In a recent post by Bryan Caplan he lays out the characteristics of a good student:
First, good students genuinely want to learn. They don’t study material merely because they see it on the syllabus or expect it on the test.
Second, good students fight the natural human tendency to forget material right after the final exam. Unlike most students, they consciously choose to try to remember what they learn.
Third, good students strive for what educational psychologists call Transfer of Learning. They earnestly try to apply what they’ve learned outside the classroom.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, good students put Truth first. They aren’t afraid to entertain and embrace socially unacceptable ideas.
It is one of my priorities as a father to impart to my children the values of being a good student. First and foremost: that they seek the truth above all else. The truth is often not popular, and someone who genuinely seeks the truth will not win any popularity contests.
I like Caplan’s definition of a good student, because there is so much false authority in the modern world. Take for example this Facebook debate I captured:
In it “John” seems to just expect “Beau” to take his word as gospel. Beau uses several verses and arguments to counter what John states. John does not address anything Beau states directly. John concludes in a fit of anger that Beau is “unteachable”. John does not seem to have understood, or cared to understand Beau’s arguments, yet Beau is “unteachable” for not rolling over, discounting all his previous knowledge and just accepting John without question.
This resonates with me because it has happened on several occasions in my life. In fact, it just happened last week during an “inspection” at work. The “inspector” just assumed that her word was gospel because she had 20 years’ experience. She did not even care to address my counter arguments. When people want you to believe them based on their own authority, they are very dangerous people. The best teachers in life are themselves good students. As stated before, look to see if the teacher holds unpopular beliefs and has ever changed their mind on something of consequence.
If my children just believe every doctrine I tell them without question, I have failed as a father.