Matt Grocott

No offense to the wide audience of Daily Journal readers but today’s column is mostly focused on our young people. It is aimed at those who are starting to question the future of their lives and the career path they may wish to pursue. 

In school at this time, it may seem like there are a lot of courses that are useless, even meaningless, depending upon the career one may choose. We have all heard it questioned, for example: “Algebra? Why do I have to take algebra? I’ll never use this stuff again in my life!” Maybe you are one who has spoken those very words, however, there is a constructive way to think about education which helps to make sense of it all and can be a useful perspective to life in general.

Staying with the topic of math, it is not only about the numbers, how they work, formulas and equations. Math is about solving problems in a logical and systematic way. Solving problems is something we all have to do and will for the rest of our lives. Therefore, training the mind how to solve problems is certainly a useful exercise.

Next, let us take a look at English. English includes training in vocabulary, writing and reading. With the latter, we learn how others have formulated ideas, put together a story, made an argument or pulled forth an emotion using only the written word. Some have said that Abraham Lincoln was the best president when it came to writing his own speeches. He was self taught. He was a voracious reader, especially of his favorite volumes: the Bible, Shakespeare and the poetry of Robert Burns. The influence of his reading on his mind is evidenced in the speeches he wrote and his manner of thinking. 

Of what use is science to most of us if we never intend to become a doctor, biologist, physicist or engineer? A great deal, indeed! Science, after all, gives us a general knowledge of how the world around us works but, more than that, it offers an appreciation for the intricacy of design and detail. We learn how systems work and how one system can have influence upon another.

History, too, is an important subject. Just as we know our own individual stories, knowing history brings forth a consciousness of our country, our culture and the world in which we live. It is helpful to know how those before us faced challenges and overcame them. We also gain an awareness of how the world we live in today stands on the shoulders of those who went before us. Without learning about history, our lives remain focused only on the here and now, the rush and onslaught of current events, current information. It can leave us feeling devoid of anything meaningful and disconnected. If we read and study history, however, we become aware of how even the smallest of actions can sometimes trigger a domino effect and change the world. 

There are, of course, other subjects that could be touched upon in the same manner but let us instead move on to this point: One can approach education and learning one of two ways. One is summed up in the Latin term, “sensus solum.” The second is summed up in the term, “sensus plenior.” As a person who continually self educates, I only became aware of these two terms recently by listening to author, educator and public speaker, Oliver DeMille. 

“Sensus solum” he explains, is to “have one answer or interpretation.” If this is solely how one studies and approaches education, it means reading and studying only to find the right answers to questions expected on a test or exam. It truly is a mind numbing way to go about learning and can leave one bereft of knowing much of anything when school or college is finished. 

“Sensus plenior,” on the other hand, is to approach education in a creative and open minded fashion. It is to approach one’s education as an avenue to new ways of thinking, new perspectives and self improvement. Before reading or studying a subject, it’s asking one’s self: “How can the material I am reading or studying help me to look at things in ways I haven’t before?” It is this approach that has led individuals to come up with answers to problems never before imagined.

Finally, I offer this piece of advise: If you are thinking of a career as an entrepreneur, I strongly suggest looking more into this idea of “sensus solum.” Entrepreneurs, after all, are people who learn, yes, but also who ask questions as they learn. They are people who seek ways to solve problems and to add value to the world. They are creative and imaginative. 

Learn well, or “Scire etiam!”

A former member of the San Carlos City Council and mayor, Matt Grocott has been involved in political policy on the Peninsula for 17 years. He can be reached by email at

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