A more effective way of learning

Michael J. Greenberg

We are living in a society of information overload. Depending on whom one chooses to believe, the volume of information out there is doubling every one, two or three years. Mathematicians would readily tell you that some of the greatest mathematicians in history knew far less than what today’s sixth graders know in math.

Many people feel overwhelmed by the amount of news and commentary out there, and they feel left out or out of touch if they don’t read the papers or watch the TV.

This deals not with the professional or related information you need to pass your exams or do your work and conduct your business. I am talking more of those news or pseudo-news types of information that we seem to be bombarded with every day. Sometimes it seems to cause nausea and headache for us, especially during the run-up to the presidential elections. And it’s even more pronounced in social science, where we can’t be sure of anything, and time seems to prove the majority of the so-called experts, gurus and crystal ball readers wrong.

I have found that a rule, when applied with discipline, can help us a great deal. It not only saves us precious time, but more importantly, it helps us to avoid coming into contact with people or information we shouldn’t be trusting in the first place.

For lack of a better phrase, I call it the “50-Year Rule.”

Whenever you are reading something in the newspapers or magazines, watching the TV or listening to the radio, when some “expert” or “authority” is providing their takes on some issues, you just ask yourself a simple question:

Will this still be true, timely and timeless, 50 years from now?

Once you have started applying this very, very stringent rule to filtering the huge amount of information you are bombarded with each day, one interesting thing results: not much, really, is left out there! While you may be spending far less time reading each day, you’re getting much more!

Most of what people say can’t even stand for a week or a month. An entire 50-year period? Not a chance!

Comments from people who don’t know what they are talking about will be proven wrong and wrong again by the passing of time. Over a 50-year period, what these people say will be proven wrong thousands of times — if not more.

But great, visionary, insightful comments from those who know what they’re talking about will stand the test of time. These great comments will be proven time and again by the unfolding events. Fifty years may have passed since you first heard a great comment, but the great comment has become ever more timely and timeless! If you’ve had this experience, consider yourself lucky, because you know how to pick and choose what to read. For those who don’t have an inkling of what we’re talking about here, they are either going to forever live a life of confusion and disillusionment, or they will be in for a painful wake-up call.

Michael J. Greenberg is a graduate student and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Editor’s note: Michael J. Greenberg is a pseudonym. He can be contacted through the editor at [email protected].