Saturday, December 15, 2007

How to be Smart Like Stevie Joe

People write me all the time and ask, "Can I be a genius just like you, Stevie Joe?" The answer is "probably not," but you can become smarter than you are right now. One fellow asked recently how to do just that, and I told him to Google "Mortimer Adler."

Mortimer Adler is a damn genius himself and perhaps the most important education theorist of the 20th century. If you work in the field of education and do not know Mortimer Adler, either resign right now or get on the ball.

Your study of Mortimer Adler should begin with the book How to Read a Book. In fact, if all you want to do is read a book, read this first. It is not only a guide to getting the most out of a book, but to how to make learning a life-long affair. You cannot become as smart as me and Mort if you stop learning once you leave school.

Mortimer Adler developed the Great Books program at the University of Chicago. You may have heard of this. It is the study of particular subjects as discussed various authors through the course of written history. For example, if one wants to study the proper role of government in society or the ideal form of government, one might begin with Plato's Republic. From there, one might read some Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, Locke, and Mill.

You read Plato not because he is inherently right or wrong but because many other great minds took what he wrote and expounded, elaborated, disagreed, and debated. The Great Books provide a front row seat to the greatest discourse in Western civilization. As such, they provide quite the training in critical thinking as well as the subjects under consideration.

In a similar vein, today we are blessed with something called the TED Conference. As the TED website explains:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

The best part for those of us unable to attend or participate in these meetings is that the presentations have been recorded and placed on the internet. Again, there is an opportunity to listen in to some of the world's great discourse. You can find out more here.

So, I've given you a start. It is no guarantee that you will become a damn genius like me or Mr. Adler, but it'll get you going in the right direction. Have some fun!

Your philosopher-king,
Stevie Joe Parker

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