How to distinguish between useful and useless knowledge

“Useless” knowledge is also important.

Abraham Flexner, the founder and first director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, famously wrote “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” (memo 1921; Harper Magazine 1939), “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.

Freixner was a major influence on American education. Under his leadership, the Institute for Advanced Study hired some of the world’s top scholars, including Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, and Kurt Godel, from the very beginning. The common characteristic of these professors was that they were engaged in seemingly “useless” research. “The” studies are the ones that are not useful in the near future, or even in the encounterable future. But that’s the vision of Flaxner, and that’s the beauty of the Institute for Advanced Study.

Consider for a moment what ‘useless’ “? What is “useful”? “? This has a lot to do with the length of the time frame. Let me give you three examples of what appears to be “useless” in the short term. ” of the immense usefulness of knowledge in the long run. The first example is about science, an example of physics. This is the example given at the beginning of Freixner’s article. When Freixner asked Mr. Kodak who was the most useful inventor, Kodak immediately replied that it was Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio. Flaxner countered that the theoretical contributions of Clark Maxwell and Heinrich Hertz were more useful. Although Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, published in 1873, was entirely abstract mathematics, and although Hertz was unconcerned about the practical value of his experiments on electromagnetic waves in 1887, these seemingly ” The “useless” research laid the groundwork for the useful inventions that followed, and without their work there would have been no Marconi’s inventions. Precisely because of what seemed “useless” at the time, Marconi’s inventions would not have been possible without their work. “knowledge, which became the basis for later useful inventions. These “useless “Knowledge is useful.

We have to face the fact that we are in an environment of utilitarianism, or rather short-term utilitarianism. Whether researching or studying, people like to start by asking “is it useful”? “‘Useless’ “, “Useful. ” refers to immediate and immediate usefulness. For example, current students like to ask what’s the point of the course before they take it. Is it useful for interviews and job searches? When I listen to current students about the curriculum, I often hear complaints about classes that are not useful for finding a job, or questions about why more classes that are useful for finding a job are not offered more often and are offered earlier. But interestingly, when I talk to alumni who have graduated 10, 20 or 30 years ago, they have a very different opinion of the classes they took during their university years than current students: they regret that the so-called useful classes they took at that time became so useless later, and they regret that they didn’t take more classes that seemed to be useful to them. “useless”, but then actually useful classes, such as some humanities, arts, and social science classes. This contrast in different feedback is an example of short-term utilitarianism.

Although usefulness may not be the only value judgment, as the value of knowledge can be intrinsic and need not be reflected in its instrumental value. However, understanding that knowledge that is useless in the short term may be useful in the long term has great implications for our proper understanding of the usefulness of knowledge.

Hopefully, in a few decades, when you look back, you will still remember the usefulness of “useless” knowledge that I talked about in today’s commencement ceremony.

Good learning is more important than good learning.

I’m sure you’ve all been good students since you were children, or more precisely, “good learners. “. To study well means to do well in your studies. To study well means to do well on exams. To do well on exams is to do well on questions with correct answers. So how do you get that result? In addition to effort, hard work, and time commitment, you have to do a lot of questions, because familiarity breeds skill, and you also have to have a very good memory, if not rote memorization. You are all competent in this area. That’s why you’re all good students.

In my opinion, in college, the ‘good student’ “No longer” is learning well. “A student, at least not primarily. In the university, a good student is, first and foremost, a “good student”. “Students. Please note: In college, the ‘good student’ The definition of “learning well” has changed, no longer “learning well”. “student,” but rather “studious. “Student.

“Learn to Learn “vs. “learning “are two different” studies “The realm of learning to be ” is passive acceptance in learning, while “good learning “while active exploration in learning. “Learning well” is an outcome of today’s learning, and “Learning” as a habit for future learning. “Learn well “Good learning is simply a measure of learning what you already know, and ‘good learning’ ” on the other hand, is an attitude towards learning about the future; “Learning the “It is to acquire knowledge, and (a) “Learning to learn” is about exploring issues. “Learning to be good” is the answer, and… Studying well” is the pursuit of truth.

At a time when you are hesitant to embrace college life, and when you are frustrated with the pressures of new competition, stop and think about “learning to learn. “vs. “learning “The difference is neither to let Don’t let “good learning” mislead you, either. “Not good at learning” hits you. You have to remember: “Good to learn. “Far better” to learn. “More important.

It not only reminds me of when I was an undergraduate at Tsinghua. Although the conditions were not conducive to our “learning to be good”. “but we were very ‘studious’. “. The historical circumstances at that time created a special situation: half of our class, including myself, had either worked in the countryside or in a factory before going to university. We felt fortunate to be the first college students and highly valued the hard-won opportunity to study, so we worked hard. But this is only one side of the story. On the other hand, there was a kind of natural selection at work: in that turbulent environment, those who could go to university were mostly self-taught, and it would have been very difficult to get in if they didn’t have the motivation to study. As for myself, I did most of my primary and secondary schooling by self-study. This process of self-study, although not always formal learning, stimulates the spirit of good learning, and explores ways of learning without the guidance and discipline of teachers.

The five elements of “learning well”

In my opinion, there are five elements of “good learning”, which I call the “Five Virtues”, namely, “curiosity”, “good questioning”, “good reading”, “good thinking” and “good speaking”.

First, curiosity. I put curiosity in the first place. Curiosity is the original driving force behind technological innovation and the progress of human civilization. Ten years ago, four Nobel laureates in physics visited Tsinghua University of Science to talk to Tsinghua students. When asked what is the most important element of scientific invention, they did not choose solid foundation, good mathematics, or even hard work or diligence, but invariably spoke of curiosity. In my opinion, the first element of good learning comes from being curious.

Secondly, being inquisitive. Curiosity often leads to good questioning, and good questioning is the starting point for questioning existing knowledge and exploring the unknown. But we are faced with a situation where students are not good at asking questions, nor are they motivated to ask. When Chinese students come home, their parents ask, “What new knowledge did you learn today? And the Jewish students go home and their parents ask, “What good question did you ask today?” The total number of Jews in the world is no more than 20 million, less than the population of Beijing, and the number of Jews who have won the Nobel Prize in Science is in the hundreds. This may have something to do with their good questioning.

Third, good reading. There is a wide range of reading, and I want to emphasize two points here. The first is that in today’s highly developed fragmented information, when information is readily available on Twitter, WeChat, the web, etc., don’t forget to read. The second is to read not only readings related to your major, but also readings that go beyond your major, especially thought-provoking readings.

Fourth, think well. The heart of good learning is good thinking. The undergraduate stage is a turning point in the learning process of life: before that, primary and secondary education is mainly to receive knowledge; but in the undergraduate stage, it has to become mainly to think. The value of an undergraduate education is not to learn a lot of facts, but to train the brain to think,” said Albert Einstein, who believed this. “Thinking well should be the first priority for college students.

Fifth, good speech. Good speech is part of good learning, and we cannot afford not to speak. Words are communication, they are communication. The skill of words is the skill of communication. Only with words can others know your views and ideas, and only with words can you spark arguments with others, and truth is often born in arguments. We Tsinghua scholars must be both able to act and to speak well. Good learning is inseparable from good words.

Curiosity, good questioning, good reading, good thinking and good speaking – these are the five elements of good learning as I understand it. These are the five elements of good learning as I understand it. “It opens the window and the way for good learning. Possess the “five good “, is what I think of as the traits of a good student. The approach to learning in college is thus different from that in secondary school. Students are judged differently in college than they are in secondary school as a result.

Being good is more important than becoming good.

“Knowledge “and” capacity “It’s about how” The two basic elements of “human resources”. But universities are only for training “human resources”. “? I don’t think so. The subject I want to talk about today is not “talent”. “, but rather “people. “and” talent “; not about “talent”. It’s about “people”. “The cultivation, the human “Value”.

In Chinese, “talent “is a word. We usually call it “talent. “Landed as” talent “The It is now necessary to put the “man “and” talent “Take it apart. “Only “The concern is with the three forces” “: creativity, analysis, leadership. And people have “three outlooks “: worldview, outlook on life, values. It is the “measure” that counts. The words “achievement,” “success,” “accomplishment,” and “people” are words that describe “people. ” while the words are freedom, joy, and happiness.

In my opinion, the word ‘nurturing’ “More than” nurturing talent “, “Adult “Preference” over “success “. In modern economics, man is not only a tool but also an end. In Kant’s view, man can only be an end, not a tool. In any case, as long as man is an end, not only a tool, the purpose of education should be to educate man. In my view, the “human being” as an end “Including” humanities “, “Personality “, ‘Life’ “The education of human beings should therefore be an education of the human spirit, an education of personality formation and an education of life development.

The humanities are relative to science. Science tells you what the truth is, and the humanities tell you the value of speaking the truth. Ms. Long Ying-tai, who once taught at Tsinghua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, interpreted the humanities in this way: literature makes you see things that were invisible, and can make you see the reflection of poplar trees in the water; philosophy makes you recognize stars from the labyrinth of thought, and thus has the possibility to get out of the labyrinth of thought; history makes you know that the desert rose has its specific starting point, and no phenomenon exists in isolation. So literature makes you see, philosophy makes you locate, history makes you connect, and these are the values of the humanities.

Humanistic-based personality is the norm for being human. Personality development is the basis of human education and is a Tsinghua tradition. The minimum requirement for personality is the bottom line of personality. A bottom line is to speak the truth; a bottom line is to act with principles; a bottom line is to have a conscience. Professor Qian Liqun of Peking University once criticized some of our elite universities for training “sophisticated egoists”. .” Elite universities are filled with talented people who, if they have personality, can be very positive; if they don’t have personality, they can be no less negative.

Life is both a dream for the development of life and an exploration of its meaning. Remember this famous quote by Socrates: “An unreflective life is not worth living. “Entering college should be the beginning of your introspection and thinking about your life. Reflecting on your life is the process of discovering yourself and understanding the world.

Today, I am asking my students to understand humanistic values, to hold the line of character, and to reflect on the meaning of life.