Our schools taught us all wrong.
We were told to study without being taught what studying is. We were told to do homework without being being told why. We were given strict schedules without them ever being explained.
Since we were 6 years old we had slowly been indoctrinated into a rote memorization point system that rated our knowledge.
Now let me ask you a few questions about high school:
Do you remember…
- …conjugation in Spanish?
- …how to distinguish between equations of conic sections?
- …the significance of the Laws of Thermodynamics?
- …anything about the Hundred Years War?
- …what in the world the Krebs Cycle is?
These are things we were all taught in high school. If we don’t remember most of what we “learned”, what was the point?
Most of us don’t care about these things, anyway. No skin off our bones. What does this have to do with you anyway?
If we have forgotten most of the information we learned as children, how much have we forgotten as adults? How much will we forget?
In school, we are “taught” and expected to “learn”. There are lectures and homework assignments, in which we are bombarded with information that we are expected to absorb. But what does “learn” even mean? In school, to learn means to be able to flip through a textbook well to fill in homework. Multiple choice exams? Memorize key facts. In class essays? Memorize a few key points or better yet, ad lib.
What we should be taught, however, is how to comprehend material, not just to memorize. To know the difference between knowing the words to the Laws of Thermodynamics and knowing the significance of what they mean. To remember is to be able to spot a correct answer; to be able to comprehend is to be able to potentially solve a problem you have never seen before.
Rote memorization is useful only when specific words are involved. Comprehension is useful whenever the concept is involved.
2. How to Study
We all remember times we spend an hour (or more) staring at a textbook with zero productivity. We all remember times when we stared, eyes-glazed, at our notes trying to convince ourselves we didn’t spend hours on words we could read, but not understand. We also all remember the breaks we rewarded ourselves for this job well done–watching TV to congratulate ourselves for blankly staring at paper.
Finally at 11PM we finally got in a chapter or two of solid reading. 1 hour of solid work for 4 hours of “studying”. What went wrong? Why weren’t we able to concentrate?
We were not taught. We didn’t know about how our brains responded to intense focus. We didn’t know about environmental conditioning. We didn’t know about effective note taking. We only knew how to take outline notes, find any flat surface, and stare at paper.
3. How to Retain Information
You are done. You comprehended everything you were expected to “learn”. The curveballs your teacher threw at you were cake. The icing? You spent the least amount of time studying in your entire class.
It’s been a month now. 6 months. A year. How much do you remember? Could you take the same test right now and ace it like you did last time? Would you wear the same smirk?
Probably not. The entire semester you had religiously studied for is now sand through your fingers.
The schools did not teach you how to properly review.
Here’s the Kicker:
- How well do you comprehend the job/hobby/sport/instrument/subject you want to improve on right now? For your time invested, is it as good as it should be?
- How much time do you spend on this job/hobby/sport/instrument/subject? How much time is being wasted?
- Finally, how much will you remember in the future? Are you confident that you will retain all of that knowledge for the rest of your life?