September Topic Addressed: Do I really learn in school?

Well, the answer is obvious, and at the same time, not.
In my English class, we were given a handout titled “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers. Although written in the 1950s (or somewhere just after WWII), Sayers purports that the students of her time were not stupid, but were not taught the way she was. Her methods (as described in the essay) of teaching can be represented thus: like an artist “plays” with a new brush to get the “feel” of the instrument, so must a student be taught basics in order to understand the bigger intricacy of life. Sayers felt that education should not be a sole excuse to cram young minds with the latest technology, but that a careful study of science as it relates to language and culture as it relates to economy, should provide a student with the necessary platform from which to build his own logic and reasoning. Because many “subjects” are taught separately in today’s schools, students are not sure how to connect one idea to the next–a direct result of a shaky logical platform of thought.

Do I learn in school?
I have been blessed with a) a natural common sense, b) an ability to use that common sense, and c) parents who would show me the consequences of ignoring that common sense… Apparently, I am one of few. This saddens me! How can parents not care? It is forgive-able if the parent tries to instill common sense in a child, but unforgivable if they feel that such instruction is “military” or “mean”. How then should a child learn if he is given no solid boundaries upon which he can stand?? I remember that my parents always used to say “If you feel uncomfortable about doing ____, you can tell your friends that we’d rather you didn’t.” This gave me not only a boundary, but an authority. I’ll explain: a boundary becomes a line that because of personal conviction, religious conviction, etc., I will choose not to cross. That boundary comes with my parents’ blessing attached–I do not answer to my peers, but to my parents–and thus I have the authority to refuse at all costs because I know my parents will back me up.

When in high school, I can be honest–No, I didn’t learn much. At all. Yes, I learned an advanced form of mathematics, as well as an amazing appreciation for geologists. The problem is that my math isn’t the best to start with, and that Earth/Space science class should have followed a basic chemistry class instead of coming before it. Fascinating material–really, just, there are very few things that I can repeat correctly from those classes. I learned what I needed to, took the tests, and passed the classes.
Now is when I’m learning. Here, at college. I am discovering how to use my God-given mind, and to wrap it around concepts of which I’ve only ever dreamed. Teachers ask me to consider theories of other students, other philosophers, etc. They ask me to question why and how–why do I believe that evolution from single-celled organisms is improbable? How is my generation more self-centered than the last, and can anything be done? What is our effect on our selves and on the countries around us? What are the motivations of people who are rich vs. those who are poor? Why does the “little guy” rarely get recognition? What makes the “hot topics” of today? What is the nature of culture, and can that nature ultimately be learned?

It is common sense that motivates learning, I think. This and a quest for common knowledge. By learning the basics, I am free to discover the eccentricities and the “or’s” of each case and apply them to other concepts which may appear to have no correlation. I believe that knowledge is the key and the curse of the world in which I live: by knowledge we increase our understanding of others and their culture to better serve our interests. Rarely is knowledge of others used to accomplish purely admirable means. Even if a company markets products that are environment-friendly, one must wonder what other tests showed a negative effect before the “good” product. Don’t get me wrong, I think humans are stewards of the environment, and that we should treat it well, but the “Green”-kick we’re on scares me: is it just a passing fad like the exercise nuts of the ’80s? To top it off, it was knowledge that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden–just a thought.
Perhaps knowledge is like a tongue: it can be used for both good and evil.

See Mom and Dad? I am learning something!
Have a wonderful Wednesday. Keep safe.

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