I was in the audience last night when retired Admiral Eric T. Olson spoke to several hundred people in Clearwater. The former head of the United States Special Operations Command, as well as the first Navy SEAL to earn four stars on his uniform, Olson had much to say about his nation's military, the changing faces of America's enemies and leadership in general.
Near the end of his presentation, he made a distinction between training and education that may be worth a comment. "Training is for certainty," he said. "Education is for uncertainty." SEAL training, so difficult that 80 percent of those who begin fail to finish, prepares SEALs to cope in a great variety of circumstances. In addition to the training, however, they still need to be educated to know when and how to employ those skills they acquired in training. It is training that hits a target. It is education that should determine whether to fire the weapon.
This training-education distinction could be applied to almost anything, I suppose. I will apply it to writing. Training involves acquiring such skills as learning to read, learning to spell, learning grammar and, in today's world, learning to use a keyboard. But what do you say once you know the basic skills? That's an uncertainty that requires some education, whether in a classroom or not.
What I liked best about majoring in journalism in college was that there were so few journalism courses. Many of these could be described as training -- basic news reporting, typography, etc. Journalism majors were encouraged to take a variety of electives, and this is what I did. I took courses in history, philosophy, meteorology, geology, statistics, criminology, experimental psychology and other things. In my career, I used something from most of those classes.
I recall that one day during a fine arts class it struck me that the varied subjects I was studying were all somehow connected. They all related to each other, even if that relationship may not be readily apparent. Learning history helped me understand art, for example. Studying art taught me something about psychology. That's the kind of insight that would probably be less likely to occur in training than in education.