The Tortoise or the Hare

The other day in class we discussed Discourse on the Method, specifically one point Descartes made about patience. Descartes argued that “those who go very slowly but always on the right path can make much greater progress than those who sprint and go astray.” Like the old story of the tortoise and the hare, Descartes is arguing that slow and steady wins the race. Descartes claims that often when people go to fast they often miss something or make too many mistakes. He urges the need for patience and taking the time to think through problems and situations. Our class discussion connected this to timed essays in high school and time management in college. Often people in high school rush through essays because they do not want to be doing them. There is also often a time limit, which enforces rushing through rather than thinking through. While time management is a necessary tool for students to learn in college and later on, this rushing through and limited time decreased creativity and the ability of students to think through the material.

This reminded me of my study habits for my Human Biology class. In Biology, every class we cover a single chapter, and I try to read the chapter before class so it’s easier to understand during class. I am not a big fan of reading the Biology textbook, so I just want to read it as quickly as possible to get the reading over with. However, I am constantly conflicted between reading fast, copying the textbook word for word, and getting it done as soon as I can, with reading slow, absorbing the material, takin more effective notes and ensuring that I understand the material. The first one might be less effective in the long run, but I am still reading the material and getting it done quicker. The second might seem like an obvious better option, but it also takes up much more time, time that I need to spend doing the online homework for biology or attending to other class homework. Weighing the benefits and negatives (or risks and rewards) of each, I know that in the long run the latter would be the better choice.

In any class, we often risk rushing through an assignment to get it done quickly but less efficiency. Students can look at the risks and rewards of each alternative and contemplate whether saving some time could be worth the lower grade or going through material and taking your time might be worth it for the higher grade. Descartes argues that the need for patience and perseverance, rather than rushing and not giving your best. Similarly, They Say I Say shares that many students “have trouble entering some of the high-powered conversations that take place in college because they do not know enough about the topic at hand.” It further argues that when given the chance to study the material in depth those same students become more confident about their own ideas and contribute more, and that good arguments are based on “everyday knowledge that can be isolated, identified and used by almost anyone.” While this doesn’t exactly connect to Descartes argument about patience, it does connect to his argument because it shares the importance of going in depth about material and taking time to gradually absorb information. Going in depth about a subject is more worth it than brushing the surface because it allows for a deeper understanding that is better in the long run.

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