Is it more important to know the answer or to know how to get the answer? My knee jerk response is that it is situational. For the short term “answer now,” but for the long term “know how to get the answer.”
We can look at mundane examples. Johnny needs to solve the square root of 64, so he asks his friend for the answer, he writes down 8, and he gets the point on his math homework. Johnny has won in the short term.
Fast forward to test time, Johnny needs to find the square root of 81. No friend to ask, he doesn’t even know how to plug it into the calculator let alone how to figure it by hand. No points for Johnny. Now Johnny has a bad grade on his test, and he resents his math class. In comes the default, “Math is stupid. I hate math. I’m not good at math.” For the long term, “answer now” doesn’t work so well.
You might say, “Yeah but that’s just math class, I never use math in real life.” Let’s say someone gives us the secret to world peace. That would be pretty handy. How many people would accept it, trust it, and practice it? Theology aside I think we have been given the answer to world peace. “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” I’m confident, socially divergent aside, everyone on the planet would say, “I would like to be treated nicely.” It isn’t a hard concept to grasp. It isn’t particularly hard to do, treat people nicely. Why do so many people fail to do so? What is the logical argument that could back up, “The world will be a better place if I treat some people nicely and others not so nice,” or “The world would be a better place if I am mean, decline to say thank you, and refuse to use my turn signal?”
It might be that some people just don’t have the same notion of being nice, but I think that simple indifference strikes closer to home.
We are so often bombarded with a message that was originally used to help people push through tough situations.
-It doesn’t matter what people think about you or say about you, be yourself.
This is a message of shrugging off negativity and embracing yourself. However, some people they have internalized the message in the wrong light. Instead of using this message to overcome a fear driven existence, they have embraced an existence without empathy for others.
Empathy is a much more complicated concept than “being nice.” Empathy is developed after years of social interaction. Empathy is the “how” of our humanity.
When we learn things such as reading, writing, math, and life, we tend to retain the things we struggled through. All those things we had to figure out on our own.
-I am going to drive way slower on off ramps, because I learned rolling my car is bad. Even though the answer was right there, in big block print 25 MPH.
-I am going to start reading the book for class at the beginning of the semester, because cramming 12 hours of reading over a 48 hour period is not conducive to retention. Even though the answer was right there in the syllabus, “Students must complete the following to be successful.”
We cannot go and reinvent the wheel for everything. There are things that are better to learn from others, so where is the balance? What kind of metric could be used to evaluate what needs to be learned through struggle and what can simply be passed on?
I think we can safely say that when in a crisis or an emergency “answer now” will win out (do I cut the red wire or the blue wire to stop the timer on the bomb). Concepts that require internalization benefit from the process of learning the process of how.