Learning [2009]

An essay I wrote in high school in the style of Thoreau. I still struggle with and contemplate these ideas ten years later

These last three days I have partaken in an experiment of my own devising. Testing my own will to succeed, to better my own well being, pushing myself from the mold of normalcy to a higher plateau of moral righteousness.

I departed to a port of higher learning, battling the sea monsters and dragons that I met on the way.

Many in today’s modern world have abandoned ship and are left floating in this Sea of Ambiguity, not able to reach the shores of enlightenment.

I do not understand, with the amount of information available to the average citizen through the marvels of technology, how little people are actually learning.

They learn facts and dates, but they don’t become any wiser because of them. They learn of Hitler and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but not the effects they had on our own existence.

They are learning, but not becoming any wiser. They study for grades and college credit. They have become machines that know only facts and equations. They are puzzled by true questions of wisdom.

Confucius stated that: “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

I have created my experiment for those that do not know the true meaning of knowledge and go through life living like a tree without roots.

A clever man without wisdom is like a beautiful flower without fragrance. The younger generations today are growing up without substance, but it is never too late to start learning.

My journey through the government funded education system has been a never ending cycle of redundancy. I can hardly remember my past studies, since I never truly learned them.

I was taught how to manipulate the information and obtain the wanted outcome, but I didn’t learn how these manipulations occur and what that manipulation meant.

I have learned more from conversing with a wiser man than I have learned in years of study. Our schools preach to “commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of humanity,” but they only teach a system of self advancement; a human assembly line fabricating children for the dreariness of adult life.

People are so swept into this system set for them that they are not their own person, but rather just a template filled in.

You must follow your own independent path. Choose how to react to the stimuli of nature; follow your heart, not the rhythmic march of society. I’d rather follow a dismal path that I have chosen than a paved road that was selected for me.

As I previously stated, learning is meaningless unless one applies it to their own existence; bearings for their own life journey.

For my experiment, I did not learn for the sake of learning, but for the betterment of my own understanding, to apply knowledge to my own life.

In school we learn many things, but never how these things can better our own existence. Without applying ones knowledge to their lives you create a generation of robots, stunted in their ability to think for themselves, losing the rich diversity that makes life so interesting.

Trying to seek this state of personal knowledge I began to relate all of my studies to my own experience. I became more somber and quiet during studies not to merely listen to the lectures, but to absorb and then analyze for relevant information.

Immediately, I was isolated from my fellow classmates because of a lack of communication that I normally partake in throughout classes.

I feel separated. I hear echoing chatter of colleges, the future, and grade point averages. I know that I should be worried about these things, but I just don’t think college and my future need, or have to be, a constant focus of attention.

Everyone at New Trier will go to college. So why does everyone worry? As I listened to voice thread presentations, I wondered how all these motifs, that we spend such an extravagant amount of time researching, effect our lives in our own small worlds?

I know how the theme of “By the People” pertains to the Presidential Election, but how does it effect my life? Why should I care? I feel a sense of pointlessness and frustration in the breadth of our lessons.

I think of the way that we are taught, the system of memorizing until one’s brain just can’t contain the mess of facts and dates, and then begins the system of forgetting.

This cycle leaves us as confused as when we started. We learn a lot about nothing. If the human race strived to learn at the higher capacity that I speak of, it would result in a renaissance of the spirit of mankind.

While one might assume that to be their own persons one needs to be independent of other’s ideas, if you take directions along the way, but keep your destination, haven’t you kept your own path?

To achieve a happy and honest life one needs to listen to others no matter what you might think of their character or your feelings toward them because everyone has something wise to contribute.

During discussions, we are all too preoccupied by our own questions to listen to the answers given by our fellow students. We are like horses with blinders galloping across intersections. We fail to realize that much of our own questions are already answered.

During discussions, I felt it hard to contain my own opinion and listen to the opinions of my classmates, isolating me from my normal role of the classroom’s “devil’s advocate.”

I devised a system of virtual advocating, writing down the thoughts of others and relating them to each other. Listening is the most powerful tool a student can use. Without it, one cannot progress to any higher level of thought.

While we haven’t reached the level of dystopia of “1984”, society is becoming more and more singular. On the surface, there seems to be more choices, but this can be deceiving.

I have marched to my own step, danced to my own tune, and forged my own paths.

We all must consider our path in life. Is it a sensational adventure, or a forced march?

As a society, we must learn to listen to one another and actually think about each other’s opinions.

As the roots of a tree spread down into the moist soil, they grow in all directions, independent of one another, but they work together searching for water and nutrients that keep the tree as a whole growing strong.

· essay, learning