A reflection on intelligence, learning and knowledge.
Today’s essay has been prompted by a fascinating exchange of views and comments on a post recently published by Patrice Ayme. More of that tomorrow.
Before getting to the heart of things, I feel compelled to offer a little background on my own educational journey. It is presented today as a preamble to tomorrow’s main essay.
By rights, I should have enjoyed a stunning academic journey as a young man. My mother holds a double degree in French and German from Cambridge University. My father was both a Chartered Architect and Chartered Surveyor and worked for Barclay Perkins & Co at their Anchor Brewery in Southwark, London all his working life. My uncle, Christian Schiller, took up a mathematics scholarship at Sidney Sussex college at Cambridge University and ended up HM Inspector of Schools in the United Kingdom. Notably, he was a promoter of progressive ideas in primary education.
But it was not to be so.
My father died suddenly and with very little warning five days before Christmas in 1956. I had turned 12-years-old some six weeks previously and just completed my first term at Preston Manor County Grammar School. My secure, comfortable young life was thrown into emotional turmoil with one of the consequences being that instead of passing a clutch of GCE ‘O-Level’ exams, I barely managed to pass two subjects and was unable to continue on with a higher level of studying and the consequent sitting of GCE ‘A-Level’ exams, a pre-requisit for university.
Somehow, I then managed to win a place as a student at the Faraday House of Electrical Engineering, in those days based at Southampton Row, London. It was to study for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering. The requirement was that by the end of my first year at Faraday House I should pass two A-level examinations.
I was very happy as a college student. That first year was spent entirely learning about engineering with much time ‘hands-on’ in the engineering workshop. Then came time for me to sit those two A-level exams. I failed both of them! There was no choice but for me to leave the college.
However, being unable to jump through the hoops needed for a degree or equivalent didn’t mean that I was a poor learner; far from it.
After my father’s death, my mother remarried and my ‘new’ Dad was very supportive. He had a background in communications and quickly encouraged me to become a radio amateur. I joined the nearby Radio Society of Harrow (still in existence!) and their encouragement enabled me to pass the full set of exams necessary to become a licensed radio amateur and a full member of the Radio Society of Great Britain. My amateur call sign was (and still is) G3PUK. I was 17.
Later on, when I was an apprentice at the British Aircraft Corporation’s site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, one of the commercial staff, Jim Jenner, spent many hours preparing me for the Institute of Advanced Motorists examination. I passed that exam and became a full member of the IAM in May, 1966.
So there’s my background that, hopefully, will set the scene to a wonderful exchange of views and ideas that flowed from Patrice’s blog. Ideas that will be explored tomorrow.
For the reason, the powerful reason, that the intelligence and wisdom of humanity has always been important. But now, in this time of the affairs of man, our collective intelligence and wisdom has never been more important.