08 September 2005

Learning To Learn

When did you learn how to learn?

A Google search on the definition of "learn" returned these results:

1---acquire or gain knowledge or skills; "She learned dancing from her sister"; "I learned Sanskrit"; "Children acquire language at an amazing rate"
2---get to know or become aware of, usually accidentally; "I learned that she has two grown-up children"; "I see that you have been promoted"
3---memorize: commit to memory; learn by heart; "Have you memorized your lines for the play yet?"
4---be a student of a certain subject; "She is reading for the bar exam"
5---teach: impart skills or knowledge to; "I taught them French"; "He instructed me in building a boat"
6---determine: find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort; "I want to see whether she speaks French"; "See whether it works"; "find out if he speaks Russian"; "Check whether the train leaves on time"

Most people will probably think The Jenius means definition 3 above when they think of "learn." However, The Jenius is referring to definition 1: acquire or gain knowledge or skills. The difference is very fundamental and very important, for although memorizing is definitely a part of learning, it is a dead end, whereas the process of acquiring knowledge and/or skills is an infinite universe.

Memorization is a dead end because it simply piles fact and data with no true connection to insight: instead of growth you get clutter. Even if you can keep it organized enough to sustain its vividness over the years (unlike the "test syndrome" where you memorize what you need and forget it immediately after the test), you are not adding knowledge. To learn how to learn, to learn how to acquire knowledge and skills, is often an accidental discovery, for the educational system We pass through does almost nothing to teach Us a learning process.

For many, the discovery is part of one's own exploration of the world. For others it is the product of a loving parent's attention or a brilliant influential teacher. In whatever form the gift arrives, once received, it is never lost again. First school, then work becomes amazingly easier. The struggle others engage in to shove facts helter-skelter into a brain evolved over millions of years to find relationships is avoided entirely. And that is the key point of learning how to learn: allowing the mind to form relationships of the facts it receives. The natural function of the mind is battered into submission and shunted aside for the ungainly model of "this fact here, that fact there" that makes the educational system the sorry sewage pipe We must crawl through.

To pull together diverse facts. To assign relationships between them. To assign weights to those relationships so that relevant importance and nuances become part of the mental picture. To understand and note the gaps of the created relationships so that questions can be asked that lead to discovering the missing connections. To be willing, even eager, to seek out new facts and data with the confidence that their addition will exponentially increase the total value of your knowledge. To know that knowledge is a power you can gain as easily as breathing deeply...that is the immensity of learning how to learn.

How can We expect to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world with a never-changing mind? The product of Our educational system, the ideal product, is a mind like a rock, facts fused into a static lump. The mind that can teach itself is a liquid energy that defies time and space. Which would you rather have to face the chaos of modern times? Which do you wish your children to have? How will you go about giving them your choice?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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