Thursday, August 11, 2011

Towards a Definition of what it means to ” Learn”

Towards a Definition  of what it means to ” Learn”
If a Tree Doesn’t grow, it Dies
            Learning is the easiest, most natural experience humans can have. The only time problems occur is when we stop doing it. We can make mistakes, small ones like ignoring the sound coming from under the hood while driving; or big ones such as collectively dumping so much garbage into the oceans that the seas die. But as long as we can learn, we will always have a chance.
            If we strip everything away and think about learning as part of our natural experience we can see that there is the obvious ‘growing up’ which is fated learning (learning whether we like it or not) and then there is the learning which is for the most part optional- we can choose to grow or not. The areas of learning include childhood to adolescent to adult, learning skills, a trade a profession, learning about relationships, lovers, friends, relatives, and learning about self- who am I? Now, what would cause us to choose not to grow in any of these areas?
One answer to this question is: we would stop growing and learning if we thought we knew enough. If, in our learning, we came to the lesson that spoke to us and said: “insert your name, you have learned enough, you are a genius, you should stop pursuing knowledge and understanding and skills because you are perfect now at this age of insert your age.” On the one hand, we are perfect just as we are. No matter what age or what innocence or what ignorance, we are perfect where we are; otherwise, we would always be flawed or in need, and then we could never be satisfied and I don’t believe that is our natural state. If we are perfect just where we are, then what to do? Answer: learn.
"The best thing for being sad", replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds.
There is only one thing for it then - to learn."
T.H. White, The Once and Future King, 1939
            The education system came up with the motto. “Lifelong learning” a few years ago and yet once you are out of that system you might  be led to believe that learning is the most boring, contrived, closed minded system ever invented. It could scare people from ever entering another school again. So how do you reconcile the idea that learning is a natural and positive experience with the idea that learning is painful schooling?
            It’s a tricky business to facilitate a learning experience. There are so many variables, and for public education, everyone has to be accommodated. But we are humans and most of us who are adult, recognize the disconnect between what learning is and the education we experienced.
            Learning is an effort to understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in. It is also an effort to get better at things (skills). At the same time we are growing in knowledge and skills, we also have the capacity for meta-cognition, to think about our process for learning skills and knowledge.
            But no matter the path we take in terms of our learning, learning is one of the most natural, most pleasurable experiences we can have as thinking human beings.

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