The Art of Unlearning

unlearn

We have often been taught to learn via a “top-down” approach in the form of the transmission of information from teachers/parents to students. We are also often given the impression that the people who taught and advise us are – more often than not – right.  And when we forget something, we are often encouraged to relearn the concepts and in the case of driving, the practical applications. When our skills are found to be obsolete, we are asked to upgrade them by attending more courses, and thus gaining more knowledge on top of what we already know. Although we learn new things, we are never asked to question our “prior knowledge”, which is what we already know. Therefore, if we were to create a model of what contemporary learning looks like, it will probably consist of various concentric circles, representing the layers of learning that we as learners have to go through through the years, with us at the core.

It is time that we learn how to unlearn.

To unlearn, we need to question. At times, we may even need to be skeptical about what we know and really examines if what we know is true. We will also need to think of any counterexamples in our life to prove ourselves wrong so that we can now be right. Consider the following statements that all of us may probably be familiar with:

  • A beautiful person is someone who is skilled in personal grooming and has symmetrical facial features.
  • When you accommodate too much, you are actually placing yourself at a disadvantage.
  • There are limited resources in this world, so one must compete to get what one wants.
  • In this society, there will always be some individuals that you take to, and some you don’t. That’s life.
  • Extroverts have higher chances of promotion in the workplace than introverts.

Let’s consider the truth of each statement.

In this contemporary society where images of beauty and perfectionism proliferate (think of the advertising posters on retail outlets, the practice of cosmetic surgery and the desire of being slim), it is not surprising that people take to the idea of being perfect in their physical appearances. Most of us now take great effort in self-grooming, which really isn’t a bad thing. However, most of us have neglected to develop the “inner beauty”, which encompasses the intrinsic values of thriftiness, respect and the likes. Personally, I have met many friends and acquaintances who may be average looking but they contribute substantially to charitable work and have a heart of gold.

As for the second statement, I do find that being accommodating is a virtue, as this is indicative of one placing others before self. And from personal experiences, I feel that being accommodating often wins the respect of friends. And contrary to the statement that being accommodating is placing oneself at a disadvantage, I feel that being accommodating has enabled me to win the rapport of more friends than before. I know of one instance when a guy’s girlfriend has asked for a split merely because of the fact that he is too accommodating. However, this merely illustrates the fact that there is a personality difference and the relationship is not going to last anyway. This incident does not – in any way – diminish the virtue of being accommodating. 

For the third statement, it is true that there are limited resources in the world. However, does one really need to compete to get what one wants? Is it really not possible to compromise to reach a consensus through peaceful rather than aggressive means?

And the fact that there will be people who take to us and some who don’t as well as the fact that we will take to some people and not the rest is not true.  The fact that almost every parent cares for their children is a very good example that is indicative of this fact. Not considering dysfunctional families, we can safely assert the fact that whenever a parent praise/chastise a child, it is for the child’s own good. Most parents love their children to such a degree that other forms of relationship pales in comparison with it.  Considering that this is the case, if we are accepting of every other person in this world, it is hard for others not to respect and like us in return. Of course, there will be a minority who might not but this is not within our control. What we can do is to try to be accepting of others in this world. “Our loving heart can encompass the world” is true.

There’s often a misconception that extroverts stand a higher chance in promotion in life. While extroverts have an advantage when it comes to making friends, introverts often have a rich inner life and are stronger observers (precisely because they tend to listen and observe more). As long as we are willing to take the initiative by making the first move to communicate with the introverts, we will realise that most of them are very pleasant people to be befriend.

From the above discussion, it can be observed that it’s important for us to unlearn, to question our own belief systems that we feel has guided us well so far in life.  I hope that this entry has created an awareness in all of us that our belief system which seems so perfect can be so flawed.  

I will be concluding the segment on the latest trend in educational development here, and will provide updates as and when there’s something worth noting.

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