Tony Gurr

UNlearning TEACHer LEARNing…and other rubbish!

In News & Updates (from the CBO), The Paradigm Debate on 07/03/2012 at 9:00 pm

Now, this one…I know…is gonna get me in trouble! 


UNlearning (DUMBest idea ever) Ver 02


There I said it


…I said what thousands of TEACHers are thunking! TEACHers who have been watching really dumb business “thinking” creep into EDUcation for years!

I offer no apologies

…and, I do not care what Alvin Toffler or Jack Uldrich says!


Yes, this time – we have a “real rant” from Tony Hocaand not just because it sounds even DUMBer in Turkish“unutmayı öğrenme”!


If you do not like what I am saying…

SUE me (Ver 02)

And, be “warned” – if anyone wants to disagree with me, my lawyers and I will invoke the EDUcational version of the small penis rule and its equivalent on Venus!

Besides, I have my mum-in-law on my side!


I know we are supposed to show “deference” and “respect” to ancient thinking – and, that the whole idea of unLEARNing goes back to Lao Tzu:

–  for my sins, I have incorporated many of “his” other teachings into my own LEARNing over the years.


But, and here’s the deal…do we even know, one way or the other, if Lao Tzu really walked among the living…if (even) Lao Tzu was a “fella”? Maybe, you never know, “he” was a female of the species…who made her cash on the speaking circuit of Ancient China around the 6th century BCE.

Smart girl! Very smart girl!


A couple of hundred years later Antisthenes also tried to re-brand and re-launch the very same notion – and got more specific:

Socrates was a great teacher but I guess it’s true that the exception proves the ruleAntisthenes may have graduated with a 4.0 GPA from his great mentor’s school but then lots of people with “school smarts” are not always as “smart” as we imagine.


Members of today’s “unLEARNing cult” also point to Thomas Wolsey (Henry VIII’s Cardinal and Lord Chancellor) and use some of his more famous words to make the case for unLEARNing:

Funny really – when I look at this quote, it just reminds me what nonsense it is to suggest that unLEARNing really “exists”


I also know that one of my best “mates” and “drinking buddies”, Leo Tolstoy, also helped these dudes out by throwing a bit of kindle on the more recent unLEARNing fire: 

– but, come on, we know how much he “pushed the envelope” in the vodka department!


What I do not get is when really “cool” EDUthinkers jump on the bandwagon.

Thinkers like Will Robinson (no, not the one from “Lost in Space“), when they talk of the “unLEARNing curve” that teachers have to climb to become 21st Century TEACHers.

The SECRET (Expletive)

Many other academics have chosen to use the conceptwithout even requiring a “definition” of the word. Most of them do not even feel the need to “prove” their “argument” – unless we believe that motherhood statements, fortune cookie platitudes or quotations from dead guys now pass as “research”!


I just find it amazing that so few serious academics (if any) have challenged Uldrich’s suggestion:

I must have “missed” that memo…


And, so it seems did some of the “best” EDUthinkers on the bloody planet – my lawyer (basically, mum-in-law) has suggested I refrain for naming (even more) names (but you know who you are)!

Will, I love you to bits, but – come on, do you really want the phrase “an EDU-Uldrich” to be on your tombstone?


OK, OKlet’s put our cards on the table!

I know that I, too, have been guilty of stroking the ego of those that have “re-brewed” Lao Tzu’s words of “wisdom” (my bad…I was drunk at the time – with Tolstoy)!

– but I have LEARNed and I made a choice…

..and, want to “go public”!


Yes, I am admitting that I too have been guilty of donning the emperor’s clothes…and that I was “naked” for a while (not a pretty sight – any more)!


Sorry, about that…


We do not unLEARN anythingwe do not reLEARN anything. That is, of course, UNLESS we are one of those unfortunate victims of massive brain trauma or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – my heart goes out to all of these people and their devoted carers.

We just LEARN…and make more informed (or principled) choices!


unLEARNingis a “word bite” (thank you – John) – not even clever enough to be a bloody “sound-bite”Dare I say it (of course, I do)…not even worthy (or long) enough to be put on a “bumper sticker”!

But, hey…people can sell “books” and get some great “speaking gigs” on its back!

Who am I to stand in the way of “progress”…or LEARNing?


I get that politicians find word-bites really sexy. I get that business folks are so busy that anything longer than a bumper-sticker comment takes them away from their profiteering.

But, heck and damnation (my daughter reads this blog…better be careful)…it now appears that these “word-biteteers” can even “develop” public policy in education…and see fit to tell teachers how to “LEARN”…all over the bloody world!

We ARE educators…we know better…we ARE better!

One of my favourite movies is The Usual Suspects – and in this great movie we LEARN that:

Usual Daleks (movie quote TG ver 03)

The greatest “trick” Jack Uldrich seems to have pulled off is to re-convince some of the “best” captains of industry…and, now, academics (who ought to know better) that unLEARNing exists…



BUT, Tony…don’t you think we should say a word or two about upLEARNing?


  1. “But, heck and damnation (my daughter reads this blog…better be careful)…”

    Don’t worry, I’m sure her language is much worse than your by now 😉

    But seriously, I have encountered the need for unlearning in various circumstances.

    1. When I was teaching t’ai chi, my best and worst students were those had trained in another martial art. They were sometimes the best because they caught on quickly (“Oh we had a move like that in Drunken Panda style, so I just have to do it a bit more like this”) but they were sometimes the worst because they had to unlearn habits they had gone to a lot of trouble to acquire.
    2. Students who have learned a certain way of writing an essay when they come to my class have to unlearn it.

    Of course you could say this is not unlearning, it’s just learning different ways of doing things, but those different ways involve learning NOT to do certain things that they had learned, so “unlearning” is a convenient shorthand.

    • Robin. Robin – tis true even the best of the Yedi can be tempted by the ways of the dark side (shorthand is one of their tools)! I almost fell myself…but put me clothes back on. I blame myself – been far too long since we had some liquid refreshment (your Panda knows thıs, too). Let’s have a beer soon so I can help you unlearn all these silly notions and do a bit of relearning and uplearning 😉

      May the Force be with you!

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