I wish I had asked myself this question when I was a teenager, hungry for transformation and grabbing any and every book off the shelf. The short answer is to learn only what you absolutely need to birth something completely new in Life, as aligned to your Life’s expression. But maybe we need to unpack that….
Much of what I learned at the beginning, I had to unlearn. And, over time, I became more selective to attract the knowledge and skills I needed for my next shift. Learning to unlearn is worth learning, without any self-deprecation.
There is something to the idea of attracting the knowledge you need when you set your intention to fully Live You, and in due time. Maybe it sounds too simple, but most simple things are usually true.
Eventually, I learned that we do not all have the same prescribed curriculum – either academically or in the school of Life. We are unique beings with a unique venture to bring about something new to Life by Being, and not spin endlessly on a common wheel of rehashed and even distorted perspectives.
The idea that we, at our peak, create new connections as the web of Life, is likely very old – although I don’t know its source. However, too few souls accomplish this and fall into repetition. For example, one cannot become a Master unless one has done something new. This may sound like a Master is a graduate student, working on a Ph.D. thesis and presenting that thesis to a committee of established Masters. The main difference is that academic theses are highly focused, but the Master-to-be aims to shift Life energies at global scales and with great sensitivity and discernment to true outcomes. There are many actions that cannot be taken on behalf of the human race because they take away from others’ Life learning. And yet, many actions can be taken to help uplift the human race – these cannot be ignored.
Presumably, high school is about absorbing human knowledge and applying basic thought processes in broad brush strokes. Surely, this is a noble enough goal – to get kids on the same page about what is known by the human race, which questions are still unanswered, and the strategies we can use to critically think about the world. If the students are lucky, they will also learn about human interaction and empathy, and walk forward with a greater appreciation for the human race and its rich diversity on a rather small Earth. If students are fortunate, they will be inspired to further cultivate their true expression.
Unfortunately, reasearchers determined that, by the time students reach high school, they are less curious and interested to learn than they were in elementary school. This process of boxing students into classrooms and regimenting them into curriculum ends up either making good academic soldiers or turning out the lights. Some manage to rise despite these limitations. While academic rigor sounds a bit rigid, some welcome the challenges and the puzzles, and also put up with the box. There is no one-size-fits all in terms of how to be taught so that lights are ignited! Given that most of what is taught in school is forgotten, what then is worth learning? Perhaps, that which remains long after school is out.
As I watch students interact and react to their lives, I can see how ill-equipped many are to handle uncertainty, conflict, collaboration, and setbacks. While they strive to define their identities, they could also learn empathy and service – but the latter are considered “useless” or “weak” by most kids. Unless, of course, students have a teacher who can model these qualities and demand self-reflection.
Many feel that being loud and disrespectful to each other will cause them to seem like lions in the serengeti, and competing with one another for looks and social status is the norm. So, the strategies to forming relationships and negotiation – perhaps the most important things to learn – are left to chance in a climate of unpredictable harshness that underlies most school settings, and amidst other students with brains far from fully developed. The most useful skills worth learning – relationships and interactions – are not explicitly taught, but rather resolved by pure Darwinism. The harshest and the loudest trump the rest without winning anything in the long game.
Skills are important because they are the way we access our relationship to expression. However, it takes time to figure out who we are, and so we pursue all accessible skills at the early stages – critical thinking, problem solving, visualization, representation, abstract reasoning, and hands-on craftsmanship. We try everything with open minds and hearts, and find ourselves drawn to some things more than others. However, too many students shut down to learning too soon, and prematurely decide what they don’t need in life. Most schools do not expressly promote high schools as an exploration, and do not teach how to remain open to possibilities despite ambiguity of long term gain. Remaining open is always valid and is worth learning – without it, our minds shut down the growth pathways that may very well be our unique gifts.
Even if students have the ability to learn in all or most contexts, they may lack the skills to identify and prioritize tasks, and to self-assess. Learning to know what you don’t know may be the most worthy ability yet, for it develops humbleness, topples arrogance, and keeps one from parking on false laurels and plateaus. As our lives progress, we must become more flexible and independent in our explorations. We must question our approach and evaluate our progress, which is always incomplete, but sometimes good enough. The goal of such introspection is to decide our next move. That is skillful living and worth learning as early as possible.
Finally, we must learn to identify and stand up for truth in our own ways. There is such a thing as a universal truth that is never outdated or out of style. This truth is Character in its purest form. We forge our character in Life’s crucible, tested by Life each step of the way. Character speaks to how we engage Life to foster ongoing unfoldment, while pruning and refining as we progress.
So, it seems that the things worth learning are connected to things worth remembering and using throughout life. While these skills have little to do with context, which may or may not be interesting to us, they start in some context and then carry over to every aspect of our life to position us for igniting what is uniquely ours to express.
The future of the human race relies on awakened creativity and a full heart. At every stage of learning, we remove the obstacles of conditioning about status, power, innate intelligence, self-doubt, and outward appearance. We battle these traps to win true freedom to be unique, and not extinguish our fire.
Thank you to all the teachers and mentors for teaching what is truly worth learning amidst their regular lessons, for the human race is rapidly outgrowing outmoded living strategies and is poised to move forward.