Talks Versus Textbooks

When I was in school there is not much I learned from textbooks except maybe what was in fashion in the 1970’s. I might learn that so and so’s sister once owned the textbook 6 years earlier (remember the handwritten running list at the front of the book).

When I was in university I didn’t learn much from lectures (aside from a few brilliant professors – my Latin American politics prof, Charles Taylor- my philosophy of political science prof, and a few others here and there.)

I saved my learning time for when I was reading books, not textbooks, but primary sources. I engaged in learning when I went to my weekly tutorial sessions with the grad students because they were personal and interactive.

I am not sure if classrooms are changing much but I hope they are. Textbooks were old and stale because they were impersonal. They were supposed to be. ‘neutral’. Now as an ‘old lady’ (because let’s face it that’s what I am to the college students who look younger every year) my learning continues outside my formal education and it is easy to stay engaged because of the talks I seek out and the texts that I find easily via social media.

It’s true that we have to cross check more, and read everything with a few more grains of salt because there is so much ‘content’ out there, but it is the personal stories that teach so much.

Last year, I was lucky enough to attend TEDx Cambridge and from science to technology, business to medicine, the talks were close to the speakers hearts and not just curriculum.

Today, I had the joy of attending Listen To Your Mother in Boston. I heard women of all ages, backgrounds, and stages of life talk so eloquently with humour, sadness, joy, and love. I learned from them and about them.

There’s a point in life somewhere between the social whirlwind of middle, high school, college, and the rat race that follows it that we somehow stop looking for who is talking to you and start just seeing what is talking to you. You go to a conference to hear x person with y training. I’m speaking to a boss, an employee, a neighbor, a class parent, a mom blogger, a food blogger, a chef, a babysitter, an ‘expert’. Maybe it’s just me, but somewhere in there I stop wondering about who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Maybe I don’t have time to get to know you or you don’t want to ‘bother me’ with details of your story.

I want to know. I want to learn from you. I want to listen to you. It is why
I follow your Instagram feed. It is why I share so many bits of my life on my feeds too. It is not about the Joneses. It is not about the working or the stay at home, the single or the ‘coupled’. It is about each person’s story. I love hearing them. I love seeing them evolve before my eyes.

We don’t learn as much from the impersonal, neutral lectures and texts. We want to listen to your stories. That is what makes something inadvertently go viral, that is what makes TED talks so popular. That is what makes us want to listen. That is the power and beauty of being in the audience for Listen To Your Mother.

I now know what distinguished the professors whose lectures taught me so much from those I eagerly skipped
to better use my time (at ballet class). They taught with personal stories. They made the lectures anything but neutral and strayed far and often from the text.

So let’s stop stepping around one another with polite nods, habitual
“How are you”s, and ridiculous. “Busy. So busy”s. Stop. Talk. Share. But if you can’t do that then at least listen to a few TED talks on your iPod and or watch the videos from Listen To Your Mother.

But, just like good music, it’s always better live.

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