The Unlearn Craze: Debunking the Misconception of Discarding Knowlege

The unlearn craze has never sat quite right with me in the context of personal development. Then it dawned on me – the word means not-learn and not the concept Alvin Toffler introduced in his book “Future Shock” in the early 1970s.

The message of “unlearning” sent to the Unconscious Mind is counterproductive to personal development and learning. As I think of needing to unlearn, especially after diving deep into many website definitions, I see the concept has undertones of blame and shame. Do you feel happy about learning if you’re being blamed or shamed for what you know? It doesn’t get me excited to learn, even if I want to create a new strategy for doing something – like learning how to drive on the other side of the street in England.

In his book, Toffler discussed the rapid pace of technological change and the need for individuals and society to adapt. As a result, the idea of “unlearning” to adapt to change has gained popularity. However, this concept has been widely misinterpreted and misused, leading to a misunderstanding of the true meaning of “unlearning,” which means not-learn.

“By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerful new dimension can be added to education. Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy of the Human Resources Research Organization phrases it simply: “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction—how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” 

― Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 271

One of the most widely cited quotes in the context of the “unlearn” craze in Toffler’s book is his shortened interpretation directly contradicts Gerjuoy’s vision for the new education. Yet, when we look at only Gerjuoy’s quote, we understand that critical thinking involves learning how to learn and brings about an eagerness to learn more. 

Gerjuoy’s quote highlights the importance of teaching individuals to think critically and independently rather than simply regurgitating information. Furthermore, it emphasizes the need for individuals to be able to evaluate, classify, and reclassify information to adapt to the changing world around them. This concept is particularly relevant in today’s world, where knowledge is constantly growing.

Around the same time in the early 1970s, when Alvin Toffler wrote his book, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was taking shape. Many of the techniques taught and utilized in NLP Coaching address the concepts that Gerjuoy discussed with Toffler.

For example, the NLP communication Model helps us understand the integrity of information. Submodalities are the finer distinction and help us identify the importance of different information to classify and reorganize them. At the same time, the Hierarchy of Ideas shows us how to navigate the other information-related elements. We use strategies to create new approaches to a situation, while Anchoring can change how to react to different conditions. The Meta Model is used to determine the underlying structure of information. In contrast, the Milton Model can be used to identify how to present information in a way that is most likely to be accepted.

In conclusion, the concept of “unlearning,” as popularized by Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock,” can create a negative motivation to learn new information. In contrast, NLP teaches us how to understand what’s being said by ourselves and others, communicate with others effectively, and create significant change in our world model for a positive future.

If you’re looking to effectively create a change in your life for a positive, forward-thinking future, register today for NLP Practitioner Course and let your journey begin!