Recently, upon reviewing several charts and graphs put out by the U.S. Department of Education through their Institution of Education Services, I was quite troubled as to what I saw. The specific numbers vary from subject to subject, and chart to chart, but our country has seen a steady decline in academic scores as compared to other countries. This fact, considered in light of the constant flood of news related to limited school funding, poor public school performance, etc. should not surprise us, but it should call us to action. We can no longer sit back and wonder what became of the schools that we knew when we grew up, the educational standards that served us well, or the scholars that were seated next to us on the bus. No, we must look at the bigger issues at hand. One of those, the difference between learning and reading is a critical starting point for our future generations.
Learning is not the same as reading. We know this because we can sit in a meeting, looking over reports, and find ourselves rereading the data a second or third time through before it sinks in. We can read an interesting web article and not be able to describe it to a friend several hours later. That is because we are just going through the process of reading, using this skills, but we very regularly fail to engage with the material. We do not learn it, we only read it. This problem is rampant in our educational system as students and teachers push to move through designated amounts of material in limited time periods, all the while leaving their brains “disengaged.”
Clearly this impacts our productivity, our understanding, and our ability to apply what we have read to our daily work, or our learning process. On the other hand, true learning impacts application. It must. That is the end result of wisdom – changed behavior, changed application. Imagine if students across this country, whether in public, private, or home school situations, were able to master the material that they read because they learn how to use their brain and therefore, learn, more efficiently. Mastery is not a daunting task when we allow our God-given brains to do their job! When seen as a tool and not just a container for random information, our brain can do some truly amazing things.
Sadly, though, this is not something that is readily taught in our school system and we are seeing the effects in the national statistics. Students of all ages must learn to be involved with the content of their studies, to understand its significance, to connect to what they are reading and learning, but with a purpose. By doing this and not just going through the motions, students can avoid wasting their valuable time on reading, and apply that time to effective and meaningful learning. If we rethink our methods, this change could impact future generations and all would benefit, but it must start with using our brains more efficiently during the learning process. With our brains as an active partner in our education, we can become educated, not just well-read, which while often having the connotation of “educated,” can often mean something less than that.