The scary thing about learning new things is that you might come to realize you are wrong, hypocritical, or unwise (among other not-so-great adjectives). The wonderful, amazing, transformative thing about learning new things is that you might grow in truth, sincerity, and wisdom.
I am skeptical that learning without change is meaningful. As a “line in the sand” declaration, I hold that true learning requires transformation:
- Transformation in the connections between the billions of neurons in our brain, as new pathways and possibilities are formed and made permanent.
- Transformation in our behavior, as new habits and ways of being are stabilized.
- Transformation in our relationships, as the relational systems in which we are embedded adjust to these new patterns.
- And, if we are fortunate, transformation in our culture, as the effects of the relational systems take root systemically and within the cultural ecosystem.
I think this applies broadly, even when I learn something that might not, on its own, be directly connected to character or culture transformation. When I learn content, say about the organization of the periodic table of elements, I must practice humility, the recognition that I don’t know something. This practice is part of the learning and is thus part of the transformation. (We practice other character dispositions during learning, too. Some people refer to these as intellectual virtues, which also means there are intellectual vices.)
And now a confession: I’ve been learning.
In my case, I’ve been wrong, hypocritical, and unwise, and as I learn, I am growing in truth, sincerity, and wisdom. I want to share a bit about this learning in case it might be helpful for your own learning, too.
- “Real and meaningful change also can become possible if we actually have the opportunity to experience new possibilities in our homes, our workplaces, and in our communities.” – Dr. Song (p. 14)
I’ve been reading through Dr. Felicia Wu Song’s excellent book, Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age. Song is a cultural sociologist at Westmont College whose research and expertise examines media and digital technologies. Although much of my research has focused on how we develop beliefs about science and religion – and the way we conceptualize the relationship between the two – my master’s thesis explored how preschool-aged children learned from different forms of media: books or videos with either cartoon characters or realistic characters . I mention this because I still follow some of the emerging literature around media use and consumption, something I often approach now from the perspective of cognitive psychology, attention, and multitasking.