This I Believe

mary - houston, Texas
Entered on June 21, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe that learning is never wasted. I teach Basic Nutrition at Houston Community College, Central Campus. Often while lecturing, a student will ask, “Will this be on the test?” On the one hand, given all the information that is packed into each major exam, it makes sense for a student to focus on content that will be tested. On the other hand, I’m tempted to pause and discuss with him the goal of learning. I would tell him that some facts he will need to know for the test. For example, another name for Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. But the concepts we cover in this course he will need to know for life. I want him to learn that if a little vitamin C is good, more is not necessarily better and that there is a Tolerable Upper Intake level for all vitamins. Past that level, the health effects on the body turn negative.

I once heard an artist explain that the benefit of art is not only in the appreciation of the colors, design and workmanship of the painting, but in the ability of one to appreciate the color, design and creation of nature. In other words, there is crossover value in the study of one field to another. The same applies to other disciplines. All the time I took figuring out calculus and physics problems in high school and college, has helped me develop problem solving strategies that I use today. Every problem is a puzzle. If one approach doesn’t work, I’ll use another.

All students in my course, whether they major in nursing or cosmetology, will be asked to decide whether they, themselves, need to spend money on vitamin supplements. The evaluative skills necessary to answer this question are useful in every aspect of their lives. How much of a vitamin is enough, in a broader sense, becomes how much of anything is enough? How much car, house, income, recognition is enough for each of us to be content?

So when the students leave my final exam and go directly to the book store to sell their text book, now used, I like to believe that the real learning is something they can’t sell back. The soon-to-be-forgotten data was not the real learning that took place in the class. My goal for my students is to understand global concepts and recognize their crossover value in disparate fields. For that reason, I believe that no learning is ever wasted.