Why Learn?

Plots of quadratic equations with discriminant...

Let’s start the year off with a question I’m sure you’ve heard if you have kids. It goes something like this: Why learn? “Why do I have to learn all this stuff in (math, history, chemistry – pick one) when I’ll never use it anyway?”  The easy way out is to remind them that you had to labor through it and it’s the unfortunate lot of children that their play gets interrupted to acquire certain life skills. However, in an age when damn near everything anyone has ever learned is pretty much accessible via a search of some sort, and access to search is immediately available everywhere, why learn indeed? Well, here’s why, and it’s a business lesson as well.
Some folks will argue that there is limited need to remember what I’ll call public facts – formulae, historical dates, etc. – since they’re widely available. The only thing we really need to recall are personal memories and even many of those are available to us on the social networks we populate (and some folks would prefer that they remain very personal given some I’ve what I’ve seen on Facebook and elsewhere…). Taken to its logical extreme, kids should be learning to use search engines and fix their devices, not how to solve quadratic equations. More relevant to business, many younger employees seem happy to learn where on-line they can plug-in data but don’t particularly care to understand the business logic behind making great business decisions.  They fill in the reports and puke back data but don’t really get how that stuff is used.

So here’s why you go to school and why you pay your dues in business:  to learn.  If you think it’s about learning facts, that’s wrong.  Maybe you’re being instructed by folks who are teaching to a test of some sort but what you’re there to learn is to think.  The answer to “why” is to process information in order to make good decisions.  In fact, one could argue that non-linear processing of information is the most important life skill a person can acquire.   Waking up those synapses can be fun but even when it isn’t it’s like going to the brain gym – something you have to do.

Facts are readily available – good judgment about how to act on them isn’t.   Let me know how I can help.

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Filed under Growing up, Helpful Hints

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