“High-tech, schmigh-tech. The most important thing is to be a mensch.”

Ismail Ali Manik
2 min readJul 25, 2020

A great TED Talk for all lifelong learners and educators;

….these are my parents. They too did not enjoy the privilege of college education. They were too busy building a family and a country. And yet, just like Salman, they were lifelong, tenacious self-learners, and our home was stacked with thousands of books, records and artwork. I remember quite vividly my father telling me that when everyone in the neighborhood will have a TV set, then we’ll buy a normal F.M. radio.


So one thing that I took from home is this notion that educators don’t necessarily have to teach. Instead, they can provide an environment and resources that tease out your natural ability to learn on your own. Self-study, self-exploration, self-empowerment: these are the virtues of a great education.


As computers became increasingly more complex, our students were losing the forest for the trees, and indeed, it is impossible to connect with the soul of the machine if you interact with a black box P.C. or a Mac which is shrouded by numerous layers of closed, proprietary software. So Noam and I had this insight that if we want our students to understand how computers work, and understand it in the marrow of their bones, then perhaps the best way to go about it is to have them build a complete, working, general-purpose, useful computer, hardware and software, from the ground up, from first principles.


I’d like to say a few words about traditional college grading. I’m sick of it. We are obsessed with grades because we are obsessed with data, and yet grading takes away all the fun from failing, and a huge part of education is about failing. Courage, according to Churchill, is the ability to go from one defeat to another without losing enthusiasm. … said that mistakes are the portals of discovery. And yet we don’t tolerate mistakes, and we worship grades. So we collect your B pluses and your A minuses and we aggregate them into a number like 3.4, which is stamped on your forehead and sums up who you are. Well, in my opinion, we went too far with this nonsense, and grading became degrading.




Ismail Ali Manik

Uni. of Adelaide & Columbia Uni NY alum; World Bank, PFM, Global Development, Public Policy, Education, Economics, book-reviews, MindMaps, @iamaniku