Archive for February 9th, 2009

Must We Always Learn, The HARD Way?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

It seems to me that there are two kinds of things we learn. The first, like the light bulb or the integrated circuit, only needs to be discovered once. The next generation can build on the knowledge already accumulated to refine and improve what already exists – they don’t have to discover it again.

It would be terrific if everything could be learned this same way. My parents would have gladly kept me from repeating their mistakes, if they could have. Their good advice might have saved me a world of hurt – if I’d only listened to it.

And that’s the problem: so much of what we know is apparently only learned from personal experience, the hard way. We are told “Don’t touch that paint – it’s wet.” (And it is.) We hear “Careful! The stove is hot – it’ll burn you.” (And it does.)

We live in an information and technology-rich age. Supposedly, if you know where to look, you could be learning how to make a nuclear bomb right now (instead of reading my online musings.) Anyone with a computer is only a few keystrokes away from learning the reasons for the Great Depression or the Japanese economic crisis of the 1990s.

Why then, are we as a nation in such a hurry to make those same mistakes again? With all the resources available to us, why are we blindly charging down a dead end street marked “1929 – this way?”

Isn’t one definition of insanity the act of doing something the same way it has been done many times before, yet expecting a different result?

Congress is doing just that, with our children’s money. It’s never worked before. It won’t succeed now.

And when it doesn’t, your kids and theirs will be the ones learning “the hard way” the real cost of our inaction today.