What is learning? What is study? What is school?
Learning how to do something; and studying
a subject in a school setting are different things entirely. Typically if one
is successful in learning to do something they become more competent. And if
they are successful in a school setting, they will get a high grade. A high grade
means that someone has mastered a school environment. It is no guarantee of any
competence beyond that of managing their activities well in school. One can learn
without studying and can study without learning.
Most people who are involved in education:
teachers; administrators and students; will not admit to this. They think of
schools as “places of learning” when they are places of studying.
The first thing to do is distinguish one
from the other. We will describe what learning is. Then we will take a cold and
unsentimental look at study and school. In that way we will start to learn what
school is and how to master studying.
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– LEARNING is a naturally occurring process of a person adapting to the demands of his surroundings.
There are three
components to learning: perception; interpretation and integration.
Definition – PERCEPTION
is the sensing of items that make up the surroundings of an organism.
Perception can occur from the first
instant of life and can continue until all the way to the moment of death. A
person can perceive and can recall what they have perceived.
Definition – EXPERIENCE
is the result of an act of perception.
Definition – RETENTION
is the ability to hold on to mental impressions of what has been experienced.
Definition – MEMORY is
the facility of organisms to retain mental perceptions
from past experiences.
Definition – RECALL is
the ability of an organism to experience the trace impressions of a perception from the past.
All of this only lays the groundwork
For example, a baby experiences his body
and his surroundings. At some point a baby has the uncomfortable experience of
the environment, it is hungry. The baby has a problem.
In the process of solving it; the
baby faces its first multiple-choice question.
The baby can do limited things, it can:
(d) make noise;
(e) none of the above;
(f) all of the above.
The baby has experiences of having done
these in the past. It has retained memory of these experiences.
Let’s say the baby does (d) makes
noise; and gets fed.
Definition – INTERPRETAION
is the comparison of many past impressions to see if they are the identical, similar (associated with) or dissimilar (not
associated with) each other.
Hmm says the baby, I made noise and
got fed, perhaps making noise is associated with getting fed.
Definition – VERIFICATION
is the action of an person testing an interpretation..
When the kid is hungry again, it makes
noise again, and if it is fed again. The association of the two experiences is
Definition – EXPERIMENTATION
is the process of repeated tests of an interpretation.
The result of experimentation can
be that the interpretation tested proves to be valid or bogus.
Definition -- INTEGRATION is
the process of retaining the results of experimentation.
The baby feels some mastery over his environment. He feels competent. He has learned a strategy that he can use again when he is hungry. Eventually, the kid will learn more complex strategies for getting fed. Life is challenging. But learning is this simple.
A person learns to walk, talk the
language used by their family, or use a computer. These things can be mastered
in day to day life--outside of school. The reward for competence is that life
becomes easier, and perhaps the person gets some incidental praise.
– LEARNING is a naturally occurring process of an organism adapting to the demands of its surroundings.
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– UNDERSTANDING is a term that people use to name the visible evidence that learning has taken place. For example, understanding can be seen in a change in the adoptive behavior of the individual.
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– STUDYING the social activity that is similar to learning in many respects, but is constrained by factors of politics,
custom, and money.
Farm animals can learn, but they
probably can not study. Learning is easy, but studying is more difficult; because
studying necessarily involves politics, custom and money. Politics, custom and
money make up complex barriers to learning because they can bias how an experience is perceived; how it is interpreted; and
if it is integrated or not.
Definition – SCHOOL is
a name for the formal environment for studying. They are businesses. Schools are political, they are bound by custom.
Definition – a STUDENT
is a person learning within a school environment.
In a natural learning situation, it is
highly likely that full understanding can be achieved. But in most study situations
(schools) full understanding is not easily achieved. Misunderstanding or partial
understanding is the best result that most who study can expect. This sad fact
is so prevalent that there is an underlying cynicism in the schools that seems to assert that learning is not possible.
The person who does not accept and
deal with a school environment will have difficulty learning in a school. They
might be able to learn in a library, or some situation outside of school.
So the first thing to learn is how to adapt
to the school environment. A person must learn how to be a student.
The reason people chose to try to learn
in a constricting environment like a school is because schools give credentials--evidence that one has complied, conformed
and that money (tuition etc.) has changed hands. A school can issue a diploma and a transcript.
A diploma and a transcript are official
documents. The way a student gets these documents is by entering in a formal
and contractual (about money) relationship with a school and a formal (political) relationship its agents, the teachers. A
class, be it in an ivy covered building, or on the internet, is a continuing negotiation with a teacher with a grade as the
thing sought. The teacher has the authority give a grade denoting excellent scholarship
or one denoting failure. The student pays his money to the school in exchange
for the opportunity to persuade the teacher to give a grade that denotes excellence.
If it sounds mercenary, that is because
it is mercenary.