In the previous entry on this topic I took a bit of time to outline that
- We all learn
- We all think
And you are now thankful that you have taken time to read these observations. My point is that thinking and learning must not be seen as activities associated with any type of educational plan. Those activities are not foreign or separate at any level from our breathing, heart beating and so forth. This is no small point. We have this term, “education,” set aside to delineate a structured process that allows this learning stuff to occur. While one might argue that no one feels this way, the entire pre-K industry is founded on this odd notion: Learning is better when conducted by professionals. …or the don’t-try-this–at-home mentality.
For my point it is vital that we see brains as these aggressive gadgets that are not idly humming a little tune as they wait for instructions, but rather they are these fabulous processors, which are being fed whopping amounts of data around 2/3rds of the day. Further they possess appetite or hunger as one of their key features. We may call this curiosity, but these machines are ravenous. Consciousness is defined by learning.
When my daughter asked me what sleep was I told her that sleep is when we are not recording information. Recording information allows our little internal clock to turn. Time passes to our understanding only because we are aware that it passes. If you are day dreaming, that implies that you are disconnected for the time-passing majig right? You were not “in the moment.” We see the pretty pictures and sensations passing by and our linear beings take note. This “note taking” is learning. In normal circumstances one seldom dreams their life away, they rather experience it from every dog bite to every discovery of a new toy. We learn, learn, learn. Learning is breathing.
The cynic may note how the dimmest and least informed in his/her community is distinguished from the brightest and best by the structured education that he/she received. Yes, I get that. Kids who were raised by wolves seem less likely to manage a Chik-Fil-A than those with a high school education. This I too have noted. But kids raised by wolves have still been recording massive amounts of data and are way smart in what Howard Gardner describes as the “wolf intelligence.” (OK, Howard never said that, but you take my point.) We learn all the time. Kids raised by wolves and kids raised in homes devoted to viewing NASCAR and Oprah have learned different things. And it’s not just the kids, we all have a finite amount of time and a finite amount of attention to spend. If we lived to each be 300-years-old ask yourself if we would be 4x smarter at the end of the day? But i cannot go there right now…
Learning can be structured. Sometimes this is a good thing. Wolf children have a hard time fitting in. Kids raised by cave folk probably fit in pretty well, with other cave folk anyway. They learned how to gnaw on bones, how to avoid getting batted around by mom and dad, and how to drag or be dragged off into other caves for long meaningful relationships. The idea is that the things taught then and the things taught now are different in content but not necessarily in scale. The subtleties of advanced hunting 401 may rival the details in anatomy 401, or The History of Europe 401. We have a sense that our great education is so much more complex than just learning to keep the garbage pile a ten minute walk from the camp, but learning how to figure amortization schedules is arbitrary and artificial compared to keeping the garbage ten minutes from camp. And being separate from refuse may the more important lesson.
Next go round I will get to what the artificial structure and mechanisms for learning might look like, and then on to what may assist us in the learning stuff…