By Gery L. Deer
DEER IN HEADLINES
Albert Einstein is said to have commented, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As much as I admire the scientist and his great intellect and insight, I’d have to alter his statement, from my own experience, to read, “Imagination is equally important to knowledge.”
During most of my educational experience, imagination was frowned upon. Teachers wanted me to use the knowledge I gained from my books and their instruction and not vary from those works. At home, I had the opposite approach.
My parents, particularly my mother, not only encouraged my imagination, but did everything they could to enhance it. I was given the opportunity to create and experiment with everything from paper sculpture and music to electronics and heavy equipment operation; a unique combination of experiences, to say the least.
The drive to achieve is not limited to those in academia. Applying a vivid imagination using knowledge and experience to solve problems has been a driving force behind American ingenuity.
A great number of history-making people had virtually no formal education; Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers, just to name a few. Some academics would have you believe that these people were anomalies but I believe they are far more common than is generally known.
Often, rising to greatness has more to do with luck and circumstance than anything else. There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, regardless of how intensive your labor.
Academics are fine, and necessary, and everyone should take advantage of as much education as they like. But I think our teachers should spend as much time encouraging creative thought and diversified study of the individual. What makes that student thrive? What makes her yearn to know more?
If advanced education is the goal, such as a master’s or post-graduate degree, more hands-on experience should be required before the diploma is awarded. There are far too many MBA’s and PhD’s out there with little to no practical experience behind them.
My educational background is in engineering, computer programming and the sciences, but most of my real-world experience is in communications, writing and the media. My education allows me to have a better understanding of the world as a whole and my experience helps me to apply it to a practical, wage-earning end.
If not for the creativity and drive I was taught by my family, some of which must be inherent, it’s likely I would be punching a clock at some technology lab somewhere, miserable and confined. I have found, on my own, a blend of these vital components, but that’s hard to teach someone.
Not all educators are as rigid in their teachings as I am generalizing here. I had a few over the years who encouraged self-expression of imagination, even in the sciences. But in the end, each person has to find his or her own path but it should be as balanced as possible between imagination and knowledge.
Humanities greatest achievements have been made by some of the least-educated, most imaginative people who ever lived. There is still room for enlightenment, regardless of how many letters are after your name.
If you are not an academic over-achiever, never be intimidated by knowledge. Knowledge is free for all and in today’s high-tech world it is more accessible than ever. Take advantage of that!
For those with advanced education but no experience, don’t be so cocky about that piece of paper you’re carrying around. Be aware enough of your own shortcomings to ask more experienced people for assistance.
If you value the experience of others, no matter what their educational background, you will go much further and gain respect for your efforts.