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William Cook
Salt Lake City, UT
July 2017

I Promise Not To Be A Highly Intelligent Useless Person - Varsity Tutors Scholarship Essay

If I were chosen to give a TED Talk, I would share my philosophy and attitude on learning, because it has helped me obtain the success I have obtained so far in my life and I believe it could help others as well.. In order to do this, I would share some lessons that I had been taught in high school. Someone that is instrumental in my development as a student, a professional, and as a person is my high school Computer Science and Calculus teacher, Mr. Johnson. “Ask ‘why’; because ‘what’ does not matter anymore.” “Always work toward original thought.” These are two of many valuable lessons Mr. Johnson emphasized to me. In this era of technology, information is easily accessible for everyone to learn. It does not matter what we know anymore, because anyone else can easily obtain that same knowledge. Taking knowledge, asking why, and using original thought is what will allow us to produce a service to the world.

I would have the audience recite a pledge: “I promise not to be a highly intelligent useless person.” This remains my favorite quote and was part of a pledge Mr. Johnson had me swear to at the beginning of AP Calculus. He preached that memorizing facts, passing tests, and taking hard classes is not important unless we learn the points and understand how to use them. He urged me to go back through notes to create a “tool box” full of prior knowledge and to use any necessary “tool” at any time. He expected me to obtain the biggest “tool box” possible for all my classes, and to use these tools in life. He taught me how to problem solve so I can solve anything, not just specific examples. He told me not to simply believe what teachers, books, or other sources tell me are true, but to analyze the information and decide for myself if it is true or false, and then prove why. To this point, he occasionally taught me false facts until I questioned them. He remains a great influence on me to strive for a deep understanding in all my endeavors and experiences in order to become a very useful intelligent person.

These lessons and attitudes toward the way we learn and the reasons why we learn have shaped my development. Keeping this pledge in mind to be a highly intelligent useful person, pushes me not only to think originally and dive into the subject matter for deep understanding, but also to share my knowledge gained from my education and to use it to help other people who may not be as lucky as me to have the opportunity to achieve a higher education. Just like how I strive to share my education, I would love to share these attitudes with people if I were given the chance to provide a TED Talk.