Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Myth of One Path

The Contra Costa Times had a story recently about the MythBusters hosts, Adam Savage and Kari Byron, giving a talk to a crowd of over 1000 at Dublin High School. To read the article, go here.  I liked a lot of things about the article, but in particular I liked this: 

"Adam Savage and Kari Byron said their Discovery Channel show illustrates that science is exciting and unpredictable.

Both TV personalities said they consider themselves scientists although neither Savage, a former movie special effects wizard, or Byron, a sculptor, have science degrees."

The "scientists" of MythBusters share science, discovery, failures, experiments and successes with their viewers in a very exciting format. And, as mentioned above, neither of them have science degrees. Who knows, perhaps if they started with science majors, they may have hated that and ended up doing something else.

I've been thinking a lot lately about one's path in life. One of my new favorite (paraphrased) quotes is, "The obstacles in life's path, ARE the path." [from Meditations from the Mat]

So often we start out in life on one path and that path quickly splinters off into many different paths, with many obstacles and roadblocks along the way. How many of us chose a field of study in school that we no longer use or a started out in a career that has morphed into many different fields or areas of interest?

How many of us still feel guilty because our first path, or major in college, or first career choice isn't what we are using now in our daily lives? But if we embrace the rocks along the path we realize the rocks ARE the path, the new direction, and each stumbling block isn't a failure, it's a course correction or a redirection.

I think it is short sighted when adults ask students to focus on one area of interest in school and deny them the opportunities to explore many more interests along the way. For example, it has always stumped me why traditional, college-bound curriculum insists on students learning several years of one foreign language.

I think a much richer experience for any age student would be to have them explore many different languages and cultures on an introductory level and then allow them to decide if they wanted to explore one particular language in depth. How many of us know more than a few phrases from those five years of Spanish we took in high school and college?

Why couldn't one semester of introductory German, one of French, one of Spanish, one of sign language, one of Mandarin and one of Latin be equivalent to three full years of language that would be fully acceptable on college applications? A student would gain a much richer taste of different languages and gain some insight into diverse cultures as well if he or she were given this opportunity.

As parents and teachers I think it is helpful to guide our children along the path, showing them (by our own example) that it is okay to veer off the intended path because that detour or new direction IS the path they are supposed to take. If we force them to keep moving in one direction, toward one, specific goal (e.g., getting into a certain college or having a certain career), we rob them of the rich opportunities presented when they make exciting and unpredictable choices along the way.


  1. Nice post. I couldn't agree more. One of my favorite quotes is "Life is a journey, not a destination" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Life is what happens along the way to your destination, so make sure you enjoy the ride.

  2. Here is the full transcript from the MythBusters event at Dublin High School featuring Adam Savage and Kari Byron. They were an inspiration to everyone in attendance. http://onedublin.org/2012/03/06/mythbusters-adam-savage-and-kari-byron-on-the-art-of-science-and-experimentation/.

    1. Wow!! I knew a heared somewear this story!! Thank you!)