Recently I was asked to write an article for the school magazine being edited by the Student Council of my school. I gladly obliged and appreciated the request. Here’s what I wrote regarding the purpose of learning.
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”
“Learning without thought is labor lost.”
“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
Man has obviously come out victorious in the evolutionary battle of the species as evident from our exponential growth in the last few centuries. In the aftermath however, we have countless endangered animals, melting ice, increased CO2 in atmosphere, diminishing rainforest and resources, just to name a few. This raises the question, are we really victorious then? No doubt, humanity has come a long way since the dark ages and the destructive world wars. In some ways we live in a more prosperous and peaceful time compared to the past. There have been fewer conflicts, increased cooperation and liberty for many around the world. Porous borders has made immigration a norm and increased opportunities for success. Clearly there are things that one could and should celebrate of our achievements as humanity but to be honest I am a little worried about the impending future. Nevertheless I am hopeful, as I am confident of the resilience of humanity in overcoming adversities.
By nature the human species is selfish, out to meet it’s own needs for survival. In the area of learning, I believe is no different. Ask yourself, what is your primary objective for being in school? Ask the ancients, who looked up to the sky and saw millions of flickering lights, not know what they are and how far they could be. Imagine the millions of questions that went through their heads. That intense desire to know how the world and things around them work drove them to learn fuelled by their curiosity. No doubt many of those questions are already answered and the problems being investigated today does not interest us as much as updating our status on BBM or Facebook. That beckons the question? Why do we learn then?
Mostly we learn in order to enter a good University, get a respectable qualification and hope to get a good job that would lead to a desirable standard of living. That means passing exams, taking tuitions to increase or maintain our grades and do past year papers. Sadly it’s a necessary process albeit not a meaningful one. We need to compete, as there are many others who are out to get the same limited places, so we are told. Is that all learning is about? Not that I am implying there’s nothing noble in doing so and I believe to a certain extent we do need to have that mindset. But it’s a shame if learning is all but reduced to obtaining a paper and not about appreciating, marveling and applying the knowledge that we’ve been bestowed to understand.
We are at the crossroads of learning. Learning but not reflecting and applying the knowledge we’ve obtained don’t deserve the name ‘learning’. Firstly, we need to appreciate what we learn. Secondly, that appreciation needs to lead to decisions that will benefit humanity and preserve the world for the future generations. It needs to continually help us evaluate the decisions we make daily. Everything is interconnected; a decision we make impacts everything else. Because I need a wooden bed set, a shop in Jakarta will order wood from Kalimantan. A company there will hire loggers to chop a tree that is hundred of years old, destroying the habitat in the process. However bribe had to be paid to a forest ranger as the tree was cut in a protected forest. The Governor also turns a blind eye as the logging companies are the ones who pay for his election campaign. The amount of O2 is reduced by a miniscule. You know what, I think I can live without that wooden bed set!
What are you learning for?