This I Believe

Jacob - D`hanis, Texas
Entered on April 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in the appreciation of learning and the love of knowledge.

I don’t think that anyone cares about knowledge for its own merits anymore. I grew up home schooled. If I wanted to learn something, I did it on my own. The fact that my education was largely self-taught was good because it allowed me to develop a hunger for learning independent from a teacher, but bad in the way that it allowed me to make my own schedule or not make it (which was more likely). That was why I decided to go to a private school my sophomore year of high school. I had always had a desire to do great things, and I thought that great things started with a private school education that would lead to Harvard or some other idealized Ivy League. I was wrong.

When I entered school, I thought that great conversations with classmates about the topics we were studying both in and out of school would be the norm. We would discuss Nietzsche over lunch. I was surprised to realize that the majority of my classmates didn’t care about content—social life reigned supreme. Here was a school that had a great reputation—each year, many gained admittance to Ivy League schools: my unfounded assumption was that the students would actually care about what they were studying.

Most of my classes showed me that this was not the case; in history the students seemed to care the least. This was an especially difficult thing for me to stomach. I couldn’t understand how my peers could approach the subject with such flippancy. The Scientific Revolution, the Reformation, the Renaissance—these were fascinating periods that didn’t deserve to be disregarded. I began the year attempting to maintain my focus on the intrinsic merits of knowing, but I realized that if I wanted to fit in, the focus had to go. So, we would study civilization after civilization and the same pattern would repeat itself. We complained to each other that the textbook was too hard to understand, the reading assignments were too difficult, or that we were moving too quickly. All were surface complaints—inconsequential in the long run and easily overcome with effort—but I had shut my eyes to this.

School became a chore. I couldn’t believe that I was spending late nights doing homework that I had grown to hate. My focus had been perverted. My rational was “why sacrifice sleep for something that bores me?” I had completely bought into the mindset that I found so repulsive at the beginning of the year.

F. Scott Fitzgerald changed this. I read The Great Gatsby and again came to know appreciation for writing. Each sentence seemed to be crafted individually. Fitzgerald used elevated language that didn’t come across as pretentious—this is why I stayed interested. I could relate to it where I was. More importantly, I was thankful to Fitzgerald for the work he had done in writing the book. Extending this to other areas of study, I found that I needed to appreciate the effort that others had put into development of each subject. Giants in mathematics, history, science, and philosophy deserved my thanks—I could give this to them with careful thought.