Insight

Henry Ford on Schooling, Education, and Knowledge.

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The object of education is not to fill a man’s mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking. And it often happens that a man can think better if he is not hampered by the knowledge of the past.

The founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford is considered one of the most influential and successful entrepreneurs in the 20th century. He developed the assembly line mass production system and introduced the Model T in 1908 as the first affordable automobile for the masses.

In his autobiography: My Life and Work, he made some salient points about schooling, knowledge and Education. He also writes about his suspicion for so-called experts and not hiring them. He writes:

An able man is a man who can do things, and his ability to do things is dependent on what he has in him. What he has in him depends on what he started with and what he has done to increase and discipline it.

An educated man is not one whose memory is trained to carry a few dates in history—he is one who can accomplish things. A man who cannot think is not an educated man however many college degrees he may have acquired. Thinking is the hardest work any one can do—which is probably the reason why we have so few thinkers.

Thinking is the hardest work any one can do—which is probably the reason why we have so few thinkers.

There are two extremes to be avoided: one is the attitude of contempt toward education, the other is the tragic snobbery of assuming that marching through an educational system is a sure cure for ignorance and mediocrity. You cannot learn in any school what the world is going to do next year, but you can learn some of the things which the world has tried to do in former years, and where it failed and where it succeeded.

If education consisted in warning the young student away from some of the false theories on which men have tried to build, so that he may be saved the loss of the time in finding out by bitter experience, its good would be unquestioned. An education which consists of signposts indicating the failure and the fallacies of the past doubtless would be very useful. It is not education just to possess the theories of a lot of professors. Speculation is very interesting, and sometimes profitable, but it is not education. 

To be learned in science to-day is merely to be aware of a hundred theories that have not been proved. And not to know what those theories are is to be “uneducated,” “ignorant,” and so forth.

If knowledge of guesses is learning, then one may become learned by the simple expedient of making his own guesses. And by the same token he can dub the rest of the world “ignorant” because it does not know what his guesses are. But the best that education can do for a man is to put him in possession of his powers, give him control of the tools with which destiny has endowed him, and teach him how to think.

Mental Gymnastics

The college renders its best service as an intellectual gymnasium, in which mental muscle is developed and the student strengthened to do what he can. To say, however, that mental gymnastics can be had only in college is not true, as every educator knows. A man’s real education begins after he has left school.

 True education is gained through the discipline of life.

There are many kinds of knowledge, and it depends on what crowd you happen to be in, or how the fashions of the day happen to run, which kind of knowledge, is most respected at the moment. There are fashions in knowledge, just as there are in everything else. When some of us were lads, knowledge used to be limited to the Bible. There were certain men in the neighbourhood who knew the Book thoroughly, and they were looked up to and respected. Biblical knowledge was highly valued then. But nowadays it is doubtful whether deep acquaintance with the Bible would be sufficient to win a man a name for learning.

Knowledge, to my mind, is something that in the past some- body knew and left in a form which enables all who will to obtain it. If a man is born with normal human faculties, if he is equipped with enough ability to use the tools which we call “letters” in reading or writing, there is no knowledge within the possession of the race that he cannot have—if he wants it! 

The only reason why every man does not know everything that the human mind has ever learned is that no one has ever yet found it worth while to know that much. Men satisfy their minds more by finding out things for themselves than by heaping together the things which somebody else has found out. You can go out and gather knowledge all your life, and with all your gathering you will not catch up even with your own times. You may fill your head with all the “facts” of all the ages, and your head may be just an overloaded fact-box when you get through. The point is this:

Great piles of knowledge in the head are not the same as mental activity. A man may be very learned and very useless. And then again, a man may be unlearned and very useful.

The object of education is not to fill a man’s mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking. And it often happens that a man can think better if he is not hampered by the knowledge of the past.

It is a very human tendency to think that what mankind does not yet know no one can learn. And yet it must be perfectly clear to everyone that the past learning of mankind cannot be allowed to hinder our future learning. Mankind has not gone so very far when you measure its progress against the knowledge that is yet to be gained—the secrets that are yet to be learned.

One good way to hinder progress is to fill a man’s head with all the learning of the past; it makes him feel that because his head is full, there is nothing more to learn. Merely gathering knowledge may become the most useless work a man can do.

What can you do to help and heal the world? That is the educational test. If a man can hold up his own end, he counts for one. If he can help ten or a hundred or a thousand other men hold up their ends, he counts for more. He may be quite rusty on many things that inhabit the realm of print, but he is a learned man just the same. When a man is master of his own sphere, what- ever it may be, he has won his degree—he has entered the realm of wisdom.

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile -info@lanredahunsi.com

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