Learning …


Swami Rama tells a story in the wonderful book, Living With The Himalayan Masters … This story is about a student of a Master who had never seen a cow, nortasted milk, but wanted to, because he had heard that milk is very nutritious. He went to the Master, and asked for his help. The master described the cow in great detail, and then described milk as being white, and being very good for the health. Now, the student went to search for a cow in the nearby village, where he couldnt come across a cow, but did see a statue of a cow. Now, nearby, people were whitewashing a house, and the bucket of whitewash was kept near the statue of the cow. Seeing this, and the white liquid in the bucket, the student thought this to be milk, and drank it. Needless to say, he was taken ill, and had to be admitted to hospital.

This story tells us of the value of direct experience. This is an invaluable asset to enable us to learn. We may learn a lot of concepts, but without direct experience, this learning is at best, partial. This is really the value of Internalization, as termed by Nonaka and Takeuchi, too. And this is something which we need to keep in mind when the question of training comes up … Usually, the concept of direct experience is not factored into the curriculum itself within the training, and this takes a bit away from the value of the training itself.

Over the weekend, i was seeing my son doing numbers. Yes, he is actually taking time off from being part-time Batman, and part-time footballer, to learn calculations using the method of the Abacus. Interestingly, he uses exactly the phrases that his teacher uses in class, to try to calculate. “Look down, is it enough?”, he asks himself. “No”, comes the answer, from himself, and so, he looks up to carry on the calculation. This, from his scrapbook, is the exact language his teacher, uses, too.

And this is the aspect about learning which we need to leverage with stories. Whenever i used to teach Min-Max Planning, i used to tell a story … about Mom going to buy Rice … buying a fixed quantity for the month, not on a daily basis, and replenishing while there is still some Rice at home. I have written about this here. This goes to illustrate the value of building a picture for learners which they can carry with them, instead of dry concepts, and which enables them to relate concepts to things in the real world.

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