Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Rant of the Crowbar

I have spent entirely too much time this week reading rants on blogs all over the 'net. As Ernie (Golden Retriever) and I rounded the corner a block away, I reflected on the growth and maturity that my 19-year-old daughter has demonstrated over the past few months, and I heard my own rant formulating in my mind:

Learning is not mechanization and discipline. This is not so much the rant part; I believe in self-discipline, and I believe in helping others achieve it for themselves. Mechanization is not a bad thing for low-level detail and things that make sense to automate. But here is the rant part: Learning is not one of those things.

Learning is not memorization. Or, at least, the memorization part of learning is not the learning. It's not. Memorization done to remember specific bits of information is a process that is best automated or mechanized, using mnemonics or other tricks of association. Yes, they work. No, they are not learning.

Learning is not about agreeing with authority. Yes, some of you will have a hard time with this one, especially if you view the teacher as the ultimate authority whose years (or degrees, or awards, or publications, or honors.....), or other indicators of wisdom, suggest to you a guru at whose feet a student should worship. I'm not ranting on religion, faith, belief, or even leadership. I'm talking about learning. And agreeing with authority only because it is authority IS NOT LEARNING.

Enough ranting? Maybe. So what is learning?

For me, learning is a process of cognition, connection, expansion, and realization. It is the creation of new connections initiated in the neo-cortex of the human brain. It is the opening of possibilties.

In the age of the Internet, we don't need teachers to point us to data or even information. All of that is (for good or ill) already available, unmediated, for the price of the ability to spell a word that approximates the question you want an answer to.

Learning is about meaning. We need teachers to ask the questions, structure the experiences, reflect back to us our reactions, faclitate the the process that creates the connections. And as teachers, we need to start making learners' independence of us the primary goal of our "instruction."

End of rant. If you read this far - bless you, and forgive me.


  1. I'm an instructor .Your post is so thought provoking. I left my footprint.
    Please leave yours at:

  2. Thanks, Betty. I'm delighted - I'm new to blogging, and was wondering if anyone was actually reading.

  3. Amen!! I just left another comment for you - this one won't be so long. I am a grad student (MPA - Nonprofit Administration) and I have had one instructor like you... hopefully there will be more.

    You've sold me. I'm following your blog.