Learning, not Schooling

Learning, not Schooling

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Learning is an ongoing process of trial and error, of trying and failing, so it’s beneficial to be willing to take risks and embrace failure as opportunities to become more vital and more you. Fear of failure is what schooling teaches us. Our educational conventions condition us to “do” rather than to “be;” to achieve rather than express our creative nature; they teach us that we will fall behind in some race or competition if we try to express our uniqueness, experiment, or take risks to learn more about ourselves. In formal education, failing works against our growth instead of for our unique personal development, vitality, and wellness.

Authentic learning is a lifelong process motivated by its intrinsic value rather than to compete, compare, or perform for others and for external gain. You are your own best teacher because true, real, authentic learning happens within the learner, through direct experience, rather than only from received knowledge of concepts from others. The motivation to learn, authentically, comes from within and is self-directed for self-actualization.

Authentic learning is about being vulnerable, open, willing, and sustaining ambiguity, unknowing, and uncertainty. It’s about going from the state of knowing to mystery and back again throughout one’s life. It’s about asking questions, exploration, and discovery, rather than merely building up a repository of answers from others to create the illusion of security and absolute certainty. Learning is fluid, flexible, and always changing. And it’s challenging.

Self-Study as Authentic Learning

“Beyond a given point man is not helped by more ‘knowing,’ but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. As Goethe put it, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes.”— Ernest Becker

Write about the limits of your knowledge. (Think about comparing all that you know to all that you don’t. See what I mean? Lots to learn; lots of mystery.) This could go on forever, so stop when you think you have reflected upon this topic enough.

Write about how much there is to know in the world.

Write about how it makes you feel to “not know stuff.”

Write about what you hope to learn more about in your lifetime.

Write about how much there is to know about oneself. (Recall the various facets of who you are if this is your final course in this curriculum.)

What more would you like to know about yourself?

Write about your authentic learning (as opposed to schooling) experiences. Be as specific as possible about your learning experiences that are non-academic or non-work related.

When have you felt really vulnerable yet learned important lessons?

What have you learned about yourself from taking calculated or un-calculated risks?

What have you learned about yourself from “playing it safe” or avoiding risks to learn more and to grow?

What have you learned about yourself from failure, pain, and disappointment?

What have you learned about yourself from joy and pleasure?

Who was your worst teacher? Why? What did you learn from him, her, or it?  (this does not have to be a person or in school)

Who was your best teacher? Why? What did you learn from him, her, or it? (this does not have to be a person or in school, e.g. My dog is my best teacher!)

Is it possible that you are your own best teacher? If true, why? If not true, why not?

According to psychotherapist, Carl Rogers who wrote extensively about the problem of educating our children in school “from the neck up,” authentic learning is not merely cognitive but experiential and affective (1961). In other words, authentic learning is about wholeness and wellness.

Write about the differences in developing inner wisdom and intuition in comparison to the acquisition of factual knowledge, or work-related or academic skills.

When you were a student in school, were you conditioned to achieve As and avoid Fs, or were you encouraged to take risks to learn more and learn more about yourself and your response to failure?

Write about when you have followed your own desires to learn and have been discouraged by others because it was unconventional or unapproved.

Describe the feelings associated with the time (s) something caught your attention and interest and later developed into a passion because you chose to explore it further.


A Way of Being by Carl Rogers, 1961.

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