I have 3 Masters Degrees, which means one thing: I’ve forgotten a whole lot of information. I’ve been blessed with a lot of education, but how much do I actually remember? Maybe 1%, which means for every one hundred things I learned I remember one thing. A ratio of 100:1 is not an encouraging statistic… the following has been provided to you by my grade nine math skills. It could be argued that I remember more than I realize, and I just need the proper memory cues. For instance, I was recently supply teaching a biology class and was surprised at how much I remembered about the parts of a cell: (me with a fill in the blank diagram) “That’s ribosome… and mitochondria… and endoplasmic reticulum!” I was so excited it was like I was seeing celebrities; it was kind of sad, but I was excited because I actually remembered this from many, many years ago… emphasis on many, many years ago. Afterwards, I thought why do I remember this when I can’t remember to zip up my zipper after I go to the washroom? Why can’t I remember peoples’ names, but I remember what a vacuole is? I wish my 1% memory remembered more valuable information like… you know… what was I writing about?
In light of this, the question begs what’s the point of all of this learning if I forget it anyway? Or as young people have asked for generations, how is this thing I’m learning in school going to help me in life? For instance, since finishing school have I used calculus? No. Have I used my ability to make cardboard sculptures like I had to do in art school? (I have a college certificate in art as well… yeah, I have a lot of education) No. Have I used any of the art history I learned, which was my minor at university? Besides being at the Sistine Chapel and trying to impress girls with my knowledge, which was an endeavor destined to not get me a date, no. All of this stuff I’ve learned, or at least the 1% I remember, is in many ways useless. So is education a waste of time? Again, the answer is no because it’s not necessarily what you learn, it’s the skills you develop learning in school that really matter. It’s not about being a human encyclopedia; it’s about developing the skills to be successful in the future including a love of learning.
The number one thing my education taught me is I hate school… I earned that right with all of my years studying. The second thing my education taught me is that I love learning, and what I learn changes me whether I realize it or not. We may not remember everything we learn, but what we feed our brain highly influences the way we think and how we see the world. For instance, you can’t be intelligent or current if all you feed your brain is f words and dirty jokes no more than you can be fit eating chocolate bars for every meal or for you to be human if you eat a vegan diet… that last one may not be true.
Four practical reasons why we need to keep learning is it fights us being bored, being boring (learning gives us new things to talk about), it helps us grow as people (it develops our understanding of the world) and to keep our brain from shriveling up (Alzheimer’s and dementia are not welcome guests). Learning in school in particular is valuable because it teaches us to have a work ethic, organization skills, to follow protocols, schedules and deadlines, and it pushes us to have the courage to face that which intimidates us whether public speaking, writing exams, or meeting new people. Whether we or our children like school or not, we need to remember how valuable it is and how lucky we are to have an education system. We also need to take opportunities like the summer to try a few new things because learning is gould. (I’m aware I spelled that wrong, but how many of you pronounced the ‘l’ when you don’t for ‘should’ or ‘could’? Aw, the English language.)
This week may you take the time to learn something new and share it with someone else… and hopefully it’s a nice thing and not how well you can punch.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to Love Dumb People