While my focus is on university and secondary education, I believe that understanding ones’ own philosophy of learning and why one values learning can be helpful for all ages. Learning a skill, a craft, or doing something one has long desired to do (like write a book), also benefit from being evaluated on the same criteria as why one would want to go to university or college. Anything that will be an investment of time or money should have its “Why” fully understood before beginning.
Note: if you haven’t yet read the first part of this series, you can check it out here.
Sometime in history, our school system and philosophy of learning changed. The system went from encouraging and teaching logic, creativity, and questioning, to being exam-o-centric. Instead of teaching the process of learning, today’s children and youth grow up learning the process of testing. And when results are emphasised, rather than the journey, learning is stifled. When the process of learning is emphasised, there is no need to cheat on tests, or use Cliff’s Notes instead of reading the book, because it is the journey not the end result that one is focused on.
There is a joke that often circulates online: “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its entire life thinking it is stupid.”
With common core curriculum, standardized testing, and many of the faucets of modern day education encourage “cookie cutter” results. Churning out generations of children who do not know how to think, reason, or go against the flow of what their peers are doing. Unfortunately the comment by the professor in C. S. Lewis book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is still relevant today, “Logic! Why don’t they teach logic in these schools?”
With the challenges presented by our school systems, the first question when approaching any secondary education should be:
Why Do You Want to Learn?
Because it is “expected,” “normal,” or “what all my friends are doing” should not be the knee-jerk answer. One of these, or all three of them, may well be in your list of reasons. However, these three answers should not be the main reasons you are getting secondary education. Other answers that are more beneficial, but still a little suspect can include, “it will enable me to get a good job,” “it sounds interesting,” and “I sort-of like the idea of this degree…” While jobs are important, remember to look at the statistics, just because you have a degree in a field will not insure that you get a job in that field.
If your main reason(s) for getting a degree is because “it’s expected” and “it will enable me to get a good job” you may well be in for a rude awakening. These reasons are external motivation. Unfortunately external motivation is like an alarm clock. It jerks us out of our reverie, but we hit the snooze as quickly as possible so we can go back to what is comfortable and normal.
Let’s take a minute and look at my own university experience.
I went into a leadership program, with a focus on women’s ministry. While I had another program I could have attempted at a different school, when I evaluated the two programs I went with the one that got me the most excited, the most revved up and eager to LEARN.
I went to University, not because it was expected, or I could get a good paying job, or even because I wanted to have the “university experience.” I went to University because the degree I was getting made me excited to learn. I was passionate about the subject, it was something I could research, argue about, and wanted to fully understand. It was also a subject and course of study that I felt would give me a solid foundation for whatever I chose to do afterward, whether in local ministry or international missions, or just as a writer or parent. I chose the degree that would give me the best learning foundation for pursuing what I was most passionate about afterward.
Why Is Your Focus Important?
Focus is important for many reasons, not the least of which is your wallet. Someone who is doing university “just because” due to parental expectations, friends all going there, it’s a life experience, or some other external motivation, is going to have a challenge. If you’re there for the experience, then where is the motivation to study and learn when there are parties, friends, and a whole slew of other fascinating things to do – that are far more interesting than having your nose in books and your behind in a lecture hall all day.
If, and when, your focus is on the learning itself several things are easier to evaluate. Such as, is this how I learn best? Which of these practices is harming my grades/wallet/sanity? Is there a better way to do this?
While my local church community had no issues with me going to Bible school and getting a degree, they did have a huge issue with the way I chose to do it. I achieved my degree online. This action meant that I was in it for the learning, not to end up with a “Mrs” degree. However, I was not going to university to please them, but to learn and prepare my mind and understanding for whatever I would do next. My focus and goals were on learning, which meant that I could discount their negative feedback because my “why” was secure.
Take a few minutes, if you are thinking of starting anything that will take your time and answer the question “What is your ‘why?’” With anything that will take a large investment of time, money, or both, always ask the first question “why do I want this.” When your “why” is secure, you will be able to persevere even when it’s hard, money’s uncertain, and even when the people you know and trusted are saying you’re an idiot for even thinking of succeeding at that.
Taking a Step Back:
Going back a little to what was discussed in the first part, money is important because it helps us reach our goals. Our goals are important because they give us direction, purpose, and meaning in our lives. Our learning should always tie into our goals, as should our money management. All our goals should work together. Society’s expectations are should not be reason enough to have a goal-dichotomy in our lives. When we are learning for the sake of learning, and have a good foundation, we can strategically plan how to succeed.
When I was doing the online courses, I found that I was usually the youngest person in the class. There was only one time when I was not the youngest, and that was because of a 17 year old homeschooled Missions Kid who had started university a year and a half before most people graduate high-school. The rest of the time, my 18-21 year old self was learning alongside 35-45 year old adult men and women, often with full-time jobs, and families and kids to take care of. Many of the men I learned alongside where already involved in full-time ministry, and the degree they were getting was to finalize their equipage for the ministry they were ALREADY involved in or leading.
Their philosophy of ministry was combining with their beliefs about learning, and money management, to make them more effective and successful.
What you believe will always, always, always, inform on what you end up doing. If you believe learning is essential, you will try always be learning, even informally. If you believe learning is extraneous, you won’t.
Be aware of your beliefs, they determine if your goals succeed.
Back To You:
How do you think your values and philosophy of learning change how you learn?
Do you agree or disagree with the above points? Leave a comment!