Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Should You Always Believe What You're Told?

PostSecret.com put this up on their Facebook section:


It's a report on John Gurdon, from his science teacher. Gurdon, at age 15, was last in his science class. Gurdon pretty much gave up on science; it was only through a clerical error that he was allowed to continue studying -- in zoology.

   John Gurdon.
The same John Gurdon who won a Nobel Prize in medicine last year for his amazing work on cloning.
     He still keeps this report framed above his desk at the Gurdon School in Cambridge. (Yes, it's named for him.)

     Obviously, Sir John isn't the first person to be classified as an idiot by his teacher. Albert Einstein's teacher thought little of him, and there are others in the same category. 

What stuns me about this is that some students, when told it, will believe it.

And they give up.

Where would our world be without John Gurdon...or John Lennon, for that matter? What if Albert Einstein stayed a patent clerk for the rest of his life, because he believed what his teacher said?

I am no genius. (In fact, I'm probably closer to idiot status.) But I can still vividly remember a 7th grade math teacher, Miss Russell, who insisted that I take a handwriting course, because my writing was so atrocious.
    Yes, a math teacher. For handwriting.

I was so humiliated that I took the reverse course -- began having so much trouble understanding math that I nearly flunked out of it in succeeding years. I only took the barest minimum needed, and chose lit and other classes at the other end of the spectrum.
    I also kept writing by hand in a way that was fastest and most effective for me: a mix of printing and cursive. 
    So what do I do today? Write, of course. A lot. Mostly computer work, but I continue to do some hand-lettering. (One employer insisted that I be the one to hand-letter her party invitations, "because your writing is so distinctive.")
    And design quilt patterns -- quilt patterns that need math to figure them out.

 It was a good lesson, learned early on: it's not always that bad to be different.

Take that, Miss Russell.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"When you have problems like an experiment doesn't work, which often happens, it's nice to remind yourself that perhaps after all you are not so good at this job and the schoolmaster may have been right." -- Sir John Gurdon

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