Being Smart and Skills

When I was in education I noticed that there was a basic dichotomy between skills and intelligence. Those who were academically gifted went to university and other than those that did engineering and medicine pursued discplines that gave them plenty of mental acuity but little practical skills. In contrast those who did less well in their school exams went on to technical colleges and apprenticeship schemes. These people leanrt agricultural techniques, how to fix a car and to make carbon brushes and so forth.

This dichotomy is found less today I think. This is because of the way that business has started to take a keener interest in universities. Moreover, now that uiniversity tuition fees are no longer free in the UK young people are discouraged from studying ancient history, classics and other academic subjects that have very little relevance to the modern world or finding a job.

This is sad for scholarship, but perhaps inevitable. Part of the point is missed, however, as to what a good university education provides. It isn’t always the knowledge gleaned that is important. Rather it is the mental skills acquired. Being able to analyze, classify, catergorize and make decisions based on the best possible evidence are skills that are maybe just as important as being able to turn a lathe, manage a leisure center or write javascript.

The case is that young people should decide early on what skills they have the most chance of refining, and their education while starting off broad in scope should finally focus on those skills. This is how to make the most of education from an economic point of view in the case of the majority. Of course, for people like Einstein the theoretical and the academic should be pursued because this is their true talent and in the long run humanity will benefit from any breakthrough in the field of human understanding.