GRE Issue Essay 33

“We learn through direct experience; to accept a theory without experiencing it is to learn nothing at all.”

“Don’t run or else you will fall and hurt yourself.” Most of us have heard this being said by our parents or elders whenever we went out to play as kids. Did we pay any heed to these words until we actually fell down once and felt the pain of a wound on our knees? A child will learn the fact that running fast may lead to his getting hurt only if he has gone through it once or else he will probably not even remember this fact as he grows up. On the other hand, there are certain theories that have to be accepted and learnt as they have been told to us as there is no way of experiencing them directly. For instance, is it possible for everyone to travel into space and experience zero gravity to learn about the theory of zero gravity in space? Therefore, the best way to learn something is by experiencing it, but if it is not possible to provide the direct experience for learning something, then the best alternative is to accept the theory and you will definitely be able to learn from it by going through the experiences of others.

Learning is a process that includes practical experience as well as an analysis of facts and figures. These facts would have been arrived at after detailed research work done by researchers and scientists. There are numerous books and papers that describe the theory in detail. There may a mention of the experiences of others or there may be detailed calculations and other proofs that confirm the conclusion being stated by the theory. It is in the interest of the person learning the theory to go over the proofs given in the theory and accept it. This is because it may not be humanely possible to experience all theories directly. Can we directly experience the ‘Big Bang’ theory that describes the birth of our solar system? On the other hand, we all can directly experience gravity and this makes us learn the concept of gravity in a much better manner.

Reading forms a very important aspect of learning. We cannot undermine the importance of reading in comparison to direct experience. Although, it is true that direct experience is one of the best ways of learning a theory, the significance of reading cannot be totally ignored. Reading and experience go hand in hand in teaching concepts to students. One can learn without direct experience, but one cannot learn on his own without reading. Children would have experienced that the night is dark and the day is bright, but they won’t know the theory of the earth’s rotation unless they read about it from books. Therefore, gaining direct experience is secondary to reading from books and hence if direct experience is lacking, then it does not mean that one has not been able to learn anything.

The educational systems in most teaching establishments emphasize a lot on practical training so as to make the process of learning easier. However, there may be certain theories and concepts for which it may not be possible to provide direct hands-on-practice. This does not mean that the students attending classes in these institutions are not learning anything. They will definitely be learning a lot by reading alone. Providing direct experience may make certain concepts and theories easier to understand, but the unavailability of direct experience does not hinder the process of learning in any way whatsoever.