Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

On Excellence-Illustrated through Four Exemplars: Excerpts from the FTE Spirit of Excellence Breakfast Presentation in Louisville, KY

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

On Excellence-Illustrated through Four Exemplars: Excerpts from the FTE Spirit of Excellence Breakfast Presentation in Louisville, KY

Article excerpt


In the United States I have noticed that workers who are pouring concrete on sidewalks take great care to brush and trim the final surface, always leaving behind a work of art. I get great pleasure from looking at newly finished sidewalks, and wish workers in my country could take that same pride when they pour concrete. Going back to boyhood, I got the same pleasure seeing the Wembley soccer ground in England on TV--the pitch always mowed in a chequered pattern that is pleasing to the eye.

I once saw the great Pele in his waning years in Trinidad. It was good to see the man in person, though he was past his prime. I have in recent times gone to the Internet to access video of him in action in his prime, and it is pure delight. I shared some of this with my 18-year old nephew last summer, and in one clip he could not believe the audacity of Pele, flicking the ball to his shoulder in the penalty box, eluding three players, before dropping it to his feet and scoring. My nephew kept saying "in the box, uncle! In the box"!

I get pleasure from reading about the exploits of very talented people. About the five defining papers that Einstein wrote in the course of a year. Feynman's, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out is in my library. In it he spells out the challenge he gave to graduate students at Caltech that was the origin of nanotechnology. As a graduate student at Princeton he got an offer from the federal government he could not refuse. He was told to pack his bags right away for a trip to New Mexico, with no other explanation. When he arrives, he finds himself in a room with the leading mathematicians and physicists in the world. He immediately hears something from one of the luminaries that he thought was wrong, and he, a graduate student, said so and offered a corrective. It was the Manhattan Project. Once back at Princeton, his doctoral advisor asked him to give a seminar, and that he was going to invite a few people to sit in, among them Albert Einstein. I enjoy reading about exploits of this order, for the humility it bestows. What must it be like to breathe that kind of rarified air?

Then there is the Double Helix, the account of Crick and Watson's journey in their discovery of DNA. At the end, they take wire mesh and devise a mock-up of the DNA molecule, and they call in Linus Pauling from Berkeley, their prime competitor in the race to the discovery, to come to Cambridge University to see it. He flies to England, arrives on campus, walks into their lab, sees it, and concedes immediately. And they publish this discovery by collaborating on a one-page letter submitted to the journal Nature, maybe while sipping tea.

In Trinidad we have a hero called Brian Lara, and his claim to fame is that he is currently the holder of two iconic records in the game of cricket. One is for scoring the most runs in an inning in a Test game (400), and the other for scoring the most runs ever in a single inning (500) in any game at any level. One of my great regrets is that while he was in his prime I was at Minnesota and never saw him play. Americans do not appreciate cricket, but I have 25 years of experience watching baseball. I like baseball. But there is nothing in baseball to compare with a great batsman in cricket on the go--when he is on your team. If he happens to be on the opposing team, there is no greater torment. I was in Beijing, and a group of young Indians were on the tour, and one of them came up to me and introduced himself, and we started talking about cricket, which we in the West Indies and India have in common. And I told him that there was a song in Trinidad, a calypso written about the exploits of Sunil Gavaskar, a former great Indian player, who had scored more than 300 runs in a game at our expense at the Queens Park Oval. And he said, "My favorite player is Brian Lara, actually."

Two years ago I went to a Conference at Oxford-Brookes Business School in England. …

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