Used as a hot button in political debates, the idea that 98% of what you learn is a waste gets tossed around often in conversation. Most of us know it’s true that not everyone will need Algebra and Trigonometry during their life, but is it also true that 98% of what we learn is a total waste?
Democrats and other advocates looking to change the school system have long said that a large percentage of what children are taught doesn’t actually help them. Some even say that the way the lessons are taught is also problematic, allowing very little room for comprehension but plenty for competition. Some lifelong teachers point to the pressure of standardized test scores as a reason that school is a waste of time while others simply say that 98% of what kids learn is a waste altogether.
However, many of those ideas behind learning are misguided and not based in how the brain learns. Since the brain is constantly learning based on perception of it’s environment, the notion that 98% of what we learn is a waste is a bit short sighted. Learning isn’t just about memorizing the times tables and knowing when to use prepositional phrases but is also about seeing how to act in groups, learning to follow directions and developing a sense of self discipline.
Is 98% of what we learn a waste?
If 98% of what we learn is a waste, what could be taught that makes our time spent learning worthwhile? Some intellects and philosophers believe that as long as something is learned that no time was wasted. However, others believe that teaching kids more “valuable lessons” in school could help us be sure that we learn is usable.
Even among the proponents of changing the system so that 98% of what we learn isn’t a waste have differing opinions on what kind of learning we could institute that would accomplish such a task. Parents point to teachers and teachers point back to parents, but that kind of blame game does very little to change what and how we learn. If the changes did occur, would they ensure that we learn more than goes to waste?
98% of what we learn changes
More accurate than the idea that 98% of what we learn is a waste is the idea that it changes. Since most of what we learn isn’t from reading books and taking tests in school, the idea that learning is synonymous to education is the actual problem. Every second your brain is processing inputs from all of your senses. It learns something from every single input. The brain learns things and makes associations that we are not even aware of. As humans, we survive by learning. Over the years our research has taught us many things. some things that were useful immediately and some things that were not useful until years after they were learned.
What we learn from our everyday interactions is just as important as what we learn in a classroom. Looking at it from that perspective – it is NOT true that 98% of what we learn is a waste.