Pitfalls of Learning (and How to Avoid Them)

As we all know, everything should be done in moderation.  The same goes for learning.  We need wisdom from God to learn what we need (and to some degree, want) and eventually, draw the line, topic by topic.

  1. Learning is not memorization.

You can learn key principles without holding too tightly to neighboring details.  In fact, that was a very good piece of advice from a high school teacher.

From what I have heard (as well as in some experience), professors can trim or summarize content of courses from the designated textbook to deliver the intended content of that course.  Moreover, sometimes the textbooks themselves are truncated to make a “custom” edition.  From much of my collegiate experience up to now, it often made sense why certain facts were less important than others.

Even when the core facts are extracted, they are still liable to fade.  In the final analysis, you are getting a degree (read: piece of paper) that qualifies you for so much more than what you did in the four-odd years you spent in school.

2.  Don’t dwell on, constantly review, or routinely “test” recently learned facts.

This kind of mentality makes learning look compulsive, just like smoking, drinking, gambling, etc., can be.  When you’ve grasped the key ideas on a subject, you’re pretty much ready to move on.

In fact, this can easily be observed in the lives of many adults long after their college days are over.  Once they graduate college or other post-secondary program (or even grad school!), most of your knowledge will be pruned in the direction of what you do as a career.  If you were a biology major and deal chiefly with plants, your acquired zoology and its more specialized branches you may have taken is likely to fade (save perhaps entomology, since insects are key figures in the plant world, even though they are animals).  Or an engineer may focus far more on statics than thermodynamics, so statics would take the crown.


3.  Understand why you’re learning a subject.

A book I read about computers many years ago puts it very cogently:  it’s more important to know what you use an electronic device for than how it works.  After all, owner’s manuals don’t disclose the latter, though a more technical manual for professionals may!

So, would you rather watch the Super Bowl for the game, or to judge the quality of the TV’s vertical hold?  (See what I mean?)  Leave the latter to the pros (you know what I mean, not the players you’re watching).

4. Know when to draw the line.

The breadth and depth of subjects can range greatly for a certain topic.  When it’s too easy, it’s boring.  The same is often true for many advanced forms of the same topic!  Too much detail can obscure the “big picture.”  Perhaps that’s why the “lecture filtering” mentioned above by professors is so important in cases as such.  After all, they’re getting paid and are not there for nothing.


The Bible warns about excessive study in verses like Eccl 12:12 and about worldly wisdom in the book of 1 Corinthians.  While learning is good, it should not become an idol.

Facts are like calories, they must be “burnt” to get the full effect of them.  Otherwise, they’re empty.  But at the same time, an “empty fact,” unlike an empty calorie, just gracefully drifts away, reversing the situation!

So, consider what you really need, what you enjoy, whether it’s at school or just when your reading about things.

Reading and Learning 21st Century Style

These may not last very long.
These may not last very long.

(Disclaimer:  This is not an endorsement for any organization, including eSword, Phoenix, Britannica, Amazon, etc.)

First papyrus, then Gutenberg’s printing press.  And now, there’s the internet, which has many sites (alas, of varying trustworthiness) to view.

For example, the e-Sword computer program, provides commentaries and other great resources for Bible study.

While my time at Phoenix U (the popular online school) was short, I still get to enjoy the textbooks (and other library resources) they have.  I am one of those few who would read a textbook for fun, and enjoy it.  Some are directly viewable on the Phoenix portal, others must be downloaded.  Still, it is invaluable, both for first-time reading and review.  If I feel disposed to do so, I’d be more than happy to blog about updates in fields of such.

And of course, you got the Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s rival (the Nook).  This will make all valid books (which is only a fraction of all books out there) available on either format, and may lead to their print demise.

While I probably prefer physical books over an e-book, life goes on and print books are on their slow decline.  The beloved Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, is only available online; print and CD/DVD versions have been discontinued.  The online Britannica, by the way, is also available via Phoenix as well as the Community College of Philadelphia library.

And of course, there’s the pesky Wikipedia.  (Need I say more?)

So whether you prefer the old-school (pardon the pun) physical book format, online reading, or a little of both, all learning and other reading won’t change.

Summer Send-Off

I took a walk to Clark Park, a Philadelphia park in University City (home to Penn, Drexel and the University of the Sciences, the third being directly adjacent), late yesterday afternoon.  At the park, I started reading Michael Crichton’s novel “Congo.”  I also talked to some young grad student guys from Temple, along with another young lady.

As summer soon goes down the drain (as the weather attests; it was somewhat fall-like that day), I look forward to fall and all it has to offer. One tulip tree (I think that’s what it was), as it often does late in the summer, had some beautiful, smooth yellow “autumn” leaves amidst the green majority, and while I tend to “count on” and overanalyze the trees’ green color too much in the summer (especially in August), sometimes it’s best to let nature take its own course. And with this tulip tree, I seriously appreciated its beauty (especially of the yellow leaves), as it shows God’s creative beauty in action.

And perhaps in college, as a Bio major hopeful, maybe I’ll learn more about it.  Otherwise, at least God has a purpose for the timing of his creative cycles, and I should just be content with it.  After all, trees don’t know month boundaries!  But whether I pursue a college biology major or not, collegiate textbooks and other tools are available, as I already, for quite a few years, have enjoyed them for pleasure reading, believe it or not.

Well, I am ready to embrace fall whenever it comes, for all its paraphernalia, from the pretty leaves just mentioned, to pumpkin pie, to the cool breezes that you can’t beat.  (As for football, I’m more complacent).  In fact, fall may be my favorite season.  But whatever summer you can squeeze out of these last few days of August, I’ll take that as well.