Why do we learn? It seems that in the eyes of
many politicians and policy-makers, we learn in order to
perform on tests and to know the same things that everyone
else learns. The current thought seems to be that we
all should focus on learning information rather than
process, on learning by rote rather than learning to be
creative and expressive. We should learn to consume
rather than create, it seems, and these focal points are
definitely showing up in our culture, where fewer people
are able to understand what's going on in our society and
more likely to be addicted to TV shows and video games.
But if our public education systems aren't focusing on
teaching the skills and abilities that will help us to
reach our potential and grow as people, then what do we
do? We can't change the systems, can we? More
than likely we can't, especially on a broad level.
But we can change what we want to get out of our
education-- what we personally want to become through the
education that we receive, and what we want our children
We can affect our own education on any level by asking the
right questions, by paying attention to what's being
taught and questioning it. We need to ask
"why" more and "what" less. We
need to truly listen to the things being taught to us, and
if we don't understand it completely, ask for
clarification on the points that we've missed.
Most teachers yearn for students who will show enough
initiative to think critically about the material that's
being presented to them, and most welcome well-considered
questions. Our educations are up to us, no matter
what's being taught or how it's being taught. And if
we run up against inflexibility, then we need to consider
why someone is being inflexible--and then we can learn
about the teacher and his or her methods and issues.
Thoughts of other people can be very valuable, but they
should act as a catalyst to spark our own thoughts.
If we learn them only to present them later as our own
thoughts, then we haven't learned anything at all--we've
simply attained a certain level of knowledge that won't
truly help us at all in the lives that we're living.
Take charge of what you learn and how you learn it, and
you'll find that you grow much, much more than the
educational systems are designed to help you grow.