Reading is Not Learning

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented changes to my academic career- and while I have been able to adapt to most of them, there is one part of my revised education which I have been unable to come to terms with. The influx of reading. There’s a part of me which understands why I have never seen some of my professor’s faces, or heard their voices, but something about this situation feels inherently wrong to me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think the answer is due to my definition of what learning/ education is. To me, I see lecture, discourse and discussion as the fundamentals of education. This is where we learn the practical skills that school is meant to be teaching us- not the random and sometimes useless facts. Lecture, discourse and discussion teach us the art of public speaking, how to properly listen, how to debate, how to stay in control, how to think rationally, etc.

If more of my classes were conducted in this style (it is possible due to this virtually as some of my classes are currently doing this) I would not have an issue. However, the majority of my classes consist of reading and responding- and that to me is not education.

Reading can give off the illusion of learning because when we put down the book, we may have memorized a new fact. But do we really comprehend it? Can we find a real life and practical application to this fact, or is it just words we can spew out? Because if we can’t use it- then all we have done is memorize it. Learned content is content that can be deployed and used.

Personally, I think the readings we do for classes are just subject context that gives students a common ground of knowledge on which they can debate and discuss. It is not the actual content we are supposed to come out from the class with. The byproduct of learning is far more subtle and practical. It is not a fact that we can just spew out all willy-nilly.

Going into the spring semester, I hope schools realize that lecture, discourse and debate are quintessential parts of an education and that supplementing them with textbook reading is inadequate. Although we all may complain about school, everyone does want a good education so that we can become self-sufficient.

--Jonathan Holden

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