The Hoe and Cutlass of the 21st Century

There used to be a very popular ancient and proverbial song notable with the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria which simply and succinctly interprets that literacy without hoe and cutlass is incomplete.

This statement, of course, sounds quite funny to a typical person of the 21st century. But notwithstanding, truth is timeless and as such; what message the song passed and still passing is more or less wholistically reflected in the today’s world in the Alvin Toffler’s famous quote, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’.

Before we go on, I’d like for us to have a short recap on what literacy and learning simply and distinctly means.

The elementary definition of an illiterate is someone who is unable to read or write. However, considering that we live in an increasingly complex, diverse, globalized, and multimedia saturated world driven by innovative ideas, knowledge, and technologies, literacy or illiteracy has birthed a redefinition in this rapidly changing environment. This is what has metamorphosed or changed the ‘hoe and cutlasses of this century to not be an object as they in fact are but a concept.

Thus, taking a more critically look at what Illiteracy means would afford us a more clear-cut view on who an illiterate indeed is in this century . Illiteracy, on one hand, refers to a situation whereby someone is ignorant of fundamentals of a given art or branch of knowledge. That is, being quite short of knowledge in a particular field. Thus, an illiterate is that person who suffers from this situation.
Moreover, Learning is the art and science of acquiring knowledge through study, training, or even through experience though ordinarily from time, learning has been seen to be nothing more or less than reading or writing.

More importantly, learning is a process. This means that it goes hand in hand in time. Since time is endless, learning too is or should be and the only way the journey of learning becomes timeless is through kick starting f the engine and process (es) of unlearning and relearning.

Learning and teaching cannot be separated. Learning is the art of sieving and sinking down teachings acquired through study, training or even through experiences. Learning is an art and it is a personal (self), not a third party thing.

Learning is personalizing knowledge gained in your way. It is materializing with what you have been taught. It is been able to replicate what you have been thought with your own created originality. It is something you can be defined with. It is you.

The goal of learning is simple; it is for you to have knowledge of a thing for yourself, by yourself and in yourself. However, always realize or recognize that no one have knowledge at this three level of depth outside an unlearning and relearning process. Learning alone is quite superficial and it is only via the mechanism of unlearn and relearning that we concretize it. This is because unlearning and relearning are the keys that open the inner doors to the heavens of timeless knowledge.

Also quite important to know and note is that Unlearning and relearning go hand in hand as they usually happens together but they should not be mistaken or misinterpreted as one forgetting the things he had learnt and learn it again at some point of time in his life. We learn as much as we unlearn because one’s existing knowledge is one great hindrance to future learning.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines unlearn as “1: to put out of one’s knowledge or memory, 2: to undo the effect of: discard the habit of”. Thus, on one hand, Unlearning happens when you are receptive prospective to the things you already know. There is so much we unlearn without much effort. Knowledge not often revised and updated, skills not regularly practiced and beliefs shattered by contradictory experience are all day-to-day examples of unlearning.

On the other hand, Relearning happens when you accept a new perspective and appreciate your knowledge from that perspective. You can’t relearn if you haven’t unlearned as unlearning is the only prerequisite needed to relearn. That is no matter how well your present knowledge, skills experiences and beliefs serve you, you must always and forever be willing to create room for a superior or new knowledge. This explains what I say that a word with an open heart can create a daunting more impact in a man’s than with a sword

In conclusion, it was Charles Darwin, who said that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” A such, We ought to know that learning is a bottomless pit and whosoever falls inside and doesn’t continue fall has simply stopped learning which translates as stagnancy however unobvious. In one sentence, unlearning and relearning make the hoe and cutlass of the 21st century.


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