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A Measure of the Social Value of Learning

The Canadian Council on Learning has published the 2006 Composite Learning Index, which illustrates the point made in kevvyd's post (and my response) of April 28, and my own musings of April 18. Key message here: Learning is about more than memorizing subject matter.

The process of learning, at any stage of life, is about learning to see the world, to define it, to figure out how others see it. The process of learning is the process of creating meaning, both in our own lives and in our relationships to others on an individual level, on a community level, and ultimately on a global scale. You learn every day, you just may not be aware of it - it is not confined to the classroom, and is not confined to 'facts'.

The most important way in which we learn is when we realize our assumptions or our reactions to social conditions or events is not as accurate or appropriate as we'd like to think. Educational theorist Jack Mezirow refers to this moment as the 'disorienting dilemma', the moment when you think, "Oh, crap, this is wrong". It's never a comfortable experience, nor a pleasant one - but it is necessary. The difficulty is that we have to be brave enough to put ourselves in that situation, and to allow ourselves and our frames of reference to be transformed, and not isolate ourselves so all we ever hear is the comforting repetition of dogma that lets us cope but leaves us incomplete and unfulfilled. It is only when we explore other ways of looking at the world and challenging our own suppositions and beliefs that we can become real human beings that can meaningfully contribute to our relationships, communities, and the world at large.

I don't know everything, nor would I claim to. I don't claim to be right about everything, but I share my opinions anyway. I learn a lot from my compatriots here on the blog, from other blogs, from the people I encounter, and, yes, in class as well (I'm sure any of my profs who read this are relieved to hear that). It's my willingness to learn, my openness to new ideas that give me some measure of intellectual fulfillment.

Hearing and believing the same messages over and over, doing the same things over and over because they help me get through life without thought, would be a hollow pursuit. People need to realize that there are other ways of looking at the world, that there is a lot of work to be done inside to make us better people, and that those 'in charge' have their own motivations for acting one way, while actually doing something different. If this report tells us that we're doing a good job in creating future citizens who are capable of questioning the party line, then the educational system is already a success. The work ethic we all need is to be willing to work on our ethics. Education, and more specifically our schools, should help our children find that out for themselves.

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice to say that we need to be skeptical when something is done 'for our own good'. We need to be empowered to decide what our own good is, and try our best to make our good the one that does the most good for others. We can't wait for social justice, my friends, we have to build it from the inside out. And our schools should be the place where the bricks to build a better, more just society are created.

Remember, though, it's never too late. We start to build when we start to learn - and learning never stops.

Bang on... our most successful learning experiences are those we take responsibility for.

Just from my own experiences, learning the levels of learning (i.e. Bloom's taxonomy of learning) has enhanced my own learning processes. It's easier to break information down and absorb it if you know what to expect at each stage of learning.

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