B1 Intermediate UK 1628 Folder Collection
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One of the most obvious but striking things
about a modern education is that you go through

it only once. You show up every day for a
number of years, get filled up with knowledge

and then, once you’re twenty-one or so,
you stop – and begin the rest of your life.

Before modern education took off, the mightiest
educational systems in the world were religions.

It was religions that taught us about ethics,
purpose and the meaning of life. And one of

the interesting aspects of their pedagogy
was that they were obsessed with repetition.

For them, it was absurd to imagine ever learning
anything if you went through it only once.

The whole basis of religious education rested
upon repetition. Five times a day, as a Muslim

one was to rehearse the central tenets of
Islam; seven times a day as a Christian Benedictine

monk, one was to revisit the lessons of scripture.
As an orthodox Jew, 300 days a year were marked

out for commemoration and ritual repetition
of ideas in the Torah, while as a Zen priest,

one would be inducted to sit cross-legged
and meditate up to twelve times between daybreak

and nightfall. Religions had what one might
term a sieve view of the mind: that anything

one pours in will quickly be lost in our perforated
memories. By contrast, modern education adheres

to an implicitly bucket-like theory of the
mind: one pours in the contents and, bar accidents,

they’ll stay there pretty much across a
life-time. That’s why we’ll think nothing

of earnestly declaring a book a favourite
– and deigning to read it only once. Far

less naively and far more generously, religions
prefer to imagine that anything you tell someone

in the morning will, by two in the afternoon,
be well on the way to evaporation and will

be pretty much gone by nightfall. Repetition
is the only way of ensuring that something

will stick. Once you’ve finished reading
a favourite holy text, the story of Moses

for example, you head straight back to the
beginning and start again, with the bull rushes

and the baby infant. We pay a heavy price
for our lack of interest in rehearsing lessons

and ideas. There are all kinds of things we
badly need to keep in our minds: the better

parts of our nature that speak to us of being
patient, of remaining gentle, of striving

for forgiveness, of pausing to appreciate,
of straining to understand what at first seems

unbearably foreign… We’ve been taught
these things once, of course. But it was a

while ago now. Possibly when we were seven.
And so, naturally, they’re not at the front

of our minds as we career through our lives,
smashing into things and people, raging and

blaming, slandering and hating. There’s
equal, and possibly far greater wisdom to

be found in the secular as opposed to the
religious sphere, but those who dispense it

are far too hopeful about the functioning
of our minds. They choose to tell us just

once, possibly in quite a low voice, about
all the things that matter; maybe in a beautiful

but very dense poem or in quite a slow moving
novel we once read fitfully over a summer

two decades ago. And then they expect us to
keep it all in mind our whole lives long – and

we’re surprised that the march of human
craziness goes on unabated. We should not

abandon our most precious insights to the
lax guardians of our memories. We need to

steal the idea of repetition from religions
– and create our own catechisms, our own

midnight prayers, our own cycles of rehearsed
knowledge. We need to make the most important

ideas vivid in our minds on a constant basis.
We should never be done with school. We should

daily be re-immersed in the great truths:
that we will die, that we must understand

ourselves, that we must love, that others
are sad rather than mean… Many of us are

done with religion; but we shouldn’t be
done with what religions knew so well of our

minds: that nothing stays active in them,
unless we rehearse and repeat with every new

dawn. We need to keep coming back – Not
least: here.

At The School Of Life we believe in developing emotional intelligence.
To that end we have also created a whole range of products to support that growth.
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Why We Only Learn When We Repeat

1628 Folder Collection
ZhiXuan Tu published on August 6, 2017
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