“There are many things which we can afford to forget which it is yet well to learn.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Often students ask me, “Why do I need to learn this?”
Then there are follow-up statements such as: “I will never use this information.” “I don’t need to know algebra.” “When will I ever need to know that the capital of Nunavut is Iqaluit?”
The short, and somewhat unsatisfactory answer, is “You need to learn information to get a good mark.”
While this may be true, it isn’t the real reason.
Learning in itself is a valuable activity. The human brain is designed to forget. We ‘forget’ or at least neglect to commit to memory thousands (probably millions) of things every day. These bits of information truly won’t matter after initial seconds. My eyes may have “seen” all kinds of things on my walk downtown, but I will only remember any that interested me or drew my more focused attention for some reason.
So – don’t be afraid of forgetting! You might still be surprised at how much you remember if you jump in.
Learning French, history, science, math equations, etc. might have directly applicable use for you in the future – but most of what you learn won’t. It’s true!
So why bother learning all these things?
- Learning helps the brain mature.
- Learning any subject develops skills for all the other subjects.
- Learning – and succeeding at least modestly – makes you feel good. It makes you stronger. (Learning at any age is an excellent way to stave of emotional and mental problems, including possibly reducing the severity of dementia and Alzheimer’s.)
- Learning a wide variety of subjects improves your networking ability. The ability to network knowledge “raises all boats.” In other words taking the time and effort to learn as much as you can in history will help you in science and English, and all other courses.
Learning to write well in English has direct benefits for writing that history essay (or dance essay or geography report), but it also has less obvious benefits in helping you comprehend your history or geography, or science text.
Any learning is good learning.
You just need to approach each new task with open eyes, eagerness, and a willingness to absorb.
So take that step – be willing to learn as much as you can.
Yes we can afford to forget many things, but we cannot afford to neglect learning!