The following is adapted from my booklet about Learn to Learn, "Fifty Nifty Ways to Help Your Child Become a Better Learner". Should you like to have a copy, please send me your name and US mail address and I'll send you one. Or, it is available as a e-book on Amazon. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
We are in the midst of the Information Age. The world is changing at a dizzying pace. Consider these issues:
• If an engineer or physician finished medical school or engineering school ten years ago, and has not substantially updated his skills, he is simply out of date. A competent physician needs to know how to learn from his experiences, how to analyze those experiences, and turn them into useful generalizations or theoretical inferences.
• I idly asked my pharmacist a few days ago what percentage of the medications on the racks behind her were not available ten years ago. She thought for a minute, and estimated 80%.
• Some pundit said that the amount of information available to humankind at the time of the birth of Christ doubled by the year 1750. Sounds reasonable to me. It doubled again by 1900, that time taking 150 years to do what previously took 1750 years. Again, this seems sensible. Then another doubling to 1950, again by 1960.... and now, knowledge is doubling about every five years. Doubling!
• Wireless communication, computers...the entire digital world, is changing so fast no one can hope to keep up.
• Our grandparents, maybe even our parents were able to live a lifetime on the information they got in school from the then adequate information transfer system of learning. You and I cannot, and our children certainly can not even approach it. We have to learn from experiences as we go along.
• When content is presented exclusively as a body of knowledge to be transferred, learners can justifiably conclude that meaning comes from outside themselves. Not true. Real meaning comes from within.
• Learning the processes of learning is exciting, and supports additional curiosity rather than merely treating the learner as a passive recipient. We are dealing with “living” wisdom, or understanding, rather than only dead knowledge.
• Learning to learn is dynamic. It carries the seeds of its own transformation.
• Simple knowledge can be transferred from teacher to student, but wisdom and understanding result only when the learner “processes” the knowledge. The learn to learn teacher or parent supports the student in translating knowledge into understanding.
• Tom Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, describes the schooling of Islamic boys and young men in the Middle East. Taught exclusively by clerics, the teaching style is a classic of learning by transmission only. We call it indoctrination. When they attempt higher education and a professor asks them to think about an issue they have no way to do it. They have never before been asked to think or feel, to solve problems, only to accept what they are told. They therefore revert to even deeper fundamentalism. Would a dictator like a learn to learn approach? Not at all. He wants and needs his subjects to be indoctrinated, not to think for themselves. Learn to learn can be considered education for democracy.