When we visualise the word learning, most of us see rows of school benches and well-thumbed textbooks in a haze of chalk dust. Kind of a cliche, huh?
More and more research seems to state that learning not only reduces stress, it delays symptoms of Alzheimer’s and improves memory. As David Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney state in their 2006 paper– even a year of formal education can add more than half a year to a person’s life span!
Despite all the facts, we often make excuses about not having enough time or being too old to learn.
As self-appointed custodians of lifelong learning who run a colearning space in Singapore, we decided to put on our Ghostbusters hats and bust all these myths associated with learning.
Keep your excuses ready, we are ready with our learning arsenal!
The older you get the less you learn
Recent research state that it is the collective experience and information that comes with age makes it harder to recall things as we get older. Yes, neural functions do tend to weaken, but the more we learn and keep our mind sharp, the better our mind functions and the longer we live. Don’t believe us? Ask Doreetha Daniels. At the age of 99, she completed her associate degree in social sciences in 2015 from the College of the Canyons, in Santa Clarita, California. Unlike others of her age, she remains an example of curiosity with her thirst for knowledge!
Learning is boring
Many of you reading this may have had bad school or college experiences. Professors droning on, projects completed for the sake of credits, learning chapters for the sake of it– yes, we get the drift! We have had our share of these moments, as well. But, your past brush with education need not dictate how you could learn today. With the advent of technology, we have many ways to learn – from MOOCs to podcasts to whatnot! Learning sure is fun when we choose how and when and who we learn from! For instance, class host Darwin Antipolo used LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to host an experiential workshop on exploring the creative voice. In another session we analysed people through their handwriting with handwriting analyst and graphotherapist, Divya Gupta. We have an upcoming workshop where Greg Nance will share tips on the power of grit and habits through his own ultra marathon experiences.
Learning takes time
Our educational system places unnecessary value on the “number of years in school and college.” That makes this the worst myth of all. You cannot determine your learning by the amount of time you spend on a subject. This is – to quote Baz Luhrman from the Sunscreen song– "as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.” The gum would yield better results, in all honesty! Trace back to a time when you picked up a new skill in no time. It could have been learning to cycle or swim or understand a concept. That happened because you were in the right frame of mind and had the perfect support to learn it. Learning is all about assimilation. And when you use the best techniques that suit you, you absorb and learn more in a short time.
You are either good at a subject or you are not
Blame our grading system in school for still thinking you are bad at math. Just because you weren’t good at a subject doesn’t mean that you’ll be bad at it forever. Additionally, there could have been other factors influencing this. Your teacher, learning materials, methods, or life circumstances could have stunted you from gaining expertise in a subject. Everybody can learn anything with the right set of tools. We are strong believers of Auguste Gusteau’s (of Ratatouille fame) motto – Anyone can cook! Or learn, for that matter.
Facts = Knowledge
Learning is a combination of gaining new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, experiences or preferences. Facts make the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn and so many different forms of learning. Reducing it to one aspect is unfair and defeats the whole idea of what learning is all about. In the coming years, concepts like team management, leadership, creativity are going to be more valued. Even more so than factual knowledge of software and tools. This is enough proof that we need to open our minds about the concept of learning.
Rereading and learning by-rote helps us gain knowledge
While this might have helped us pass those subjects of a fringe interest, we cannot apply this for life. To use computer parlance, rereading or learning by rote only feeds your RAM, not your ROM. RAM cannot hold data without the power of recent learning, quick recollection, etc. But, your ROM is in-built and indelible. To store anything there, you need to bake it into your system. You will need to understand a subject to assimilate the knowledge in your ROM.
The traditional school prepares you for life
There is nothing further from the truth than this statement! School scratches the surface of our knowledge. It builds curiosity and helps us adopt a growth mindset. Life is a whole different ball game played on a new set of rules we keep learning and unlearning. Add to this the influence of our rapidly changing world with its technology, wildfires, global warming, reducing food and fossil fuel supply, etc. You cannot afford to bank on what you learnt 10+ years back to sail you through. Learning is a lifelong activity that will help you grow and navigate life. There is no bargaining here!
Learning is a universal leveller. It is for everybody across all ages, race, geographies, etc. While our personal experiences and bias may have influenced our perception on learning, we hope that this article gave you pause. As intelligent and independent humans of the modern world, we need to rebuild our ideas about learning and continue to pursue it in our unique ways. Only a lifelong learning mindset will help us grow as a person, society and world.