As an avid (and somewhat recent) fan of author Bill Bryson, I received a notification in my Facebook Feed the other day from his author page on an interview from The Telegraph. In it, he declares one of the biggest failures of modern education is a lack of excitement. In fact, he goes on to describe, “how excitement in a subject can propel continued learning, and how embracing curiosity—a trait that he argues is ‘undervalued’—can stimulate this initial excitement.”
His point, while somewhat of a blanket statement, holds true for much of what is wrong with the education system today. Teachers and students are held to rigid curriculums, obliged to make it through a syllabus of topics before the end of the year, with a goal of obtaining passing grades from as many people as possible. Checking off the mandated requirements, so to speak, is a surefire way of inspiring little excitement or curiosity. Much of our science and history education is treated as a series of key dates, discoveries or basic principles—disconnected to the context explaining when and why those events were so important.
Bill Bryson claims that his own inherent curiosity has driven him over the last 40 years to ask professional scientists, historians and authors as much as he can about the fundamentals of science. The output of this curiosity was his 2003 release of “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” Asking challenging questions, a basic component to fostering curiosity, is a behavior that is frequently treated in an inconsistent manner throughout higher education. The benefit of Mr. Bryson exploring his curiosity is his finely honed ability to expound around topics that would otherwise seem wholly uninteresting to most readers. He connects the dots between scientific principle, as well as the context of time in history and personality behind the discovery.
Bryson’s curiosity has helped deliver a critical context to the subjects he covers in a way that far surpasses any textbook or university professor lecture can offer. It is my belief that Bryson’s style of prose could serve as the basis for an intro-level college course for natural history, science, biology, geology, genetics, physics and many others. Every time I read something from him, I’m compelled to bookmark and explore more. Curiosity has served Bryson extremely well, and being a fan of natural history and science, it has spurred on curiosity of my own.
Here at Curiosity Advertising, the principle of “curiosity” is a fundamental building block behind everything we do. We ask challenging questions of ourselves and our clients, constantly looking for alternative approaches to the challenges we face every day. If this is a principle that is as important to you as it is to us, then we encourage you to come work with us (either as a client or an employee).