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Where Did All the Polymaths Go?

Look at this list:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_called_%22polymaths%22

Notice anything interesting? Only a handful of these people are alive today, or were even alive in modern times. Now, a polymath is someone who is at least trained in several disciplines, usually an expert as well. A multi-talented individual. For some reason, in modern times, this way of thinking is discouraged. People are not educated to be a jack of all trades. They work to be a businessman, or an engineer, or a musician. It is rare to find a man who is a painter and an inventor, and who is also interested in human anatomy. Sound familiar? That's Leonardo da Vinci. And then you could look at another man, who is a politician, a writer and a scientist; Benjamin Franklin. These people lived far in the past. That doesn't make them smarter than anyone today. I think that it is healthy for someone to indulge themselves in many disciplines. If you like to paint, learn basketball. If you like to sing, learn to program. People, I believe, are wired to be good at many things. One should not deprive one's self of something fulfilling, just because they happen to enjoy something else fulfilling. There is no reason not to do both. They don't even have to be related.

Anyone have feedback on this thought?

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  • Mar 5 2011: Very interesting observation, of course its due to the the very "closed" education systems in practice today. In the latter stages of High School you are forced to pick a very limited amount of subjects (at least in Australia anyway) and these subjects must satisfy prerequisites for the University Course you desire to attend. So right from about the age of 15 most students are restricted from pursuing all of their interests in an official academic way, of course you may pursue such interests in you free time but now with 4 year Bachelor Degree Courses as well as further postgraduate research required to be able to participate in most technical professions, its easy to see way we have a lack of polymaths in modern society. The ability and enthusiasm is there for numerous individuals but they just aren't being given the form of education they require to reach their potential.

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