A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
No. This is just wrong and actually wrong on a lot of levels. Let’s start with the easy part first. Specialization is, in fact, for very smart people who want to develop specific, useful skills. Like computers and the internet? Specialization. Like delicious food from all over the world? Specialization. Cars, Airplanes, or any form of transit? Specialization. Awesome Hollywood movies with amazing special effects? Specialization. Basically, any non minimum wage job? Specialization. Heinlein lists 21 things a human should be good at, many of which are examples of specialized skills! Gah!! How are you people not noticing this!?!?
About 1/3 of these skills are functionally useless. I will never, ever need to know how to plan an invasion. I’ve never built a wall because I’m not a stone mason. Nor will I ever be. I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years, even in the unlikely event that I ate meat I would never need to butcher a hog. Designing a good building takes about 10 years of serious and intense study to even begin to get it right. Why would I ever need to pitch manure? Etc, etc, etc. Another 1/3 of these skills would be useful if they involved a hobby of your choice. If they are optional though, there is no reason that you should be able to do them. Conning a ship is good if you’re into sailing but the vast majority of people aren’t. Ditto on sonnets, equations, and programming. If Heinlein is insisting that I need to be able to write a sonnet to be a complete human being, that’s just kind of weird and nonsensical.
The remaining 1/3 of these are so broad that they are kind of gimmes. Cooperation, comforting the dying, cooking. Great, I’m all for those things. However, if you think that conning a ship is comparable in importance to being able to analyze new problems, well, you’re probably not very good at analyzing new problems.
I’ve read about half of Robert Heinlein’s books and he was kind of a kook (as any great science fiction writer should be). For instance, he seriously believed that the only people who should be allowed to vote were people who had done military service…which is insane. Aside from being fascist, undermining the core principles of democracy, and presupposing a military industrial complex that could accomodate 300 million workers at some point, it’s a notion based on the idea that only someone who has worked in the military is competent enough to comprehend outcomes from complex democratic procedures. Rifuckingdiculous.