The Botereid

Monday, October 11, 2004

a reason to study

Some advice for my peers: How do you know whether you should be in college? Ask yourself this: If you were prevented from going, would you be studying anyway?

Consider this passage in Karl Popper's Unended Quest about going to college in Austria in the years following the first World War:

I decided to leave school, late in 1918, to study on my own. I enrolled at the University of Vienna where I was, at first, a non-matriculated student, since I did not take the entrance examination ("Matura") until 1922, when I became a matriculated student. There were no scholarships, but the cost of enrolling at the University was nominal. And every student could attend any lecture course.

It was a time of upheavals, though not only political ones. I was close enough to hear the bullets whistle when, on the occasion of the Declaration of the Austrian Republic, soldiers started shooting at the members of the Provisional Government assembled at the top of the steps leading to the Parliament building. (This experience led me to write a paper on freedom.) There was little to eat; and as for clothing, most of us could afford only discarded army uniforms, adapted for civilian use. Few of us thought seriously of careers -- there were none (except perhaps in a bank; but the thought of a career in commerce never entered my head). We studied not for a career but for the sake of studying.

It should be no wonder that Popper contributed so much to his field.


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