INTRODUCTION: Reconsidering Learning
This book is a philosophical treatment of the concept of learning as it applies to childrearing and education. Such a book is necessary because of the distorted way in which learning has been treated by many psychologists and those educationists who have been influenced by them. Learning is an important part of human life and the major concern of our education and training systems, not to mention the institution of child-rearing in any society. In addition, life is a matter not just of having more experiences but of preparing for and reflecting on experience. These activities can be called ‘learning’ just as much as the acquisition of knowledge, skill and understanding in childhood and early adulthood. Learning is, then, at the heart of human experience and, as such, a proper matter for a philosophical treatment, particularly where a rescue operation is necessary. First, a word of clarification. I use the term ‘learning’ generically to cover not only those situations where people apply themselves deliberately and carefully to acquiring knowledge, skill and understanding, but also to those situations where they acquire these things either without apparent effort or through the normal processes of growth. The terms ‘acquisition’ and ‘development’ respectively are usually applied to these cases and I shall follow such usage but cover the full range of my concerns under the term ‘learning’, constantly bearing in mind both the similarities and the differences between the cases. The idea of learning through a quasi-biological form of development will, however, be critically discussed in Chapter 7. In addition, I shall be concerned with learning in both the task (trying to learn) sense and the achievement (having succeeded in learning) sense, and the discussion and context should make clear the distinction if it is necessary to do so.