How to Learn to Unlearn

Senge’s approach to reflect the process of learning makes use of analogy of a goldfish in water. Just like a goldfish is considering the water around as invisible to itself, we as the 21st Century educators don’t observe the similarities between our surroundings along with routine activities and assembly line – the most important invention of industrial era. According to Senge in Schools that Learn (2000), the environmental factors around are becoming so much embedded in our daily routine life that we usually fail to make observations. It is when awaken ourselves to notice the changes and altering patterns around then we are starting to proceed into our learning journey as beginners. We then are on verge of developing potential to inquire, reflect and engage in problem solving. We can consciously unlearn the habit of ignoring these patterns.

The Assembly Line

Institutions tend to preserve the problems they were designed to solve.
            – Clay Shirky

Schools today are committed towards solving the one major issue of industrial age: How to effectively transition the young minds from the previous age of farming to the new industrial age? Our world has advanced rapidly from farming to industrial era. It is now a digital information center and a global village. Yet when it comes to the education and classroom system, it seems we are still reliving the past. The children are used to follow older obsolete patterns of being arranged into similar groups, carry their heavy backpacks filled with book and being shepherded into straight lines in starting hours of their day. They then proceed the day by sitting in some specified corner of a tiny desk and absorb the information being delivered from the teachers in their lectures. These lectures are then proceeded linearly in a routinely pattern, the start and end of each pattern is marked by ringing of a bell, after which either the same or different teacher assumes the role of delivering different lecture in similar pattern to previous one.

Learning Differences or Disabilities?

 Our assembly-line thinking forces us to treat the natural variety of human beings as somehow
aberrant because they do not fit the needs of the machine.
            – Peter Senge

The industrial model may have been devised for the service of human brain, yet it does nothing to support the way of working of brain or more importantly, how a human being really learns. The objective approach to assembly line learning is actually determined by someone else. The pattern of learning along with content and procedure of learning is independent of an individual’s approach. Someone else is in charge of all this, providing a very linear pattern for all this for everyone.

This is where the defect starts. By putting a general agreed upon standard to the process of learning, the process is going against the very nature of learning that cannot be standardized. The standards of learning are purely social constructs.

When this unfair standardization takes place, the learning differences are created since no one mind is similar to other. Therefore, this induces disabilities in our daily lives. The approach of assembly line to removing these disabilities and solve the big problems now created is even more detrimental. It pushes the problems to the side.

A few moments of thoughts should be given to the fact that many diseases such as dyslexia, dysgraphia were absent before the industrial era. This is because the process of learning was not invaded by anyone. It was unique and individual. Therefore, everyone learned in the manner best suited to oneself. This detrimental standardization on learning patterns has done nothing but harm the student potential to learn actively. There are many students who fall out of the box that society has created. They are labeled disable and hence the message of not being good enough is actively delivered. This hampers a society’s progress, since now the learning power has significantly decreased due to lack of participation by everyone. Instead of disability of students, it is fair to argue whether our system is appropriate for progress.

Teaching Multitasking Skills

Cathy Davidson who is a dyslexic professor at Duke has provided some important points about internet in her book, Now You See It. She has discussed the influential aspect of internet in terms of its effect on us regarding communication and interaction. We have now entered a successful age of information technology. Among all her valid points, she has particularly explained the aspect of multitasking. It has been said to induce deeply rewarding sense of contexts yielding more efficiencies and self-rewards. In my opinion, the concept of this learning is quite individual. Some people may refer to twitter as an annoying platform, I do not. I make good use of its facilities in terms of gaining resources, getting answers and building strong networks. None of this would have been possible obviously without presence of twitter.

Davidson has further added some points to multitasking discussion, inquiring the types of mind better wired to deal with the mobile and information technology world. The individuals with ADHD have amazing capability to function in this age. Yet the norms of society deem it as mental disorder. In the present century, the ADHD may exceed the normal human brain in performance. This is something which will take time to digest for a casual mind.


Davidson, Cathy. (2011). Now You See It. Viking Press.

Senge, Peter. (2000). Schools That Learn. Crown Publishing Group.

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