Saturday, 13 April 2013


Spring is coming (eventually) and soon quite a big part of my day will be spent outdoors. I had to go through the courses at Coursera that I had been interested in taking and do some gardening - I had to prune!

I'm hoping that those that didn't make the list will be offered again, I'll take them then, but for now I had to cut back. So how did I choose?

The whole point of doing this is to learn, which is a pleasure, if it becomes an onerous chore there's no point doing it. At the same time I want, need, benefit from a challenge. As with everything in my life I seek a balance there, the right level of challenge. The right amount of workload, of commitment, and of difficulty.

So, my schedule right now is as follows:

Global History: Week 13 of 14
AIDS: Week 8 of 9
Philosophy: Week 6 of 10
Ancient Greece: Week 4 of 6

And I've started 3 new courses:

Democratic Development
Science, Technology, and Society in China I: Basic Concepts
Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Quite how I'll do with the latter is anyone's guess but it is apparently possible to pass without doing any math. We'll see.

Several courses have finished recently, and I await grading. I received  no grade for Genetics and Evolution as I stopped taking quizzes the last two weeks and did not attempt the final exam. This is an example of a challenge not worth the effort, for now. I have enjoyed the course, studied all the material, including reading the optional book, and I fully understand all the concepts. I have no real use for the math, as I'm never going to be a geneticist, but I have gained enormously from taking the course.

In fact with the possible exception of the first Philosophy course I took, I have enjoyed all these courses, and have gained enormously from them all. I can't "pick a favourite" but if I must single out one that has made the most difference to me, then it is this second Philosophy course. This proves two things, the obvious one being that courses are not all created equal. The difference in the two philosophy courses is so great that I could write a very long blog on it, but in fairness to those who created the first one, I won't critique it in public.

But most of all it proves to me that Philosophy, as a subject, is far more important than many people think. So many people just roll their eyes at the idea of it. I have been one of them, and I don't mind admitting it.

I never studied it before. It wasn't offered when I was at school, and I never had the privilege of a college education. Of course I have read philosophy, I have written it, I've certainly done plenty of it in my own way. But not like this. This was life-altering, and I do not exaggerate. Some of it is new ideas to me, some just ties up loose ends. But it has honestly, seriously, changed the way I think. For the better, in my opinion.

Of course I have met people who have studied it, didn't enjoy it greatly, and who still roll their eyes at the word. All I can say is, you didn't have the right teacher. Had I only experienced that first course, I'd be dismissive of it too. What drove me to try again? I really don't know, I'm just glad I did. I'm glad I was awakened to it. I am now keen to study more, and to consider why people are resistant to learn.

And overall, all this study has changed my attitude, not just to specific things I've been taught, but to the whole idea of formal education, study by lecture, commitment to assignments, and so on. More than ever I feel I missed out....... let's not go there, waste of time, I am catching up, better late than never.

If there is anyone reading this dithering over their education, stop it. Do it. Work hard. Commit. Enjoy. As soon as you can, as much as you can. If my friends are reading this, stop your damn excuses for not taking part.


  1. Isn't Philosophy awesome? :D

    I love learning. I think I even love learning better when I choose to do it myself, read a whole bunch of stuff, and see what I might get out of it.

    Will I miss some important points? Probably. Might I gloss over some nuance of "the thing"? Quite possible. Yet I don't let that stop me. I've managed, over the years, to take in quite a bit of other people's knowledge. And where philosophy is concerned, it was a big eye-opener to know there were people (men, usually), who once thought upon subjects or became renowned for having an original thought. Cool, huh?

    What I have also 'discovered' is that a good number of these original thinkers did not always come from the same 'school' of thought or study (a/k/a, no "system" as we know it today). Looking back, we can see influences, but the 'big names' of philosophical progress come from various times and cultures. These [guys] chose to maybe take a fresh look at [apply their own unique perspective on] an old concept and move it forward, or were lucky enough to have a 'eureka' moment that stuck around.

    Each of us is CAPABLE of such monumental steps forward today. Goodness knows, there are more of us around now (population-wise) than there were back then. You would think, based on percentages alone, we would see a vast increase in innovative thinking. But no, those proportionate leaps and bounds are not really there.

    It goes beyond the desire/want to 'get an education to make more money.' We really do NEED to want to take our part in moving humanity forward, period. I have found the best way is to do it proactively, as you choose to do, by applying various bits of learning through independent study.

    Trust that intelligence, and the intelligent among us, will figure it out. We've done it before, clearly. Embrace the concept of learning something new every day. :) ~ Blessings!

    1. My reply will become a blog at Torrent, you only have yourself to blame:)