Blog of Sara Jakša

The Importance of Knowledge

When discussing educational system, I sometimes hear an interesting opinion, that I don't really understand. It is that way of thinking is much more important then facts what we learn in school, so we should replace these facts with something.

Some at least admit, that maybe facts could be important, but they all seems to degrade it.

I can see it also with other people. When some problem is discussed, then then they ask me for my opinion. Even though I clearly am the person with the least amount of knowledge in the subject.

But every year I am more convinced of the importance of knowledge. I think the first good example was the Toastmasters. The reason, why I was at one point an important member was because I knew a lot. I was one of the people that knew when am I breaking the rules and why.

They say the same thing for writing. One needs to know the rules in order to know, when to break it. I am still far from this level, but I think it is the same principle.

And it is something that I am experiencing right now. At my job, I am constantly seeing where the holes in my knowledge are. And because of that, I lack creativity and problem solving that I would have, if I already knew some stuff. Which is why I really like my job, I have the feeling like I am improving fast.

In psychology, there is actually the principle of difficulty of transference. The skills or knowledge need to be at least on the certain level, in order for transference to happen. Which is why brain games usually don't really work that well, but speaking a foreign language can protect the brain from degeneration. In order to speak the language, it needs to be on quite some level, it is not enough to just know translations of some words.

In the same way, it is a lot easier to be creative, once I have at least the adequate amount of knowledge.

And this is something that I have forgotten recently. In the recent week, I have been slowly preparing the speech for my first programming conference. Before I had a practice run at our meetup, I was trying to came up with the examples, that would be interesting to other people. But in doing this, I ended up picking some examples, where I lacked knowledge (the topic analysis of PEPs was one such example). And these examples were then the ones that had fallen flat.

Which left me with not many examples left, but at least I made this mistake in front of a bit smaller crowd, that actually knew me from before.

Another point that I would like to make is, that more knowledge somebody has, the easier it is to acquire more. For example, when I am hearing people talk about the cars or something similar, it is hard to put the new facts in the right place. This is not true for facts about personality. Even if I find out about the next system of individual differences, I can find similarities with at least some of the ones that I already know. The same with language learning. When I started to learn German, I did it by watching BBC Sherlock in German. And I needed 15 minutes to understand the first word (langweilig). On the other side, if I do it now with Japanese or German, just by watching without subtitles, I can learn many more words from context in this time.

And yes, I can understand not everybody is interested in everything. As mentioned before, I am still quite unknowledgable about cars. The same could be said about many other topics. But I try to learn about the topics that are interesting to me or they are important for my life.

Also, one way of getting procedural knowledge, which allows us to act in the world, is through declarative knowledge, so facts. The procedural knowledge is the one that allows us to cycle, talk, dance, and act in the life. I guess one could say, that living minimalistically, or being self-disciplined is also a type of procedural knowledge.

So knowledge and facts allow us to be more creative, learn quicker and live better. Do we really need another reason to not bash them?