Unlearning: Just a different kind of learning | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 17, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:33 AM, September 17, 2020

Unlearning: Just a different kind of learning

I think we are all aware of the saying, "Learning is a lifelong process", and while we attribute learning to formal education in most cases, in reality it is actually a collective process that is never limited to just institutional achievements. Rather, learning encompasses everything that you can take away from anything. It is a process of shaping your own mentality, and individuality.

And so the importance of learning is immense, but what is equally important is "unlearning".

What "unlearning" is

Unlearning means discarding something that's already been learnt. It may be a bad habit, a false piece of information, an outdated belief, or even a toxic mentality. As we grow up, we need to pinpoint what has to be learnt, and what has to be unlearnt. As time gradually takes us forward, it is essential for us to look back, and evaluate what we've learnt over the years, and to judge if it's still valid or not.

What unlearning does

When we were growing up, we might have seen people of fairer complexions being favoured over darker ones. Inherently, many took that pale complexion as standard, and saw other people with a similar mindset do everything they could to their skin tone, in order to fit into that standard. Gradually, however, we started to become more mature and informed, and this mentality struck us as something sick and toxic. Hence, we taught ourselves to unlearn this idea and accept people of all complexions as who they are.

What unlearning really did here is expand and filter our perception. What it also does, is help us grow. For example, if there's a bad habit you've picked up from somewhere, that's holding you back, then you need to let go of it. Real growth is all about adjusting and tweaking, and sometimes, unlearning is what gives you power over your own self. Family and society often impose different mentalities or norms over us, which we go on to accept without a word. But it is crucial for us to analyse whether what we are learning in such a manner is right, or wrong. If it is the latter, it's better to unlearn it.

Why unlearning is important

For young people, it is imperative to mould their own individuality. If you want to become your own person, it is better to have your own set of beliefs judged by yourself, rather than having pre-imposed ones. And for that, you need to constantly edge and brush up your knowledge. As we are at the brink of being adults, and taking our own responsibilities, it is high time we let go of the norms that felt wrong, but we used to follow anyway.

In the wake of adulthood, we need to find our own identity and for that we need to  skim off what has been already there, but should not have. You cannot rewrite the chapters of your life, but you surely can learn and unlearn simultaneously from them, for the future ones.

You can reach out to the author at 01shreshtha7@gmail.com

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