To learn, unlearn & relearn

Once in school I was taught to:

1) Work like a robot
2) Never leave my own comfort-zone
3) Like the rules
4) Never ask “Why?
5) Be afraid of making mistakes
6) Have minimal faith to others
7) Be dependent
8) Never to experiment
9) Always need external motivation
10) Always do as little as possible

Now in my professional life I try to learn, unlearn and relearn everyday to do the exact opposite of the above.

A typical lesson today (40 min, then you get tired (bored) and need to change subject) is about first knowing what kind of lesson it is:

Then you are supposed to go through the content of the lesson, the goals and which tasks that are to be performed. For example tell about your Easter, draw a picture and write down at least three things that’s about Easter. The “product” will then be entered into the annual celebration book

Now then, what’s wrong with this?


In the classroom, it should be quiet enough for everyone to get to work in peace and carrying out the work within the framework and according to instructions. Writing about Christmas or tell a funny story or write about the new video game does not simply belong to the task. Thinking outside the frames is not consistent with either the lesson plan, learning objectives, or the Education Act. “Don’t think” is the best and perform the task as quickly and efficiently without a murmur and as mechanically as possible. And when enough amount of tasks like this has been performed the writing and instruction reflex is there automatically. Do what you’re told and do it well.


To accomplish the task mechanically feels safe – you sit by yourself and do it all yourself and get a judgment and hopefully praise afterwards. To leave the comfort-zone is to challenge both self and the surrounding people. What it means to leave the comfort-zone depends where you yourself are. Now, if you made ​​the Midsummer, Thanks giving and Christmas tasks before and written, drawn and told the teacher maybe you can feel some confidence in it. The knowledge is safely contained in the book, the teacher or the parents. What would be outside the comfort-zone? To write a song and perform the task of singing it? Calling some unknown retired person and interview him/her about Easter? To ask an older student?

Whatever it is, the security in the work give a certain training in to stay in the safety-zone. It does not exactly give a spirit of discovery and social skills.


The lesson format includes a set of rules. For everyone to be able to do the task everyone need to respect each other, show respect and agree on standards of conduct. Be seated, be quiet, stop fidgeting, keep track of the personal belongings, raise hand before speak etc etc. If everyone follows all rules conditions will be pleasant and comfortable, otherwise liveliness make it messy and noisy. So we can not have that, then we can not perform the task, and we all want the task to be done otherwise the lesson, the class and the plan will not work and if we do not follow the plan, we reach no knowledge goals and if we do not reach the knowledge goals we will be graded accordingly and the school will lose pupils and funding and unemployment and poverty will be the result. So it is best to like the rules we have agreed upon otherwise it will be no good. Rules are always good and provide security for us all. Stay within the rules and do not try to change them – then you will be ok always.


Lessons can be boring, mechanical and sedentary and framed by a set of rules. Now if you were wondering why this lesson is necessary, there is always a reason.

Well, you see little friend. We have democracy here and we have all voted for one school law where we have a obligatory school attendance.

School duty means that we all should go school – we cannot accept anyone not learning to read and write etc and we to keep stability in society including all groups of people. What are we going to do in school? Well, we learn things according to established common goals for at least 9 years first and then some more. And we will during this time make use of certain pedagogical tricks to learn the right way. Now if you are going to learn to write while learning about celebrations, it is good if we write about feasts and then collect them in a small book so that we can go back and remember. You also need to draw and talk about what you’ve done – it enhances the learning process because we all work a little differently. Therefore we have the lesson and that’s why we should do it the way we have agreed. More questions?

After 10 “why?” and 10 “therefore” we have learned not to ask why anymore. It is pointless – better to just be like a robot to avoid being frustrated. Perhaps it is best to not stir up a lot of dust.


The challenge of the task is minimal so that the mistake probability is small. I mean, what could go wrong? You can not keep up with the whole? You draw a little ugly? You get no gold star? Is it possible even to make mistakes? Well, you can put your hand up and say maybe wrong answer with a little giggle in class as a result perhaps. If you do not put yourself “to the test”, or become challenged, it is difficult to learn to lose and difficult perhaps to learn to win. What would make that mistake probability increase? Why would it be good to make mistakes?

If we now assume that the lesson would go on to learn that mistakes are good for learning and personal development, how would you do? One would not announce in advance what the lesson would be about. It could provide clues and open to, say 10 correct answers and then, individual pupils or students in groups trying to figure out the answer (Easter). Only one answer would be right. It could also be that you must invest “money” in their answers and win or lose their bet depending on the outcome.

The current class and lesson format does not let students practice to make mistakes – they are stigmatized instead during tests and scores and is then connected to the person – you are a typical average student.

And if you break the rules or make mistakes, there is punishment. The most common is the detention… “punishment” by staying a little longer in school – that itself says a lot.


When you sit in a classroom, you always answer for yourself. Sure there is group work – it’s good. But finally you always sit there by yourself on the examination – where each classmate is a potential cheater who wants to see what you write. You have to hide what you write so that no-one else can use and benefit of your knowledge. And should you want to go to the bathroom, you get the company of guard to inspect that you are not cheating because you are by default discredited and a potential cheater. The benefits you provide to other means implicitly that you reduce the chances of being better than them (all can not get the highest rating) so therefore you have to hide your ability to other as much as possible.


Could it be that the teacher is late or the substitute’s entry directly affect the situation in the classroom? The teacher is the one who decides what to do, and it becomes difficult for yourself to get going with the learning. Sure, you can do exercises in the book (depending on book) or finish work that you are doing (depending on previous instructions and others intent). In tightly planned activities, there are few opportunities to take initiative – you need to constantly borrow someone else will.


Well, in chemistry and physics experiments to complete the exercises and labs that the teacher decided of course you experiment – under strict supervision, but it is unlikely that you discover something new. You will discover the correct answer in the book. It may also present situations where teachers are experimenting with different types of teaching materials or methods, but the responsibility to experiment is not likely in the plan. You don’t experiment with the yearbook of festivities. Experimenting on that would be to let the children themselves find various anniversaries from their perspective. For example, extra ice cream when football practice starts for the season. Party when the computer games manufacturer introduces a new game (how would you celebrate?) Or celebrating the day when you fell in love the first time – celebrations that truly means something for the kids.


By grading, that score will provide proof if you are successful or not. Grades tell if you get better or worse and if you’re good, sloppy, of good character, a genius or just generally stupid. To strive for the reward which in some cases impossible to reach (broken home conditions) only creates frustration and provides a direct incorrect input to those who need school the most. Grades are best set by doing written tests – one learns that if you do not have a test, you do not learn. You learn that it is hard to learn because you have to study. And study hard to get the right reward. If you do not get the reward, it may as well be. When you get a job later the salary means a lot – not what you do during the days – just work hard all the way to the delightful weekend and holiday.

“-What if everyone were having requirements of having fun at work – what would that be like? That we can’t have – then no-one would work.”

What if everyone had an inner motivation in school just as when they play games, to sports etc?


If the reward is not available or if the task is too easy or too difficult you better minimize the efforts. Why do more than necessary job? If there isn’t an incentive to do better than expected why make the effort? There is a small logical error here. In school it is assumed that it is not funny. It’s not funny (because of various reasons that probably is another post) so therefore you have to test the people and assess and evaluate. Since students are per default lazy. But if the school would be fun and if you longed to be there, everyone would do more than they could.

“-But in the context of the lesson one can do everything very nicely?”

Or extremely accurate, but you wouldn’t make more – you perform the task and additional task then if there is any. You carry on until the lesson is over, simply.

So unlearning trained behaviour is very difficult, especially, behaviour that has been taught in about 15 years of life. It took about 14 years for me to recover from school. I think it’s sad that my children now 30 years later to walk the same idiotic way – but what can I do? We have a democracy.

4 thoughts on “To learn, unlearn & relearn

  1. Pingback: Blogs | Pearltrees

  2. Pingback: Unlearning the old things | Henrytapper's Blog

  3. Oh I like this list VERY much. I have thought and written a lot about all the true lessons we receive in our education… and my list is very similar. Do you know about the AERO conference? And what about Meg Wheatley’s work? (Leadership and the New Science, for example.) Thanks for an excellent post.

  4. Pingback: Learn Unlearn Relearn – The Art of Relearning « Positive Psyched

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