Isn’t This Human Nature?

When I first started the readings for this prompt and mindfulness was defined as “the simple act of drawing novel distinctions,” I thought “humans do this naturally; why would we need to change how we educate based on this?” I have been in school for 19 years straight, and I have always memorized the material required of me but have still been able to creatively and critically analyze, deconstruct, and expand on that material. I have four nieces and nephews (the oldest 17 and the youngest 2), and  I see those same abilities reflect in all of them. Then the reading made this point: “When we are in a state of mindlessness, we act like automatons who have been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present…When we believe we know something well, we tend to view it mindlessly.”

This made me think of the number of times I have completely overlooked the simplest or most unique answer to a problem by not thinking past the instructions given to me. The question, parameters, or context can influence my answer or plan of action by putting a box around the possibilities I feel are available to me. When there is uncertainty or ambiguity, the mind has the power of infinite possibilities.

There are still times when more “ridged” learning is unavoidable and/or appropriate. However, this should not be the standard. While thinking mindfully is human nature, there are a number of not-so-obvious limitations being places around our nature that are completely avoidable.

5 thoughts on “Isn’t This Human Nature?

  1. I, like you, have been able to memorize what I needed to and also been able to critically analyze and create new products. I don’t think that my education stifled my creativity and I wonder why some students get stuck in rote learning. Why do some people take what they learn and make new connections while others find abstractions difficult? There are certainly teachers who discourage multiple ways of knowing and learning, but in my experience, those teachers are the minority. As a teacher, I have found that some students needed me to explain how to study material that required understanding. I remember helping a friend’s child with her calculus homework. The child was doing all of the homework and spending hours studying, but still struggling. When I met her to help, I saw that she had spent hours creating color coded flashcards to help her memorize rather than spending hours working calculus problems. She did not understand that she was at a point where rote learning would no longer work. Some students need to be taught how to learn by thinking rather than by memorizing. It can be a hard transition, but maybe it is a step on the path to mindfulness.

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  2. Memorization indeed has a place in the educational system. I think what is lacking now is the exploration of ‘human natural mindful thinking’ in the classroom. Teachers must endeavor to not require students to regurgitate, but make students more naturally, think about what they are being taught, as they would, any other thing outside of the classroom.

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  3. Memorization is definitely important. Students need to know the basic facts before they can move on to the next steps. However, rote learning should not be the focus. It should be the bridge to more critical types of thinking and inquiry.

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  4. I can see there may be instances where memorization can be useful. I think it is important to draw a distinction between rote memorization and experiential memorization. As much as I have tried to force myself to memorize facts, dates, theories, whatever through rote memorization in my 20 some years of being in school there are very few things that I actually remember (Delaware became a state on December 7, 1787, is about the extent of it). I think that knowledge retained by means of experience allows for the important variation that is required from person to person and between situations.

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  5. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Being mindful doesn’t entail the appropriation of new skills or knowledge, but rather simply remembering how we naturally learn. Actually, it’s almost the opposite process – clearing away the mental baggage so that mindfulness can happen naturally.

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