#LibbyPurvis on why some things are easy to learn

I’m still catching up on things I read over the summer. In the Times on 21 August Libby Purvis wrote:

Early specialisation leads to a lack of what Melvyn Bragg once described to me as basic “grids”. He explained that his brain has a good literary and historical grid, so whenever he learns a new thing in such areas it has somewhere to fit in. So it sticks. A new scientific fact, though, may not stick because there’s no slot. I can identify with that problem. A properly educated person need not know everything, but needs both grids: fission and feelings, Electra and electrons, emperors and enzymes. 

Brilliant. I know what Purvis is talking about. I’ve thought about it in the past, but never managed to express what I was thinking at all precisely. This concept of grids and slots is a good start at doing so. (Someone who describes a thing well, like this, makes it possible for others to tamp a thought down and build other thoughts on top of it.)

I find it determinist, though, to think you can’t do anything about it in adulthood. When I come back from visiting a place I haven’t been before (like the Ionian islands this summer), I find myself following articles about it in the paper, noticing references to it in books. Quite often it becomes an addition to my grid.

slot machines Finn Maid Travemünde-Helsinki 715.JPG(Slot machines on board the ferry Finn Maid, sailing from Lübeck to Helsinki in summer 2015, reflected in its window)

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Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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