except that we had our $90 calculators on hand.

Mr. Barr would sigh and shake his head as we all typed away furiously searching for an answer (or, like me, pretending to be working as I coasted by for good-enough grades).

“Listen,” Mr. Barr would say emphatically. “The calculator cannot teach you how to think, guys. The answer is not in the calculator. ”

He would go on to demonstrate the solution to the previously-posed problem without the help of machinery.

The point of the story? Thinking cannot be taught.

The more resources we are given (other people who talk back at you, websites, store-bought equipment, money), the less we come to depend on ourselves for answers. I often find myself grabbing for my iPhone to do the simplest additions and multiplications while working on business. I chide or ridicule myself for being so lazy. People ask me the dumbest of questions that demonstrate that they’ve done no thinking whatsoever on the topic they’re asking about before reaching for “help”.

The human brain is the most impressive, feature-filled apparatus in the entire animal kingdom. All the tools we increasingly lean on were created by a human brain. Several of the companies you pay for products are simply leveraging the fact that we rely less and less on our brains for solutions to life’s problems.

Thinking cannot be taught or bought or downloaded or streamed or watched on YouTube.

Thinking is not sexy. There’s no Instagram meme that makes it funny. Snap judgements and spit takes are more entertaining, so thinking provides no instant gratification.

What thinking will do, is strengthen your resolve in relying on self. It will allow you to see deeper into situations than merely what presents itself on the surface. It will make you strong where others become weak. Thinking will do what a $90 graphing calculator cannot.

Think about that.

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