UnLearning

It’s another step here along our shared path. Sure we need to continue gaining wisdom and inspiration however the fact is that for many there is a significant amount of things we were taught that need to be released.

We’ll explore “UnLearning” on this edition of “Becoming Today”.

To better embrace the idea of “UnLearning” we need to begin by coming to a shared understanding of what learning is meant to be. 

Like many English words, even in the dictionary you’ll find several explanations as to one idiom’s meaning. Usually they  can overlap or build upon each other, but there are also the instances where the different offerings may have nothing in common.

Then still there are what I call the adaptive accepted usages. Where over time people have taken a word’s usage and caused it to become an altered delineation.

I”ll cite a few examples of that. 

If you look up or ask Google to “define adultery” today, you’ll be told, “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse”.

However in Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, adultery was described as, “Violation of the marriage bed; a crime, or a civil injury, which introduces, or may introduce, into a family, a spurious offspring”.

And still if we seek a legal definition, here in the United States, you’ll read “adultery is a form of extramarital sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not a party to the marriage”. 

There are also asterisks, because there is no single explanation across the nation, with each state legally codifying their own explanations and perceived acceptable punishments for their residents. Including 16- states which can choose to send people to prison for their actions.

In Oklahoma an adulterer can be sentenced up to 5-years behind bars, while just this year Idaho decriminalized the act. 

Same word. Same letters in the same order. Far different meanings over time and location.

Another example is a word we see a lot in the headlines today: Gay. 

In 1828, it was defined as “merry; airy; jovial; sportive; frolicksome”.

Today the dictionary definition is “(of a person) homosexual (used especially of a man)”.

You’ll hear many people today who further build their own meanings as an extreme pejorative often based upon baseless, fact-less theories and complete misunderstandings of the people they so eagerly seek to attack, label and in some cases call for harm to be done to.

A very different  understanding of the same three letters . Also differing among those who use it.

Even the word understanding has changed. Today you can look up the term and learn that it is descriptive of , “the ability to understand something; comprehension”.

 In 1828, “comprehending; apprehending the ideas or sense of another, or of a writing; learning or being informed”.

It seems then we allowed for more feeling and sought for more accuracy to be present in our word choices. So I hope you’ll accept that I often spend much time in getting us to come to an agreement on a common understanding of what a word means in relation to our conversation.

Today’s topic of “UnLearning”is interpreted quite differently by various dictionaries. So let’s begin to formulate our discernment by going back to the beginning. Before something can become an “un”, it has to be something else.

Therefore let’s explore learning:

“the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.”

“knowledge acquired through experience, study, or being taught.”

“a thing learned by experience; a lesson.”

And those are just the top three offerings. Ask the question with a slight variation and you’ll find:

Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences.”

Learning is defined as “an increase, through experience, of problem-solving ability,” i.e., an increase, through experience, of ability to gain goals in spite of obstacles.”

Teaching and learning is a process that includes many variables. These variables interact as learners work toward their goals and incorporate new knowledge, behaviours, and skills that add to their range of learning experiences.”

And these are just three of the differing explanations of the term from over one billion, nine hundred ninety-two million search results that can almost instantly flash upon your device of preference.

With so many variations, literally available at your fingertips, is why we must explore more fully what we are actually trying to communicate to one another. We can not assume… Many of you know what that “really” means.

Again geographic location even plays a role in understanding what the term learning is intended to represent.

Looking at governmental descriptions of the term learning in Maine it is described as” an educational opportunity”, in Missouri “define the knowledge and skills students need in each grade level and course for success in college, other post-secondary training and careers”. In Montana, to “develop the full educational potential of each person”.

Plus for our many global followers, learning is described differently as well. 

In the UK, “contribute towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community”.

In India, “a science which imparts to students knowledge of certain principles and provisions “ and in Brazil, “to raise outcomes for all in terms of 1) equity and quality and 2) preparing students for the future”.

A lot to comprehend here. 

Now for the purposes of our conversation today let’s agree to accept that learning will be defined as:

Knowledge acquired through experience. Both involving dedicated study or principles and the lessons learned through real world applications. Learning is a life-long process, which should be actively sought after on a daily basis for the betterment of both the individual and the common good. “

You’ll notice I introduced some parameters that the governmental and legal definitions do not address, however that’s because based upon the real world applications of my experiences with such regulatory bodies there is so much more to life.

Learning should not be limited to select groups. Should not seek to discriminate or to tear down. It should be a supportive mutually beneficial process that allows both teacher and student to develop, grow and become. 

That said, that’s not how it worked for me initially in life. 

Which is why I have come to embrace the concept of “UnLearning” as we seek to grow in wisdom and understanding of the truth. For our combined efforts along this shared path.

How do I, as an individual and we as a society, focus on “Becoming” what we are truly destined to be? How do we become all we can be?

How do we further enrich our lives and those of our families, friends, communities and society as a whole?  

What exactly is it we want to become today? Each and every day, becoming the best at whatever we desire, hope for, have set goals for, prayed for  and how do we achieve this state?

Now we need to come to a mutual acceptance of what happens when we put the “un” in front of learning.

First of all, remembering some classroom instruction received long ago, “un” is a prefix. 

In English that is “a word, letter, or number placed before another”. It has the intention of deliberately changing the meaning of the following word.

Sometimes they can be confusing, one example I recall of this was voiced by the late comedian George Carlin, who had concerns about many things including why airlines adopted the term pre-boarding. He mused, “What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?

In our case the prefix “un” is explained as, “almost always means ‘not.’ A fruit that is unripe hasn’t become ripe yet. That goes for participial adjectives too: a dish that is unbroken is not broken; it remains intact”.

Merriam Webster continues with their description by noting, “When it is prefixed to a verb, un- almost always means “do the opposite of” or “deprive of.” In this case, the prefixed word does imply an altering action. You untie a shoelace that was previously tied; you unwrap a package that had been wrapped. In contrast to the aforementioned un- adjectives, here the state of the thing is being changed in some way”.

That’s what we are going for here. To do the opposite, by depriving ourselves of misunderstood or deliberate misinformation that was directed towards us.

So now that we are adding the designation of “un-” adjacent to the beginning of learning, we need to express what this new concept means:

“UnLearning is the process of releasing prior restrictions. Letting go of false, misleading or incorrect information we acquired over time. It is the deliberate process of relearning the principles involved in a specific scenario, skill or talent. 

It requires a willingness to truly learn, grow and become. It is a developed skill, that like all of life must be adaptive, flexible and open to revision at any moment. UnLearning can give us alternate attitudes, better vision, deeper insights, more concise and developed understandings. 

The process puts us on the path to knowledge and wisdom that when received, is intended to be shared, freely and for the betterment of not only the individual, but also the whole.” 

-Rochelle Jeanette

I realize accepting this may require some reflection and time. 

So now that we have our operating standards as to what “UnLearning” involves, I have come to know that there are at least three distinct areas of life, where this skill is extremely necessary.

We’ll explore each of those, one day at a time over the coming week. 

The first tomorrow, will involve a discussion of “UnLearning …”, well you’ll have to wait till then to determine what we’ll delve into on our next edition of “Becoming Today”.

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