Re: Pay for Learning LO1441

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Tue, 30 May 1995 21:23:43 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO1415 --

On Mon, 29 May 1995, Tobin Quereau wrote:
> How about it? What percent of your time do you manage to spend in
> "learning" at your job? In what ways does your employer support that
> learning (if at all)? Is the amount of time you spend learning something
> that you could increase in some appropriate way? Are you able to
> demonstrate the value of learning in your own job if someone asks you to?
> I have a feeling that many of you must spend a great deal of time in
> learning since I can see the results on my screen every day.
> I'd like to hear how it is for others....

Hum. Hum.. "pay for learning". "Learning"?

Clearly, there's something that we humans do better than any of our fellow
creatures. Let's call that activity "learning". The paradigm example I
always use is a child learning his native language. It's a paradigm in
the sense that if that's not learning, then nothing is learning. It's a
defining example. And all the other examples or instances we might cite
will have to arrange themselves in relation to this paradigm.

By that criterion, much of what we adults refer to as "learning" is only
a _very_ distant cognate.

"Pay for learning" is clearly a relation between two people (that is,
that's the minimum that the concept logically requires).

I have a bad feeling about where this is going. It looks to me like this:
any activity that I don't, or won't, engage in without being paid (more or
less literally) to do so by another person, can't possibly be called
"learning". At least, not if the paradigm is appropriate.

Oh, I don't mean to be holy-high-ground about it. Sure, there are lots of
activities that are _sort_of_ like learning, that I can imagine getting
paid for. Stuff that's not interesting enough for me to put my own
initiative into without a little extra in the pay. But if I'm already
immersed in what _is_ exciting about the job -- like a child learning a
language -- then the paid learning is only a distraction from the real
business at hand.

I suppose if we gave the kid enough cookies we could train him to recite
one word over and over and forget all that nonsense about sentences.

Plato was convinced that the Sophists corrupted their own intelligence by
taking money for teaching. I think there is an analogous possibility
with regard to learning.

Learning is a very personal series of transactions between me and the world.
It's not really controllable.

Of course the topic is difficult because the spectrum of activities is
wide. From my paradigm at one extreme, to the unix manpages I consult
daily without even thinking about it, to looking up somebody's phone
number, dialing, and forgetting the number five minutes later.

A great deal of the learning we do every day, all of us, is what I call
2nd or 3rd order learning. It's a little reflective activity that
_completely_ interpenetrates with the daily grind. It diverts no effort,
takes place in the interstices of our work.

Some kinds of learning take time: some don't. You just finished reading
about some of the feedback cycles in The Fifth Discipline; how much time
does it take, the next day at work, to see them in operation? Is a day
filled with insights _less_ productive, because of the "time" they consume,
than a day without?

     Jim Michmerhuizen
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. . . . . There are more different kinds of people in the world . . . . .
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