Learn Anyway: The idea behind this is that we each learn. Too often we learn in spite of educators, but we learn anyway. We each learn in different ways. We have learned by reading, by talking, by listening, by drawing, by crying and by laughing. Traditional methods for instruction, with kids at their desks and teachers at chalkboards developed for a reason. In spite of cultural fads to the contrary this is a great way to teach and learn. Craziness like Robin Williams ripping up textbooks in Dead Poets Society is novel and can help kids learn. But you can only rip up textbooks one day. Walking in the woods with Thoreau is a great way to learn, but it wont help you pass your math test.

Howard Gardner talked about “multiple intelligences” some twenty years ago, and many thought this was big news: we can call catching a ball a kind of smartness. Well fine, not only that but it may help you get into college. But if my dog can catch better than I can, I find it hard to think she is “smarter.” Gardner was on the right track though, (good job, Howard) although i wil point out that in class he only lectures.

We learn in all kinds of ways. Our brains are these fascinating gadgets that record sensate data, interpret, organize and syhthesize it. They do this all while operating the container in which it lives. The data stream from the outside of the container is constant till we die. We are whelmed if not overwhelmed by this input stream. But it is not just data like the ouch from a burned finger. It is nuanced and interpreted data. So if it is mothers face we give it infantile attention. If it is a golf course we allow our middle aged attention. If it is life threatening we offer our primal adrenal attention. But the stuff that comes in makes us who we are. Or and also: Learning is a byproduct of attention.

As a man thinkest in his heart, so is he, or cogito ergo sum. But we can be more than we tend to be. We can become what our attention allows at some level. This is not the bromide “that you can do anything you set your heart on.” Were this so i would be Jean-Claude Killy, and all teen boys would be rock stars. But we can dictate our thoughts and our attentions at some. This is to say that we can learn. And we can learn in many many ways.

I suggest, not uniquely, that we need to have structure and no structure, we need things that naturally interest us and those things by which we are terribly bored, we need to chase after the butterflies of our own caprice, and we need to put away our childish fancies and dictate our undisciplined attentions to tasks that, while not pleasant, allow us to be pianists and surgeons later.

We need to learn any way we can.


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