The Best Way to Learn is to Do (Jonathan Schwarz edition)

“The best way to learn is to do,” wrote the late Paul Halmos at the beginning of an article about how to teach college math that inspired me to start self-experimenting. Jonathan Schwarz says something similar:

America is so completely depoliticized that I support people doing pretty much anything (except forming neighborhood fascist gangs, and even that doesn’t worry me too much). Perhaps I’m foolishly optimistic, but I believe people will learn from the horrendous mistakes they’ll surely make. And even if they don’t, giving it a shot is the only way they have even a possibility of doing so.

Well put.

A subtle defense of the Iraq War? If Halmos were alive I like to think he’d agree with this:

Lesson 1: The best way to learn is to do.

Lesson 2: And the best thing to do is something small.

Halmos excerpts.

5 Replies to “The Best Way to Learn is to Do (Jonathan Schwarz edition)”

  1. I’m reading the collection
    of Halmos excerpts
    right now and it’s great. This part
    hit home:

    Despite my great emotional involvement in
    work, I just hate to start doing it; it’s a battle and a
    wrench every time. Isn’t there something I can (must?) do
    first? Shouldn’t I sharpen my pencils, perhaps? In fact I
    never use pencils, but pencil sharpening has become the code
    phrase for anything that helps to postpone the pain of
    concentrated creative attention. It stands for reference
    searching in the library, systematizing old notes, or even
    preparing tomorrow’s class lecture, with the excuse that
    once those things are out of the way I’ll really be able to
    concentrate without interruption.

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