In this article I’m going to talk about why you should learn; why you should study subjects such as maths, physics, literature and your own native language, and what the purpose is of gaining knowledge even in areas you don’t intend to devote your life or career to.
People may ask, ‘Why do I need maths if I’m going to be a doctor?’ or ‘Why should I study English literature if I want to be a manager?’ ‘Why do I have to learn things that aren’t going to be useful to me in life?’ and ‘Why would I study when I graduated such a long time ago?’
I’ll try to answer these questions below, giving reasons why both children and adults should keep on learning and gaining a more universal knowledge of the world.
I’ll tell you why everyone benefits from continuing to study throughout their whole life.
1: Developing your intelligence
To many people it’s obvious – ‘Books and knowledge make you cleverer, we know that’. But you might not realise just how much education increases your intelligence. In fact, it develops all the different areas of our thinking.
Studying exact sciences develops abstract thinking, logical abilities, skills in making life decisions (maths, for example, is actually a science of decision making), and the ability to analyse facts and find trends in external events.
Studying social sciences increases our knowledge of the world and its people, trains the memory and increases the ability to draw conclusions and make generalisations.
Every formula or poem we learn increases the capacity of our memory and concentration. With each assignment completed and book read, the brain creates new neural pathways, and we become cleverer.
Studying different sciences is necessary not only to improve our knowledge of those sciences, but also to develop the various spheres of our thinking. Balanced, harmonious development of intelligence requires the evolution of all our varied intellectual skills, not just one or some.
I’m not denying that different people have different capabilities in different sciences. Some may have a great aptitude for exact sciences, while others find the humanities suit them better; however, this absolutely doesn’t mean that someone should only study social sciences and art while disregarding exact sciences because they don’t have a clear innate aptitude for them (and vice versa).
I’m not a great believer in the power of innate abilities. Of course, inherent aptitudes do exist, but many people overvalue their role, believing that if they don’t have them now they never will, so it’s not worth even trying to develop themselves in areas where they have no ‘natural’ talent.
Abilities are formed throughout life, which is something people forget. An aptitude for maths can evolve while studying it, so even if you’ve always been more interested in literature, it doesn’t mean that you ‘can’t’ learn maths. It only means that it’ll be harder for you to master this subject than, say, sociology or music. And most of the difficulties will probably just be at the beginning anyway.
Aptitude for and interest in a certain science may appear during the process of studying it. It’s incorrect to think that the ability must be present from birth or it won’t appear at all.
Apply yourself to the sciences you find more difficult with extra zeal. They’ll develop the areas of your thinking which aren’t so evolved at the moment.
A smart bodybuilder doesn’t go to gym to keep doing the exercises he finds easiest. If he wants a well-balanced physique, he has to work on his weakest muscles. If he doesn’t do this, he could end up with an enormous chest and giant arms resting on weak, puny legs!
If you apply this analogy to your intelligence, you may see yourself as someone who’s an ace when it comes to poetry but gets in a complete knot trying to count out the correct money in a shop.
Why do we believe that we can pump up the muscles in our body but not in the possibility of pumping up the different ‘muscles’ in our brain? Maths trains some ‘muscles’ while music does it to others (although of course different subjects can overlap and develop the same areas of the brain).
In order for our mind to balanced, like the body of a champion bodybuilder, we have to devote attention to all the muscles, no matter what our ‘natural talents’.
So there’s no need to bypass an important area of science just because your ‘heart isn’t in it’.
2: Exercising your thinking skills
Famous Russian scientist Lomonosov once said that mathematics ‘develops orderly minds’. (Note that Lomonosov was not only a physicist, but also a poet!) I believe that this assertion is applicable not just to maths, but to the study of many other sciences.
An indispensable component of scientific knowledge is the scientific method. This is a method of investigation, systematisation, verifying acquired findings and drawing conclusions on the basis of these; it requires strict objectivity in order to ensure that science remains science and doesn’t turn into a selection of opinions and speculation.
The scientific method allows science to seek and find true knowledge about the world and apply it in the fields of medicine, technology and education. It helps scientists speak the same language. It also holds science within strict boundaries which are nonetheless essential.
I’m not saying that this method is applicable in every life situation, however. What I mean is that studying science regulates and structures human thinking. It forms vitally important habits of logical thinking, systematisation, generalisation and substantiation. The demands of the scientific method mean that science teaches people to think correctly about different phenomena, use correct, logical and justified findings, notice bias and manipulations in other people’s arguments.
The scientific method basically allows thinking to be sober and objective (insofar as objectivity is generally possible). It makes your reasoning immune to the traps of rhetoric and deception. It teaches you to seek proof for information you receive and not just take everything as read. It teaches you to set forth your reasoning concisely and conduct well-argued discussions.
There are people who don’t know how to think logically; their reasoning is often confused and lacking in logic. It’s possible that these people haven’t spent enough time studying science, especially the exact sciences.
Furthermore, education improves the brain’s health and allows older people to maintain their clarity of thought, lowering the risk of developing senile dementia in the future.
3: Adapting better to change
For many people at a certain stage in life, deciding on a life-long vocation feels like they’re giving themselves a life sentence.
What if you stop enjoying one specific thing? What if the direction you’ve chosen starts to fall out of demand? What if you realise you’ve made the wrong choice? What if you want to give everything up and start your own business or work remotely?
The fact is that you can never know for sure which areas of learning you’ll need and which you won’t. Everything can change – the world can change; you yourself can change.
This issue can be compared to the well-known problem occurring with scientific knowledge at the moment.
With the development of society, science is becoming strongly specialised. More and more narrowly defined scientific industries are appearing which can only be understood by specialists who have dedicated many years to studying them. The more thoroughly we investigate the world, the more of its complexity and diversity opens up in front of us.
This means that there is a real possibility that in future there may be a shortage of scientists to explore the enormous mass of new information about the world. So why can’t this problem be resolved by directing scientists away from studying rare butterfly subspecies and towards investigating vitally important fields of knowledge such as medicine, energy development and so on?
Because no one can know in advance which scientific fields will end up being the source of the most crucially important knowledge. If scientists hadn’t investigated seemingly insignificant things – mould, for example – humanity wouldn’t have had any effective means to fight many types of infection (penicillin).
This principle can be applied to the education of any given person: you can’t always tell beforehand which field of knowledge will yield something vitally significant to you – your calling, your goal, your passion. You should therefore be open to all the different sciences!
4: Developing self-organisation
Studying any subject requires discipline. We have to be able to forego passing desires in favour of education – ‘work first, then play’.
In order for education to be effective, we have to make a schedule to organise our studying. We need to complete tasks on time if we want to make the most of education, so we must learn how to manage our time.
All these skills are very useful, whatever it is we do in life. The very process of organising education is an education! It’s training for your self-discipline and self-organisation skills.
5: Improving your ability to handle information
The more akin to university, the more independent the process of education. Students have to seek information themselves, work with it, compare different sources, draw general conclusions, etc.
The actual information isn’t important. Whether students read research on computer markets or biographies of various historical figures, the process itself develops their ability to handle information.
This is a very important skill and one you’ll need for work and life. If you want to start your own business, for example, you’ll need to gather lots of information about the market and sphere in which you want to work. You’ll be faced with a multitude of different sources and will need to formulate your own conclusions.
Many people’s work is directly or obliquely related to fact finding – data about competitors, clients, market prospects, inside corporate information, etc. The skill of finding and processing information is really useful to everyone.
Universities don’t only teach ‘knowledge’; people there also learn how to handle information.
6: Cultivating social skills
Dynamic education is an interaction between people – teachers and students. School and university are the places where social skills are honed and valuable acquaintances are made.
The significance of these skills is, I believe, beyond words.
7: Increasing your income
Of course, the more you know the more you’re bale to do and the greater the chance that your skills will lead you to receive fair remuneration.
New, relevant knowledge will help you to move up the career ladder, advancing your skills and making you more competitive in the job market.
The more intelligent, disciplined and sociable you are, the easier it’ll be for you to earn money. As I said before, education nurtures all these skills.
8: Having more freedom
Knowledge isn’t only power; it’s also freedom. The more you know, the more flexibility you possess.
New possibilities open up only with new knowledge and information.
Learning new skills and acquiring new abilities will allow you to quit the office and start your own business, if that’s what you want to do.
But you’ll never leave your unloved workplace if you don’t want to step beyond the limits of what you know now – i.e. no more than what you need for your current job.
Never stop developing and learning. Who knows what new dreams this could lead you to?
9: Achieving a greater level of life satisfaction
Knowledge and education open up a multitude of prospects. They increase your freedom and provide more resources to achieve your plans and desires.
As a result, your life becomes better, richer, more interesting.
New knowledge and skills give you the joys of discovery, investigation, understanding and self-actualisation! Awareness of the world increases your interest in it, and interest is a source of joy and motivation. Interest and curiosity are what give every individual and society that kick so essential for their development.
10: Finding out more about the world you inhabit
This knowledge doesn’t just make you more interesting and erudite company; it also helps you to understand the laws governing this world.
You’ll better understand the world and the people who populate it. The more you know, the more fields of knowledge become available to you; the more you’ll understand the phenomena of world art, literature, technology, music, science and society.
Your perception will always be filled with new experiences of knowledge which will hone, develop and supplement your own experience and personal views, improving the depth and breadth of your thinking.
You’ll have something to tell your children and grandchildren, and you’ll be able to serve as an example to them.
Overcoming the side effects of studying
In this article I’ve talked about how important it is to keep learning. I’ve tried to show that education is more than just knowledge of various subjects – maths, biology, etc. It’s also the development of cultural, social, intellectual and volitional skills and learning how to handle information. Knowledge makes people happy and free.
Of course, the advantages we can get from education very much depend on the style and method of teaching.
Social institutions like schools and universities can make people into wishy-washy perfectionists, introverts, opportunists and careerists who have no capacity for independent thought because for their whole lives they’ve only memorised what others have said. There are side effects to education in addition to its benefits.
However, I’m convinced that practically every activity (even computer games) has some benefit for personal development if it’s approached correctly.
In order to avoid the drawbacks, approach education consciously, knowing that you’re not learning for the sake of marks or praise from your parents, relatives, teachers or colleagues, but for the sake of knowledge and self-actualisation.
Try to escape the narrow confines of education which are formed in some educational institutions: read books which aren’t on school or university curricula but are still literary masterpieces. Explore new and original trends in physics, biology and chemistry, and don’t be hemmed in by information you find in textbooks.
Ask your teachers more questions, or find answers in books or online – ‘Why is this particular equation used here?’, ‘Why is this work considered so great? Which problems of the time does it touch on?’, ‘Why did these historical events develop as they did and not in some other way? What did they lead to? Can we see anything similar today?’
Watch educational programmes, read popular science journals, go to art exhibitions.
Stop looking at study as a formal obligation; expand the temporal and spatial borders of learning. Study anything you want to study, and keep doing so your whole life!
Education is undoubtedly important, but knowledge extracted only from books won’t make you wiser – although of course it will have a positive impact. Not all of life’s lessons can be found in books and textbooks. Finally, it’s not enough to know the outside world and its culture; we also need to know ourselves. But this is a matter for another article – one I definitely plan to write.