Learning to Learn


There’s a systematic approach to learning something new that formal education teaches us. In classrooms, we’re guided by the discipline of lesson plans, textbooks, and weekly assignments. All of these structures teach us that there’s a discipline to learning – reading, research, problem solving, and repetition – that’s the most valuable skill we can internalize.

Lots of “facts” have changed since I took basic science class in primary school. Genetic engineering is a reality, and not a mere possibility. We have fewer planets (poor Pluto) but more understanding of Mars. There are new dietary concerns like gluten and GMO, but less fat-free craziness. We used to print our social security number on everything as a matter of course, and now we don’t trust our own managed passcodes and processes.

No matter what the advancement, the learning is still old school. You still have to consume information voraciously, consider your sources, and look for opposing opinions. It’s more challenging in the days of blogs, but source credibility is still paramount. And after you read, you must proactively practice your learning – in order to keep your mind sharp and your arguments cogent.

It’s struck me that I’ve been lazy about my learning recently, and not nearly systematic enough in either my ingestion or practice. It’s easy enough to do at an older age — we’re not in school anymore, and there’s so much information at our fingertips thanks to services like Wikipedia and Bing. If I’m bored, I might listen to a TED Talk, but I don’t seek out the opposing viewpoint or look askance at the speaker’s credentials.

Intellectual laziness, and I’ve been infected with it. It’s about darn time to stamp out these bad habits and get more systematic again.

Now, it’s time to select a topic.


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