Gentle Wind School Newsletters
 1990? REBOUND Volume 1 

To Study VS To Memorize

To Study:  to give one's attention to acquiring knowledge of a subject; to examine attentively; to give care and consideration to.

To Memorize:  to learn as to know it from memory; to recall into one's mind without the aid of notes.

The current educational system is built on the false assumption that memorizing a subject is the same thing as studying a subject. Yet, in reality studying and memorizing are two very different processes. To study something is to explore all of the possibilities of that thing. To study a thing is to take it apart, look at the different aspects of it, weigh one aspect against another and draw some conclusions about the nature of that thing.

For example, if you were going to study a subject Like photography, you would have to take the time to find out how cameras work and what types of film to use for what types of pictures. You would have to find out how light meters work and why they are needed. You would have to go out and take a lot of pictures in order to discover what makes for a good photograph and what does not. In fact, you might take hundreds and even thousands of photographs be fore you could discover what makes an interesting photograph.

If you wanted to pursue the study of photography, you would have to set up your own darkroom and learn how to develop your own film. You would have to find out about which chemicals to use with black and white film and which chemicals to use with color film. You would need to learn how to use an enlarger in order to turn your negatives into prints. You would have to mix your own chemicals and acquire the equipment necessary to keep your color chemicals at the proper temperatures, and you would have to learn how to expose your prints to these chemicals for the proper amounts of time.

In other words, in order to study a subject like photography, in order to acquire real knowledge about the subject, you would have to take the time to become involved, physically involved, with the subject you wished to know about. The same thing is true about studying mathematics or language or any other subject. In order to acquire real knowledge of mathematics, you would have to take the time to become involved with mathematics. You would have to find out how and where it is used in the world. Because its primary use is in building and construction, if you wanted to study math, you would have to become involved in house construction or boatbuilding or in some other physical project that required the use of mathematics.

We could substitute the word "familiarize" for the word "study." This would give readers the best English description of how human beings come to acquire knowledge. To familiarize one's self with something is to become acquainted with, accustomed to, and to make commonly known. When a person purchases a new car, the Ford or Chevy dealer might say to the customer, "Be sure to familiarize yourself with the manual for this car." The car dealer never says, "Be sure to memorize the contents of the manual for this car." That would be ludicrous. Yet, educators ask children to memorize reference manuals all day long.

Educators say that memorizing a subject is the same thing as studying a subject. However, memorizing is the exact opposite of studying. If you are going to memorize a subject, you must disassociate yourself from the function and the purpose of the subject being studied. You must then divide that subject into fragmented data bits and then memorize the words that describe these fragmented data bits.

If, for example, you were going to "learn" about photography in the way that "learning" is done in schools, you would be asked to memorize the parts of various pieces of photography equipment. You would be given a book that listed and described these parts and that broke the subject of photography down into isolated data bits. You would then be asked to memorize all of these isolated data bits. You might be shown a picture of a camera or a roll of film or an enlarger, but you would never be allowed to use a real camera to take real pictures and become directly involved in photography.

In substituting memorization of a subject for the actual study of a subject, educators have failed to see that we live in a physical world, not a mental world.

Of course, in school you would be given a test to see if you could remember the definition of each piece of photography equipment, and of course, you would be graded on your ability to recall these definitions. When the course was over you would be left with the false assumption that you actually knew something about the subject of photography, and about how to take and develop pictures. But since you were never allowed to become physically involved with the subject of photography, you will forget in a very short time the information that was memorized. Furthermore, because the subject of photography, like all subjects which are taught in schools, was presented to you as a series of isolated data bits, you have concluded that photography is nothing more than meaningless, isolated data bits. The fact that you have been tested and graded on your ability to remember these isolated data bits has caused you to abhor and detest the subject of photography, even if you did very well on your photography exams. The wonder and the miracle of taking pictures is lost to you forever.

Reading, writing, mathematics, history and geography are subjects that can be studied, but only in their natural context. When these subjects are memorized in school instead of studied, they are taken out of their natural contexts and are divided into fragmented data bits. The data bits are memorized for the purpose of taking a test and getting a grade. When children are asked to memorize subjects instead of studying them, they usually forget the material that has been memorized within a few days after taking the exam. But worse than that, the memorizing of subject matter which has been taken out of context and broken down into isolated data bits always causes children mental harm. For further information on the damage that is done to the mental systems of children as a result of memorizing data bits see "Great Education Moves," issues 1-4.

We are not saying that memorizing is not a useful thing. There are situations where memorizing certain information might be critical. If, for example, you worked in a nuclear power plant and you were responsible for the maintenance of a nuclear reactor, you would want to know what to do in case the reactor failed. So you might have to memorize a series of procedures that told you what to do when a reactor showed signs of failure, in this case, memorization without direct involvement with the subject matter would be used for survival purposes, which is the only way that it is used in any natural, reality-oriented society.

Furthermore, we are not saying that people do not memorize information all the time, because they do. It is just that the natural way for human beings to learn is through direct, personal involvement with a subject. The memorizing of information about a subject comes out of studying that subject. In other words, if a person took the time to study a subject like photography, that person would end up memorizing certain pieces of information about photography, but the memorizing of this information would have come out of having studied photography without trying to memorize anything. Studying a subject (familiarizing oneself with a subject) is the only way that human beings can take in information in a way that allows them to retain that information for any extended period of time. Educators know from their own research that most high school graduates cannot recall even 5 percent of the information which they memorized in school.

In forcing children to memorize unrelated data bits, educators deprive children of becoming involved in the dance of life. The dance of life is the movement and involvement with the physical world which all parents can see their children engage in before their children start school. The dance of life is the talking about things, the touching, holding and manipulating of things that all children under the age of ten must be able to do if they are to find out the things they need to know about how the world works. The dance of life cannot be done in a hard wooden chair. It cannot be done under the psychological duress of the classroom and it cannot be done by trying to memorize isolated data bits which have been taken out of their natural context.

People remember only the subjects they have danced with. Human beings under the age of ten must do this dance of life or they are rendered permanently incompetent. As adults, they can have all the technology in the world at their fingertips, but they cannot use it to solve their own problems if they have not danced with it. Our Congress is filled with senators and representatives who spent their time memorizing unrelated data bits and were robbed of the dance of life. Now they are rendered incompetent to solve the serious and in some cases life-threatening problems which this nation faces.

Children must have the opportunity to study the physical world and acquire real knowledge of the physical world before attempting to achieve in the mental world.

In substituting memorization of a subject for the actual study of a subject, educators have failed to see that we live in a physical world, not a mental world. Educators are trying to prepare children for life in a mental world. While educators refuse to teach children about how to live in a physical world, educators are looking for academic excellence. But it is not possible to achieve excellence or to have success in the mental world without first having achieved some success in the physical world. Children must have the opportunity to study the physical world and acquire real knowledge of the physical world before attempting to achieve in the mental world. The natural time for all human beings to study the physical world is between infancy and approximately nine years of age, although some children might need even more time. This natural developmental period is called the period of absorbency. It is essential that human beings have the opportunity to study the physical world during this natural period of absorbency because, unless they have this time to accumulate direct physical world experiences, they cannot form proper mental representations later on. Children who are not allowed to study the physical world end up with false mental representations which have no basis in reality. This is the case with every educated person in this society.

Furthermore, in school, everything is flat. The walls are flat. The desks are flat, the floor, the ceiling and the doors are all flat. The blackboards are flat. The books and the bulletin boards are all flat. Even most teachers are mentally and emotionally flat. When children are exposed to schools during the period of absorbency, they tend to absorb the rigid, two-dimensional, flat aspects of the classroom, which in turn causes a child's consciousness to be flat.

In substituting memorization of a subject for the actual study of a subject, educators have failed to see that we live in a physical world, not a mental world.

When young children are not allowed to observe this period of absorbency and their natural, logical sequence for gaining knowledge about the physical world is interrupted with premature mental activity, children are permanently and irreversibly harmed. Not allowing human beings to study and to become familiar with the physical world during this natural period of absorbency is a form of psychological cruelty. Interrupting a child's natural urge to study the physical world is the same thing as tripping a child who is trying to learn how to walk or depriving a child of food.

When young children are confined to rigidified, backward, two-dimensional classroom life during the time when everything in their natural systems is telling them to experience the physical world and not the mental world, children become desperate. Sometimes this desperation is internal and quiet, and sometimes it is not, because the management of this desperation is more difficult for some than it is for others.

Educated people who are not allowed to study the physical world live as if reality were a flat, rigid, two dimensional mental world. Physicians who have been educated in this system have lost their ability to diagnose. Some studies now show that up to one-half of all diagnoses are incorrect. This is because medicine is a physical science that must be studied. It is not a mental pursuit that can be memorized. Physicians educated in this system approach three-dimensional physical bodies as if they were flat, two dimensional mental representations.

Politicians, economists, industrial leaders, lawyers, engineers and others have all been affected similarly. Political leaders are incapable of making coherent decisions because political leadership in the physical world requires a knowledge and understanding of physical reality. Political leadership is not a mental pursuit. Economics is not a mental pursuit. Economics is a physical study that requires direct involvement with physical reality. The American economy is in serious difficulty and may collapse in the next decade because politicians, bankers and economic experts have been making mental decisions that affect this nation's financial structure which have no relationship to what is taking place in physical reality.

Educators expect and assume that parents will prepare children to live in the physical world. The problem with this expectation is that educators have children's resources all tied up. Children begin preparing for school at 6 o'clock in the morning and they do not get home from school until 3 or even 4 o'clock in the afternoon. By the time children unwind from what they have endured all day in the classroom, it is time for dinner. After dinner, children do their homework and go to bed. Most parents have very little time with their children every day. It is not possible for parents to teach their children the things which their children need to know about the physical world because school children and parents have so little time together. The prime education hours have been wasted in endarkenment and isolation.

In forcing a child to memorize unrelated data bits, the miracle of a child discovering his or her own unique interests is lost forever. When children are ready to learn something, they do not need to be forced to study a subject. Children only need to be forced to memorize the unrelated subject matter that is offered to them in school because memorizing this information violates every law of nature. When a child wants to do something like learn to ride a bike, the child will learn to ride. The child will get help or learn to ride on his or her own. How often the child goes bike riding after learning to ride is up to the child. Some children will learn to ride, but then only go bike riding occasionally. Other children will just have to get out and ride every day.

Some children will learn to ride, but then discover that the best part of having a bike for them is being able to service the bike, to take it apart and do maintenance on it. Some children will discover that they enjoy doing tricks with their bicycles, while others like to go out and ride very fast. Some children may even discover that what they would like to do is to manufacture bikes and distribute them to stores. But all of these miracles begin with the simple act of learning to ride a bike.

Children do not learn to ride by taking bicycle riding 101, 202, 303 and 404. Children do not need to learn how to ride over and over again. Just a simple lesson or a few lessons is all that children need. Once children learn how to ride, their proficiency which they may develop is a function of their own guiding principle. So it is with every aspect of learning. Once children learn how to read (preferably around the age of nine or ten when they are ready), they will, employ reading in the same way as children who have learned to ride a bike, and with the same unique levels of passion and interest. The same is true for subjects like mathematics or any other discipline. Once you pass the initial learning of a skill and go on and give courses like bicycle riding 202, 303 and 404, you have defied natural law and assumed that all children have exactly the same interest in bicycle riding and the same need to learn to ride. The miracle of a child discovering his or her own unique interest in a bicycle is lost forever.