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The Importance of Learning (Something … Anything)

I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.
Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC – 479 BC)


Today, I’d like to take a moment to impart –what I believe to be– a slice of axiomatic wisdom.  When it comes to education, too often do we find ourselves being shoved through the ‘hoops’, like a cluster of mindless drones.  Whether we like it or not, we are expected, from a very young age, to partake, and to complete, a highly structured scholastic curriculum.  This system, in and of itself, is fine and dandy; my primary quibble, is how we are expected to learn from said curriculum.


To understand something, one needs to go beyond the superficial aspects (ie: purely memorizing).


For example, many science classes stress upon the rote memorization of facts, figures, and equations.  Success in the classroom, therefore, depends upon one’s ability to digest, and ultimately, to regurgitate these snippets of information.  But do we actually learn anything from this process?  I am one to believe that we frequently pay too much attention to the superfluous details.  As a consequence, we fail to understand the big picture; the grand scheme of things.  In other words, we cannot see the forest for the trees.  (The true beauty of science is not found in the names, dates, or equations themselves.  The true beauty is found when we come to realize how and why these equations, theories, etc. seem to be important to humanity as a whole)

Because of this, many students have adopted a modus operandi, in which they tackle each and every subject the same way; through mindless memorization.  Obviously, this is not the most enriching way of acquiring new knowledge!  Students end up forgetting why they are learning this material in the first place.  (I used to be this type of student, but eventually realized that there is more to education than simply being able to recall endless numbers of factoids.  One must develop an appreciation for not only the facts themselves, but, their inner workings as well)

We should not learn things for the sake of memorizing; rather, we should learn for the sake of understanding the world around us, the world before us, and the world after us.  Our educational system, however bureaucratic, truly does have the right intentions.  The knowledge that we are supposed to acquire throughout grade-school has been pruned over the years to give us just enough information to adequately function in today’s society.  But why stop there?!


I believe that people are naturally exploratory.  We are creatures of passion and like to learn about, and devote our time, to things that interest us.  By happenstance, not all of us possess the same passions, as a result, not all of us are willing to devote our time to the same thing.  (This is a good thing by the way; could you imagine if ‘everyone’ in the world had an immense interest in, say, Cheese Rolling or something?  Nothing else would get done!  Diversity is key!)


Educate yourself in every which way you can!  Always keep an open mind and be sure to investigate topics taught outside of the school setting.  Remember, there is always a story behind each fact, and the truth is much more rewarding when you’ve read the story.  We may be finite beings, but we have an infinite number of avenues to traverse; best get started now!

  1. Brittany
    August 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    “The true beauty is found when we come to realize how and why these equations, theories, etc. seem to be important to humanity as a whole”
    As a science nerd disgusted at the high school curriculum for science classes, thank you so much for understanding. Rote memorization is horrid and it upsets me that it’s become the standard method for educators. Because states are focusing on getting students to pass exams, teachers are being forced to cram information down student’s throats with little regard to their real education. This only leads to an ignorant population that doesn’t bother to think beyond what’s given to them
    This is an awesome piece btw

    • August 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      I’m glad you liked it! Few things irk me more than our current methods of education. Many bright students get ‘turned off’ from school because they find learning to be too much of a chore. Sadly, the schooling system, as you said, only exacerbates this issue. If nothing changes, and if students/educators/society at large, consistently fail to value the pursuit of knowledge, then the future seems to be a bit gloomy.

      On the flip side, there are people like you! People who appreciate the fact that much of what we (are forced to) learn in school is only the tip of the iceberg. Thank ‘you’ so much for understanding. The future doesn’t look so bleak after all!

      • Brittany
        August 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm

        I’m very passionate about education reform. In fact I wrote about my vision for a better world a while ago (http://chimericalquips.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/if-the-world-were-more-fair-this-is-what-it-would-look-like/)

        The school system neglects kids that don’t fit the mold of an average student. Those that need more help than ” normal” (normal meaning average) don’t receive it, and those that are brighter than “normal” become bored and slack off. It’s a one size fits all system.

        Also, democracy only works if the public is educated.

  1. March 25, 2015 at 7:14 am

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