Know what you have learned

Today’s Delphic Maxim appeals to the scholar in me. I’ve spent a lot of money on my education – vocal performance and religious studies – so I damn well better know what I’ve learned. It has only been 8 months since I walked away from the PhD program and I already find myself forgetting sources, details, arguments I once had. But I don’t think book knowledge is necessarily what this maxim is talking about.

I think this maxim is encouraging self-reflection. I’ve learned not just fancy techniques or big words, I’ve also learned from my mistakes, from my interactions with others in the world, from my travels, from listening, from my experience. What have I learned? What do I know?

Turns out I know very little. If I reflect I will be humbled by that realization. But I will also take deeply to heart the few things I have come to know, and will value not just the knowledge but the ways in which I gained that knowledge. Knowledge isn’t just information.

This maxim reminds me to reflect. Not just on all the pieces of learning I’ve acquired; it also reminds me to stop in each moment, to take a moment to pause: what did just learn? Don’t just race off to the next fact, post, page, book, experience. What have I learned?

And once I’ve gotten a grasp on what I’ve learned, take ownership of that. As a female in the scholarly and online world, there are only too many males out there that want to tell me what I know or don’t know. This was a particularly frequent experience when I worked in bookstores and would get cornered by older, white, men who wanted to tell me all about some topic, even if it was an author, a book, or topic that I knew quite well.

So I shall reflect on what I know, and I will stand firm in that. Firm doesn’t mean resistant to new knowledge or learning, but it means…. I know what I have learned.


7 responses to “Know what you have learned

  1. I am reminded of the quotation “To Know and Not to Do is Not to Know”, I first heard this from my daughter’s aikido teacher, as a response to people who would say they “knew” a kata, defence, or attack but failed to demonstrate it. He attributed it to a Japanese sage, but I have since heard claims that it is a Chinese proverb, a Hindu Sadhu, and from 16th century Christian sermons.

    In any case it brings an interesting perspective on what it is to know, I have read a great deal on Hindu philosiphy, living within dharma, etc, but by this defenition know very much less.

    • What a great definition! Yes, that perspective really changes the extent of what I could claim to know. It also reminds me of all the times my son yells at me ‘I know!!’ but it’s very clear that he doesn’t. 😉

      How old was your daughter when she started aikido? Feri and aikido are very compatible. We have a *great* studio here in Olympia, and my son really wants to join. We’re going to give it a try in the fall.

      • The starting age varies, the doja that my daughter started at allowed kids from 7 (occasionally 6 if they have reasonable physical control and can listen to instructions – siblings of older aikidokas often did this). My older daughter started at the age of 12, and it was noticeable for three years she was behind those who started younger. At lower levels they don’t do actual combat, just katas and exercises and occasionally attacks against instructors who know how to make sure the attacker doesn’t get hurt in a mistake.

        We decided on Aikido as a martial are for my older daughter because it is a “soft” art, deflecting people’s movements and using their weight and speed against them. She is a small person, and I had done Karate years ago, which is a “hard” martial art, where you block attacks. I know that a 5′ 3 female however skilled could not defend against a 6′ attacker like this, whereas in Aikido it would be quite possible – in fact easier if the attacker rushes in using weight and speed. Its interesting that at a higher level a lot of police use it as it can be used to defend against someone with a knife when unarmed.

        The other noticeable thing is that the adult Aikido group had some over 60s, and one 80 year old. Ik Karate most people are finished by the age of 50.

        • The sensei (is that the right word?) said 5 was the earliest, but varies from kid to kid. Bennett was so enthusiastic and so attentive during the open house that we were told to give it a few more months and then bring our son back and see how he did in a class. I think 4.5 might be early, but hey – I think it would be great for him. And….. I’ll likely take classes with him too. 🙂

  2. I find it difficult to own my knowledge in the male, scholarly world you mentioned. I was just talking about this with a female colleague of mine who’s working on her dissertation — how hard it is, and how wrong it feels, to defend your arguments as if you’re 100% sure that you’re right — even though you’re hyper-aware of all the possibly-relevant information you still haven’t read, of how little we can know about the past, of how complicated the world is, and how you can never have that kind of certainty. Yet we’ve noticed that men don’t seem to have these reservations, and that if we want them to take us seriously we have to pretend that we don’t either. I don’t know what to do about this. Ever since I started college I have felt deficient in my knowledge of the world, and like I’ve been struggling to catch up. This is probably no longer empirically true, but it’s a hard feeling to shake.

    • I must be the exception that proves the rule. Though not in academia I work in computer security. I have not been invited to a sales meeting since someone asked me how secure a protocol was. I told them that it was as secure as anything else on the market that didn’t rely on expensive and difficult to use hardware.

      Evidently I should have said it was “absolutely secure”, which is just not true!

    • I was very frustrated with exactly those attitudes! Thankfully, I had two fabulous female advisers, who did not display those tendencies. I think it is possible to be firm, wise, smart and confident and NOT be arrogant, inflexible, and condescending. I encourage you ‘fake it til you make it’ as far as confidence goes – because I think women in any area of study need to be given the ok to say ‘I think…’ rather than say ‘I feel….’ (a pet peeve of mine in class).

      The more we know, the more we know just how much we don’t know, and how much more there is to know!

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