Is curiosity good for you?

June 4, 2014

I have always assumed that the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is “Yes.” Sure, curiosity can sometimes get you into trouble when you poke your nose in the wrong places. But in those cases it isn’t the curiosity itself that is at fault so much as a lack of wisdom, thinking that curiosity always needs to be satisfied.

There are lots of things that I am curious about but I know I don’t really need to know. Often I think of questions while I am driving. For instance, I’ll wonder about the etymology of a word, and whether it is related to another word that starts with the same few letters. Or I’ll wonder how something is made, or how some natural process works.

If I’m at a computer when I think of such questions, I often take a few moments to look them up. Or if I still remember the questions by the time I get to a computer, I’ll look them up. But more often they were “idle curiosity” and by the time I get to the computer I remember that I had a question but not what it was. Clearly those aren’t important matters to me.

A blog post on First Thoughts yesterday calls curiosity “a strain of intellectual intemperance opposed to studiousness.” I have always thought of curiosity as an impetus to study, creating the desire to know more. But Gregory Pine points out that “scholastic theologians saw curiosity as a wayward pursuit which impedes the studied application of the mind to worthy things.”

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Learn at your own pace

March 26, 2008

There are no doubt some people for whom learning in a traditional classroom is a good choice. For myself, I have always appreciated opportunities for self-study, where I could go at my own pace. From the time we were introduced to SRA in second grade, I have enjoyed squeezing more learning into less time than is typical in a classroom geared to a wide range of student abilities.

With two Masters degrees (M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College and M.B.A. from Rider University), I have sat through a lot of classroom instruction. I’ve had some teachers who fired my imagination, challenged my thinking, and passed along a passion for the subject they taught. I’ve also had many who were competent teachers but who taught at a pace so slow that I had to be inventive about ways to occupy my mind while I waited for class to finish.

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