Category On Curiosity

How Mahabir Pun brought access to the whole world to 60,000 Nepalese with wireless internet

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

There was no internet in Nangi. The closest was in Pokhara, which is a two day hike away. So every month I walked from Nangi to Pokhara to check my emails. For six years, every month, I did that. In 2001 I decided that there must be a smarter way. My dream was to build a wireless network that would connect Nangi to the rest of the world.

-Mahabir Pun

Mahabir Pun was born in a village in rural Nepal, in a tiny town called Nangi. Even today, Nangi is three days travel from Nepal’s capital city, and 5 hours by bus from the nearest bus-accessible town. When Mahabir was growing up, his world was limited to what was available to him in his village. He attended school until 7th grade right there in Nangi.  Mahabir’s father pumped all of his life’s savings into his son’s education, which allowed his family to leave Nangi and move to the southern region of Nepal where Mahabir could go to a more connected and supported high school.

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Abraham Flexner’s thoughts on education, curiosity, the serendipitous nature of discovery

Photo via The World’s Work, 1910

The world has always been a sorry and confused sort of place – yet poets and artists and scientists have ignored the factors that would, if attended to, paralyze them. From a practical point of view, intellectual and spiritual life is, on the surface, a useless form of activity, in which men indulge because they procure for themselves greater satisfactions than are otherwise obtainable. In this paper I shall concern myself with the question of the extent to which the pursuit of these useless satisfactions proves unexpectedly the source from which undreamed of, utility is derived.

– Abraham Flexner

Abraham Flexner started his career as a teacher of classic literature at Louisville Male High School. Just four years into his teaching career, he opened his own school in response to many of the things that he witnessed were demotivating about the traditional educational system. This new school rejected grades and report cards, avoided formal exams, and instead opted for learner-lead curriculums with hands-on care and discussion with the instructor. 

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Relentless student and fearless teacher, Anne Sullivan

Photo via the Library of Congress

Too often, I think children are required to write before they have anything to say. Teach them to think, read and talk without self-repression, and they will write because they cannot help it.

– Anne Sullivan Macy

Empathy before Education

The story of Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan is well known, but one that usually focuses on the obstacles Hellen Keller had to overcome to learn. But Anne Sullivan, her teacher, had overcome enormous pain and challenges in her own life and remained fearlessly, relentlessly curious despite them all. Her pain helped her empathize with Hellen’s pain, and that deep understanding made the so-called “impossible feat” of teaching Keller possible.

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