Learn, unlearn and relearn

September 1, 2013
learning, quote

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” - Alvin Toffler

Schools and Colleges play a vital role in teaching us. These institutions often tend to force their students to learn more and more, without mastering the fundamentals. Students who love their subjects and enjoy their books are becoming hard to find day by day. Industries view degree holders as an abstracted and tuned resources for their need.

So, “learning” has not been given the due respect by all the players: students, educational institutions and industries.

What about unlearning and relearning? Do they really make sense in our existing system?

Unlearning and relearning are tightly coupled and usually happens together.

Unlearning and relearning do not mean that one should forget the things he had learnt and learn it again at some point of time in his life. This is a very common misinterpretation I find among the people who know this quote. I have even seen people quoting “Tower of Hanoi” as an example where you have to decouple the things you have built to arrive at the final solution. I call this as a fictional example where they try to unlearn by demolishing something that is there.

Unlearning happens when you are open to new prospective to the things you already know. Relearning happens when you accept a new perspective and appreciate your knowledge from that perspective. Together they will help you to overcome your misconception and misunderstanding that was there from the time you learnt something new.

When we learn something for the first time, we will be focusing to get a bigger and abstracted view of it. We ignore small and important features. After learning something, a small discussion with friends or teaching someone or trying to summarize your learning will make you realize the minute details that you have missed when you learnt it.

Unlearning and relearning applies not only for education; but also to any form of knowledge or skill that we acquire. Our knowledge and skill can to be improved day by day.

Be open to thoughts. Keep learning, unlearning and relearning.

TL; DR: Be open to new perspective – clear out your misunderstandings – improve your understanding.