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The debate rages on in the education field as to whether broad knowledge is better or worse than mastery of a narrow field of study. In shorthand, as we all knojw, thoroughness and accuracy are musts. But what about other areas?
I'm always amazed at how preachy Victorians get in their writing as though they are THE sole source of information. This piece is no different!
The Handbook of Standard of American Phonography, Andrew J. Graham, 1894, p. 373-374
Thoroughness and Accuracy
Thoroughness and accuracy are two principal points to be aimed at in study. Francis Horner, in laying down rules for the cultivation of his mind and character, placed great stress upon the habit of continuous application to one subject for the sake of mastering it thoroughly, confining himself, with this object, to but a few books, and resisting with the greatest firmness “every approach to the habit of desultory reading.” The value of knowledge to any man certainly consists, not in its quantity, but in the good uses to which he may apply it. Hence a little knowledge, of a perfect character, is always found more valuable for practical purposes than any extent of superficial learning. The phrase in common use as to “the spread of knowledge” at this day is no doubt correct. But it is spread so widely and in such thin layers, that is only serves to reveal the mass of ignorance lying beneath. Never, perhaps, were books more extensively read or less studied, and the number is rapidly increasing of those who know a little of everything but nothing well. Such readers have not inaptly been likened to a certain sort of pocket-knife which some people carry about with them which, in addition to a common knife, contains a file, a chisel, a saw, a gimlet, a screw-driver, a pair of scissors, but all so diminutive, that the moment they are needed for use they are found useless.
One of Ingatius Loyola’s maxims was, “He who does well one work at a time does more than all.” By spreading our efforts over too large a surface, we inevitably weaken our force, hinder our progress, and acquire a habit of fitfulness and ineffective working. Whatever a youth undertakes to learn, he should not be suffered to leave until he can reach his arms round it and clinch his hands on the other side. Thus he will have the habit of thoroughness. . . .
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