OPINION: Experience, the best teacher

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By Ibidunni Thaabitah 

There are few people who do not agree that “without knowledge, action is useless and knowledge without action is futile” as rightly stated by Abu Bakr as-Siddiq.

Knowledge is love, light and vision.

Hellen Keller

From the foregoing, it can be established that seeking knowledge is as important as seeking means of livelihood. Therefore, what determines the usefulness and applicability of knowledge is mainly the source of that particular knowledge.

There are various differences which exist between the knowledge gained from experience and that gained from books. Some of these differences include but not limited to;

  • Period of assimilation,
  • Retentiveness, and
  • Level of maturity. 

Period of assimilation

The first main difference between knowledge gained from books and the one gained from experience lies in the period of assimilation. Knowledge gained from books is not as easy to assimilate as it is from the one gained from experience. For knowledge to be assimilated in a short period of time, it needs repetition.

An instance is learning how to speak English fluently. There is no doubt that those who intentionally practice English speaking with other English speakers tend to be more fluent than those who do not.

More so, a mechanical engineer who claims to be a certified one just by reading about the skill from books will find it difficult to produce the knowledge when it is needed because he only knows the theoretical aspect of the skill which might have not been assimilated. On the other hand, knowledge gained from experience is easy to imbibe because it is practical. As a saying goes, experience is the best teacher. A student who reads in a book, whose reading for a long period of time triggers hunger, but finds it difficult to believe or assimilate the knowledge will immediately digest it when he feels that hunger. Likewise, a practical UX/UI designer would be more competent than a theoretical one.

Learning how to speak other languages is not an easy task but it becomes easy as soon as one starts practicing it.

Similarly, having learnt from a book that honesty is the best legacy might not stop one from living a dishonest life until one experiences the consequences of living a deceptive life. Experience, even though it is not easy to gain, helps people to assimilate and inculcate a new knowledge with immediate effect. 

Retentiveness

Another difference between knowledge gained from books and experience is retentiveness. People tend to forget the knowledge gained from books in a short period of time. 

For example, one might have learnt in a book that it is not always advisable to correct people by complaining about their shortcomings. It is rather more effective to show them the correct thing by actions or by providing alternatives.

Nonetheless, one still persists in adopting the complaint method just because one has forgotten all about the knowledge even before dropping the book. Another  example is a student who reads about how to cook jollof rice but was unable to produce the knowledge in the examination hall due to forgetfulness.

Contrarily, knowledge gained from experience is usually retained for a long time. Someone who happens to acquire most of his knowledge from experience will have a retentive memory of that knowledge. A general example is a child who has been told not to touch hot iron but refuses to comply and was injured and as a result, he would forever remember the pain he felt from the injury and that would guide him in making subsequent decisions in his life. Therefore, the most effective way of retaining knowledge is by experiencing it.

Maturity

Knowledge from experience is different from that gained from books in terms of maturity. A potential housewife would be an obedient wife if she had lived in an environment where obedience is the standard of their behavior. For her to be a good manager of the house, she must have taken up a managerial role in her lifetime. This and lots more are reasons why some people are more mature than other people.

Conversely, knowledge from books does not, in any way, determine the level of maturity a person has. Although education is meant to expand the mind, what is seen today is that most educated people lack maturity which is why you see people who are at the peak of their careers still behaving immaturely. Owning ten different PHDs does not guarantee maturity. What ensures maturity is the number of experiences acquired from the realities of life. 

The best source of knowledge is experience as it lasts longer, easily imbibed and increases the level of maturity than the other source of knowledge.

In the words of Williams Blake, “the true method of knowledge is experiment.”

In a nutshell, it is important to always put into practice whatever knowledge has been acquired so that it stays permanently in the memory. 

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