What Genius Thinks of Education

As I compiled the thoughts from geniuses last week, one group of thoughts that I left out – simply because there were so many of them – were the thoughts of geniuses on the subject of regimented education. Thus, today’s list.


As I compiled the thoughts from geniuses last week, one group of thoughts that I left out – simply because there were so many of them – were the thoughts of geniuses on the subject of regimented education. Thus, today’s list.

Again in this area, the brightest men and women reach a surprisingly consistent set of conclusions. And again, we’ll begin with Einstein:

Albert Einstein

  • It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

  • School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like sergeants. I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam… I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.

  • I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.

  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

Baruch Spinoza

  • Academies that are founded at public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them.

Marshall McLuhan

  • Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.

Ivan Illich

  • School is the advertising agency which makes you believe you need the society as it is.

Bertrand Russell

  • Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

Mary Wollstonecraft

  • There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more dogmatical, or luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside in colleges and preside at public schools.

Agatha Christie

  • I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  • Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude. In the Press and Encyclopedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.

  • A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.

Celia Green

  • Education by the State is a contradiction in terms. Intellectual development is only possible to those who have seen through society.
  • It is easier to make people appear equally stupid than to make them equally clever, so teaching methods are adopted which make it practically impossible for anyone to learn anything.

John Stuart Mill

  • A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another: and the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.

Ludwig von Mises

  • Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement, but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought. The mark of the creative mind is that it defies a part of what it has learned or, at least, adds something new to it.

H.L. Mencken

Sigrid Undset

  • I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom. I avoided the discipline by an elaborate technique of being absent-minded during classes.

Abraham Mazlow

  • We know that children are capable of peak experiences and that they happen frequently during childhood. We also know that the present school system is an extremely effective instrument for crushing peak experiences and forbidding their possibility. The natural child-respecting teacher who is not frightened by the sight of children enjoying themselves is a rare sight in classrooms.

Isaac Asimov

  • Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.

Boris Sidis

  • Our young generation is trained by fear into discipline and obedience. We thus suppress the natural genius and originality of the child, we favor and raise mediocrity, and cultivate the philistine, the product of education, ruled by rod, not by thought.

  • It is time that the medical and teaching profession should realize that functional neurosis is not congenital, not inborn, not hereditary, but is the result of a defective, fear-inspiring education in early child life.

Aldous Huxley

  • Children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements. Why is this so? Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.

Buckminster Fuller

  • Education by choice, with its marvelous motivating psychology of desire for truth and the exercise of this desire for truth, will make life ever cleaner and happier, more rhythmical and artistic.
  • Our greatest vulnerability lies in the amount of misinformation and misconditioning of humanity. I’ve found the educations [sic] systems are full of it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing.


Paul Rosenberg

What Geniuses Come To Believe

It recently struck me that the people we think of as “geniuses” tend to arrive, over time, at surprisingly similar sets of conclusions.
It further struck me that a simple list of such thoughts might be of value to my readers.


It recently struck me that the people we think of as “geniuses” tend to arrive, over time, at surprisingly similar sets of conclusions.

It further struck me that a simple list of such thoughts might be of value to my readers.

So, here is a list pulled from my quotes file and presented without commentary. Enjoy:

Albert Einstein

  • Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

  • Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

  • Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.

  • The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

  • Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

Rod Serling

  • The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling.

Arthur Schopenhauer

  • We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.

Thomas Jefferson

  • I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

  • It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.

  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Allan Bloom

  • The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.

John Stuart Mill

  • The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it.

Leo Tolstoy

  • The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens… Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere.

Will Durant

  • Above all, the ruling minority sought more and more to transform its forcible mastery into a body of law which, while consolidating that mastery, would afford a welcome security and order to the people, and would recognize the rights of the “subject” sufficiently to win his acceptance of the law and his adherence to the state.

George Bernard Shaw

  • All government is authoritarian; and the more democratic a government is the more authoritative it is; for with the people behind it, it can push authority further than any Tsar or foreign despot dare do.

Aldous Huxley

  • So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

  • Liberty, as we all know, cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of central government.

Richard Feynman

  • Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity – and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.

Buckminster Fuller

  • Dear reader, traditional human power structures and their reign of darkness are about to be rendered obsolete.

  • If you take all the machinery in the world and dump it in the ocean, within months more than half of all humanity will die and within another six months they’d almost all be gone; if you took all the politicians in the world, put them in a rocket, and sent them to the moon, everyone would get along fine.

  • We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.

  • Either you’re going to go along with your mind and the truth, or you’re going to yield to fear and custom and conditioned reflexes.

Erich Fromm

  • The history of mankind up to the present time is primarily the history of idol worship, from primitive idols of clay and wood to the modern idols of the state, the leader, production and consumption – sanctified by the blessing of an idolized God.

  • Obedience to God is also the negation of submission to man.

  • [I]f one has no possibility of acting, one’s thinking kind of becomes empty and stupid.

  • Is there really as much difference as we think between the Aztec human sacrifices to their gods and the modern human sacrifices in war to the idols of nationalism and the sovereign state?

Charlie Chaplin

  • As for politics, I’m an anarchist. I hate governments and rules and fetters. Can’t stand caged animals. People must be free.

Carl Jung

  • For in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence on anything beside the State must be taken from him.

Ray Bradbury

  • We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.

Abraham Maslow

  • I can certainly say that descriptively healthy human beings do not like to be controlled. They prefer to feel free and to be free.

Simone Weil

  • The real sin of idolatry is always committed on behalf of something similar to the State.

  • Conscience is deceived by the social.

  • Human history is simply the history of the servitude which makes men – oppressed and oppressors alike – the plaything of the instruments of domination they themselves have manufactured, and thus reduces living humanity to being the chattel of inanimate chattels.

  • What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.

Paul Rosenberg

Why We Don’t Yet Live in the “World of Tomorrow”

physicsThe following is a quote from a digital currency mailing list, posted at some time in the late 90s or early 2000s:

Consider that up to say 1970, people invented and developed Major Shit left, right and center. Jets, spacecraft, fiber, chips, laser… plastic… satellites… it goes on and on.

In contrast, the world’s done Absolutely Nothing for a good 20 years – at best, refinement. (“TV now has OVER 100 channels! and MORE PIXELS.”)

Indeed we presently live in a time of sort of… fantasy inventions. “Nanotech!” “Robots!” etc — all fantastic on paper, but totally nonexistent.

However flamboyant, this statement is true. Since 1970, there have been very few primary inventions. What we do have are mere improvements.

The Laws of Physics Are Old

Physics has gone almost nowhere since the 1960s. Here’s a short list of developments in physics:

Gravity: The laws were defined by Galileo and Newton in the 17thcentury.

Planetary motion: Defined by Kepler in 1609 and 1619.

Mechanics: The base laws were defined by Newton in the 17th century. Other specific laws were understood as far back as ancient times.

Gasses: Boyle defined his law of gasses in 1662.

Hydraulics: The laws and uses were developed between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Electromagnetism: James Clerk Maxwell defined these laws in 1865.

Relativity: Galileo defined the first laws of relativity in the 17th century; then Einstein defined new ones in 1905 and 1915.

Quantum mechanics: Einstein expanded upon the work of Max Planck and defined the quantum effect in 1905.

Atomic theory: The modern model of the atom was clarified by Neils Bohr in 1913.

Superconductors: Superconductivity was discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911 and clarified by Fritz and Heinz London in 1935.

Quantum electrodynamics: Defined by Feynman, Tomonaga, and Schwinger in about 1962.

And what has physics done since then? Not a lot. Most visibly, physicists argue about theories that require twenty six dimensions and smash subatomic particles together.

In other words, physics has turned into a major yawn. Even the few exciting developments we have seen, such as cold fusion and high temperature superconductors, have gone nowhere. And exciting inventions like 3D printing, public cryptography, and cryptocurrencies have not only come from outsiders, but have been attacked by institutions.

Consider the major inventions that erupted between 1870 and 1970: railroads, telegraph, telephones, electricity, radio, TV, airplanes, cars, rockets, spacecraft, plastics, fiber optics, etc., etc., etc.

In the forty three years since – nearly half that time-span – what did we get?

That’s right: louder speakers, more pixels, and smaller screens.

So… either science has been hobbled or we’ve already discovered almost everything.

The Prison of Science

Since I don’t for a moment believe that we’ve discovered all that can be known, the obvious conclusion is that physics is being held in a sort of stasis.

My argument has been this:

Institutions are oppositional to individual will, and individual will is the only thing that creates breakthroughs in science.

Albert Einstein agrees with me, by the way. See this:

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

And this:

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

And this:

Great spirits have always been violently oppressed by mediocre minds.

Within an institution, a scientist must either please the authorities or see his work jettisoned. And scientific grants always have to please authorities.

So, who are these “authorities”? They would certainly include government bureaucrats, but the authorities that really matter here are older scientists who have given themselves over to institutional politics. These are the more common oppressors of new and different ideas.

There’s an old joke that reflects this:

Q: How does physics progress?

A: One funeral at a time.

The oppressors of new scientific theories are entrenched in scientific institutions. From there, they either allow or disallow almost every research project. And anyone who is not part of those institutions is ridiculed, excluded, and ignored.

It was farm boys, outsiders, and self-educated people who invented radio, television, the airplane, the electric light, the telegraph, the phonograph, the automobile, radar, and much more.

The creations of institutional science have been considerably less impressive. And those advances generally required the inventors to suffer along the way. Young Albert Einstein, after all, was rejected by all the institutions of his time. He made his great discoveries while working as a mere patent clerk.

God only knows how many wonderful things have been lost to institutional politics.

All of this is not because of “certain bad people” – institutional power turns good people into bad people. (Ask a grad student.)

Is There an Answer?

Sure there is! The same thing that worked in the 19th century: the separation of science and institution.

If you believe the line coming from today’s universities, you’d think that nothing scientific could exist without them. But to believe that, you’ll have to pretend that the previous, non-institutional era never happened.

But it did happen, and the pre-institution era of science produced far more basic discoveries than the institutional era.

We may have been indoctrinated by these institutions, but that has nothing to do with truth.

Paul Rosenberg