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The process of acquiring knowledge or skills

Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values or preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in some plants. Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event (e.g. being burned by a hot stove), but much skill and knowledge accumulates from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to be "lost" from that which cannot be retrieved.

Notable Topics


Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1997
Biographical essay, including Nock's early life, editorship of The Freeman (1920-1924), and notable books and essays
"Progressive" education theorist John Dewey belittled "mere learning" and claimed that "social reconstruction" was the mission of schooling ... Nock grew up in a semirural Brooklyn ... According to his account, he learned the alphabet by puzzling over a newspaper and asking questions ... In The Theory of Education in the United States (1932) and other writings, Nock challenged the American dream of educating everybody. He believed that while most people could be trained to do useful things, only a few could truly cultivate their minds and contribute to civilization.
America as Utopia, by Robert Nisbet, Reason, Mar 1987
Historical survey of the "American Religion" (America as "the city upon a hill") from the Pilgrims to the present and questions whether it will progress further in the near future
Add to these the all too evident decline in the sense of and respect for knowledge—as compared with mere information of the sort the newsweeklies dispense automatically ... Merely glance at some randomly selected college catalogs of courses: under the rubric of history we are more than likely to find a half-dozen courses on feminine mystique, black literature, the unemployed, the indigent, and alienation in America for every straightforward course on the American nation as a whole. The view is hardly better when we turn to philosophy.
Bad Teachers, by Thomas Sowell, 19 Apr 1998
Review of the 1998 book Bad Teachers: The Essential Guide for Concerned Parents by Guy Strickland, a former teacher and principal turned education consultant
Hurt feelings, psychological scars and negative reactions to the learning process can be among the consequences that can follow a child for years, producing an ill-educated adult who will pay for the rest of his life for not having gotten a good education. ... The most brutal reality of all is this: 'No one really cares whether your child learns anything at school.' All sorts of people have all sorts of other agendas — from the teachers' union lobbyist ... to principals who will readily 'sell your child down the river' to keep the teachers happy and the district office out of their hair.
Childhood Ends at Puberty, by Charley Reese, 15 Apr 2006
Recounts the early life of Benjamin Franklin and argues for ending formal basic education by 13
From age 13 to 15 ... [Franklin] borrowed books to read, among them John Bunyan, Xenophon, John Locke, various histories and religious polemics ... What is your 15-year-old reading? I might point out that most students don't read Locke until they get to college. ... young men and women .. in their teens who also have a genius IQ, and too many of them are being bored to bad behavior by curricula that have been dumbed down ... Education doesn't really take place in an institution. The individual educates himself by reading and thinking. Ideally, a teacher can offer some guidance, perhaps stir some enthusiasm.
The Economics of Self-Ownership, by Michael S. Rozeff, Mises Daily, 6 Sep 2005
Explores ten economic arguments in justification of the self-ownership axiom
As one proceeds through time, one receives feedback from earlier decisions ... Feedback helps one learn. It helps us decide what new decisions to make. Each individual decision involves evaluation of available options, choice, implementing an option, and then monitoring the outcome; and these individual decisions are connected with many others ... [T]here are complex feedback loops involved. This argument says that a person cannot learn how to navigate and create his own life without being free to choose because lack of freedom prevents learning and interrupts the feedback loops.
Expensive Ignorance, by Charley Reese, 25 Nov 2006
Examines results from a survey of college students on U.S. history, economics and its place in the world
Maybe 100 years ago, ignorance didn't matter so much, but our margin of safety is gone, and we absolutely cannot expect to maintain this country with yahoos who get their education from television and the movies and those college graduates who are close to being the most expensive functional illiterates in the world.
Freeing the Education Market, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Mar 1993
Examines the effects of compulsory public education on literacy rates and suggests market alternatives
Ignoring the uniqueness of each individual, [the school system] expects all children of a given age to be learning the same things in the same way ... In the earlier grades, boredom is also a problem ... Only a governmental school bureaucracy could wonder what is wrong with young children who prefer to move around, talk, and learn what they want to learn rather than sit quietly and listen to an adult droning on ... The very idea of compulsory learning is ludicrous. Given a biologically normal child, learning is inevitable. Think how much children learn during their pre-school years.
The Future and Its Enemies, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, May 1999
Review of The Future and Its Enemies (1998) by Virginia Postrel
The acquisition of knowledge and discovering uses for it are an open-ended process, the full prediction and anticipation of which are impossible. We will learn all the things that man may be able to create and discover only through the actual processes of creation and discovery ... Only by trial and error, experimentation, and decentralized competition can we ever discover what we might be able to learn and devise as answers to human problems and improvements to the human circumstance. And the dynamist considers that there is no final end or goal, only a never-ending process of change and discovery.
How to Become a Teacher [PDF], by Robert LeFevre, The Voluntaryist, Feb 1983
Autobiographical summary of the events in LeFevre's life that led to the founding of the Freedom School, including LeFevre's relationship with Baldy Harper and the offer for him to lead the School
I learned to teach by trial and error. It is the best way to learn ... When you think you understand a subject, begin to explain it to students. They will quickly reveal to you how little you know. And when they send you back to source material and into deep study and reflection in order to camouflage your prior folly and when this repeats frequently over a period of years, you will know how to teach ... I have no teaching certificate, no license, no ... credentials. Learning to use one's mind as a teacher is like learning to play the violin. Constant practice with the instrument does the job.
How To Get Action, by Leonard Read, Ideas on Liberty, May 1955
First published in the quarterly Ideas on Liberty; reprinted in the 1958 collection Essays on Liberty, Vol. III and in The Freeman Aug 1998; argues the best form of action is working on self-improvement
Perhaps the best that can be said is that the finest minds of all time have been in pursuit of its understanding and that now and then a tiny ray of new light has been thrown on what theretofore was darkness and lack of understanding. These few most advanced searchers have been among the first to say, "The more exploration I do, the more I find there is to learn." ... Reason recommends that a person get the horse before the cart; that first one must learn; that influencing others will take care of itself. Reason says that influence in the creative areas can have no effectiveness prior to learning; that learning has no end.
John Locke—Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Aug 1996
Extensive biographical essay, including summaries of his major works
[Locke] challenged the traditional doctrine that learning consisted entirely of reading ancient texts and absorbing religious dogmas. He maintained that understanding the world required observation. He encouraged people to think for themselves. He urged that reason be the guide ... Thomas Hobbes had insisted that education should promote submission to authority, but Locke declared education is for liberty. Locke believed that setting a personal example is the most effective way to teach moral standards and fundamental skills ... He urged parents to nurture the unique genius of each child.
Karl Hess and the Death of Politics, by Jeff Riggenbach, 13 May 2010
Transcript of the 6 May 2010 "Libertarian Tradition" podcast; includes a trove of biographical information
[Thelma Hess] taught [Karl] to read, and then, as he got older, she started refusing to answer his questions whenever they were questions she believed he could find out the answers to for himself. She took him to the public library, taught him how to use it. She took him to the city and county and state and federal offices where public records were stored and showed him how to access those records. She taught him how to use dictionaries and other reference books. She offered to write him a note excusing his absence from school any days he wanted to skip school, as long as he'd spend those days at home or in the public library reading ...
Philosophy the Right Way, by Aaron Ross Powell, 21 Mar 2013
Discusses how some people reject a philosopher or political theory solely because they disagree with some aspect of the thinker or the arguments given and counsels in favor of keeping a broad mind and learning even from those with whom you may disagree
We should never close off fields of inquiry simply because they appear to reach conclusions we find implausible or distasteful or wrong ... [W]hat seems wrong to us now may in fact be right, even if the chances of it being right are astronomically small. Socrates told Gorgias, "I count being refuted a greater good. ... I don't suppose there's anything quite so bad for a person as having false belief about the thing we're discussing." ... Even if after exploring [the ideas] we have good reason to reject the conclusions, we can still learn much by studying how the author arrived at them.
Related Topics: Libertarianism, Philosophy
Restoring Parental Responsibility for Education, by Marshall Fritz, The Freeman, Jul 1996
Diffferentiates between "public" and "private" schools, arguing against calls for adding "market dynamics" to the former and pointing out lack of parental responsibility as the culprit for the lack of success in tax-funded schools
Marva Collins ... likes to say, "If it ain't caught, it wasn't taught." In other words, if the children aren't "getting it," the person in front of the class is a talker, not a teacher. Some talkers admit the distinction by saying they "covered the subject" as opposed to "taught a lesson." Professor Howard Hendricks ... says that distinction is easy to grasp in Hebrew because that language has no distinct word "to teach." Instead, a form of the word "learn" is used to mean "to produce learning." We could translate it more correctly if we had the word "enlearning."
The Threat of Militarism, by Karen Kwiatkowski, 9 Jul 2006
Presentation to Global Scholar seminar, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia; discusses "the nature of modern United States foreign policy" while reflecting on what Eisenhower, Smedley Butler and Mark Twain said and wrote
First, [Mark] Twain, [General Smedley] Butler, and Ike [Eisenhower] were all educated, competent, and aware of the world around them. They didn't have it all presented to them in some school ... their knowledge was not found in framed diplomas on walls. These three successfully challenged authority, government policies and bad behavior, because they all had some degree of practical knowledge and understanding of history, technologies of the day, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and people ... Being willing to learn, willing to question, and willing to work hard will actually help counteract six of the seven deadly sins ...
We Need Freedom, Not School Standards, by Sheldon Richman, Jun 1996
Compares the levels of education of Americans before and after 1840, when Horace Mann and others architected "public schools" and various levels of government got involved in education
Before about 1840 ... [c]hildren didn't have to attend school at all! Yet, America was a highly literate society—the most dynamic and enterprising in history. Almost everyone who wished to read and write could do so ... People could also do arithmetic, and they knew their history ... Parents and children together decided what it was worth knowing, and they acquired that knowledge. That's all it took ... We must rediscover the idea that education is not for the glory of the nation, the good of society, or the health of the economy. It is for the growth of the child into a free and independent adult.
W(h)ither Public Schools?, by Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State, 1994
Chapter 1, made available online on 19 May 2004 to celebrate the tenth publication anniversary; discusses how even mild "public school" reforms are treated as "deadly threats", why a new vision is needed and the role of the family in educating children
If we are to see the current system for what it is, we must have a new vision of what education should be. Education should be seen as a way of encouraging the child's natural curiosity. That change in focus automatically makes the child the active party in the enterprise. (Various educational fads pay lip service to the child as active party, but they do not mean it.) Children come into the world thirsting for knowledge about their surroundings. The educational process needs only to abstain from killing that curiosity. Each child is unique. The last thing he or she needs is a procrustean school.


The Plowboy Interview: Karl Hess, by Karl Hess, Anson Mount, Mother Earth News, Jan 1976
Karl Hess interview in issue No. 37, Jan/Feb 1976, shortly after his book Dear America (1975) had become a bestseller, questions him about the switch from right wing conservatism to the New Left
PLOWBOY: You seem to admire your mother very much.
HESS: I certainly do. She's the best lady in the world. She taught me how to read, which is a hell of a lot better than having money. She even let me leave school when I was 15, because I found it so dull. And that was the biggest mistake of my life: I waited too long. I should have quit when I was ten. I doubt that a school can teach a child anything after the age of eight or ten that he or she can't learn better at the public library.

Cartoons and Comic Strips

So how was school today?, by Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, 31 Jan 2011
Pretty cool, actually! We learned about something called 'The Bill of Rights'


Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, 1971
Electronic text available at the Internet Archive
Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook: A Short Guide to Her Ideas and Materials
    by Maria Montessori, 1914
Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School--But Didn't, by Peter McWilliams, Apr 1990
Contents: Part One: Introduction To Life - Part Two: Advanced Tools For Eager Learners - Part Three: Master Teachers In Disguise - Part Four: Tools For Successful Doers - Part Five: To Have Joy And To Have It More Abundantly
Related Topic: Life
The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in the Children's Houses
    by Maria Montessori, 1912

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Learning" as of 10 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.