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Conversational education

I find myself, from time to time, in discussion regarding topics on which I have a lack of depth, of experience; economics, business, law and the like; this is one of the most effective ways to learn that I've found. Recently, though, I've started noticing that some communities don't accept this as a valid method of learning.

One of my social communities refuses to hold discussion on some topics with me, until I've formally educated myself via other means; we clash over and over again on the core issue of "terminology". There's a rigid set of terminology definitions that I'm expected to know, without which discussion is refused. It's very strange; where normally I'd learn out of the discussions the context and usage of the terminology, the chance never appears. Without access to ongoing discussions, I haven't been able to internalize the terminology required to "gain access", as it were, to the discussions.

Another community reacts to my lack of knowledge by derailing active topic discussions just long enough to, as far as I can tell, prove how utterly incompetent my statements are. I don't mind this, even though it's usually done in a derogatory (if humorous) fashion. Generally, though, the content of my comments is left unaddressed; discarded or ignored, perhaps due to my lack of skill. After this occurs several times, I'll leave a discussion, upset at having my words trivialized (or worse, ignored).

One of my friends suggested that I might find communities more open to this kind of learning at universities, and I appreciate the suggestion; it's not one that occurred to me, and it makes sense. I have an uneducated question, though: what's different about a university setting? What thing is present at a university that isn't present in some of my peer communities?

I think that what's missing from these communities is a desire to teach, a willingness to answer questions asked solely to assist learning. It didn't occur to me until recently that, sometimes, people don't want to teach; I was introduced to this when one of the communities asked me to stop expecting them to teach. I guess that makes sense, but I haven't figured out how to adapt to it yet.

For the duration of my childhood, my social community didn't include my student peers. I was familiar with most of the teachers, and my extended family (which includes at least four teachers). It never occurred to me that I couldn't ask questions, and so I always did. In that manner I made my way to the end of high school, learning a wide variety of things.

I think I can attribute a great deal of my success with computers to my family finding books that could answer the questions I asked, and to my teachers for allowing me to muck about with their computers as I learned. By the end of middle school, I'd been acting as an off-and-on assistant to the school's "IT guy", partially managing several computers throughout the building for them.

Another side effect of this learning seems to be a sort of "wisdom" or "maturity" or "common sense" or "intuition", something that's apparently not present in everyone; it's rather hard to describe. I guess it's best labeled as having a knack for seeing the truth behind something, for choosing the right decision in unusual circumstances, for perceiving things that I ought to be entirely unaware of. My sister evidences this same quality, as does my entire extended family -- at least, those I've had the opportunity to meet.

I'm part of two communities that enjoy teaching, that seem willing to do so far more often than do the members of two other communities. I'm much more a fan of the kind that enjoy teaching, and I stress out occasionally interacting with those that don't. I can stop asking them to teach, but then I'll miss the opportunities when they're willing -- and they have so much knowledge that I can't stand not to ask.

I'm moving back to the West coast in a couple of months, to be near my family; there's still many things left for me to learn (and I miss them anyways). I'd like to find more people, though, that don't mind this conversational style of education; I'm just not sure how to ask that question, I guess.


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