What do you need to unlearn?

Kathy Krugerhappiness, perspective18 Comments

Miss Yin recently did Year 5 Naplan exams and I had to wonder how much of what she learned (for the purpose of being tested) is in fact worth knowing.

There’s much criticism of these standardised tests and the effort that goes into learning to be tested rather than for the sheer love, and importance, of it.

I think Naplan is an unwelcome distraction from the important stuff – evidence of how our society tries to ‘learn’ us into conformity while teaching us how to compare. But I guess they are a fact of life.

Miss Yin’s class spent some time prepping for narrative writing, but in the end it was a persuasive writing exercise they had to do, as per previous years – creativity stifled yet again.

We helped her prep a bit (without making a big deal of it), and along with helping her with regular homework, I’ve found myself noting things that she’s learning that I’ve forgotten.

She’s only in Year 5 – what hope do I have when she hits high school!!

Now I ‘love me some words’, but my lexicon of terms for various literary devices isn’t as dictionary comprehensive as it might be, or so I learned. And when it comes to maths (never my strong point), I realize I’ve forgotten (or unlearned) what an obtuse angle is (among other things).

My theory is that there is just so much marginally useful (or just plain useless) stuff that we allow ourselves to forget, to unlearn.

And yet there is so much that society tries to teach us, that life has somehow convinced us about, that we would do well to unlearn, yet can’t seem to forget – like the ‘importance of competition’ and the ‘desirability of conformity’.

I feel somehow ashamed (really need to unlearn shame) that I can’t seem to unlearn things that don’t make sense, that are fiction and don’t serve me.

So this is the grim fairytale story, as narrated by an ‘evil stepmother’ that I’m unlearning, everyday. How about you?


……. you were born as a beautiful, beloved, individual baby soul – but who are you to expect to stay beautiful forever, nor loved as a centre of attention, nor individual when can’t you see everyone else fitting in – don’t you want to fit in?

Make way for your sister and brother and classmates – you’re just like everybody else. Nothing special. 

You’re a girl, act like a girl (and stop hanging around with all those little men, Snow White). 

You’re Catholic – you must and should, but still you can never be good enough. Don’t you know God is looking at you being mean to your sister.

So you might be smart, but don’t get too big for your (Puss in) boots just because you won the school spelling bee. 

Princesses are only in fairytales you know. Do you really expect to meet Prince Charming and fall in love? Who do you think you are Fiona? Last time I looked you were an ogre.

The way to get ahead is to please people.

You can never be nice enough – don’t be selfish, you should always think about others first.  And always care about what they think. Like really care.

It’s all very well to dream, but you have to work hard – don’t expect your dreams to come true unless you are very lucky and work very hard.

What do you mean you don’t know what an obtuse angle is – what is wrong with you? Are you dim-witted (obtuse)? And you don’t know what an anthropomorphism is? Umphh! 

Why can’t you be like……?

Have you looked at that mirror, mirror on the wall lately? Could that zit be any bigger on your face, and what about those thighs?

This is a man’s world and so you can only expect so much. Remember, men are kings.

Always try to look good, make your friends feel jealous, like Rapunzel did with all that hair. You’ll feel better. Cinderella did it too. She showed those ugly stepsisters.

You have to be successful, get things, because that’s what makes people happy. 

Don’t focus on yourself too much though – remember what you learned about being selfish.

Those wrinkles are getting obvious – you’re getting old – don’t you want to look like/better than everyone else? Have you given up?

It’s only ok to be individual, just as long as you are prettier, better, nicer, more successful. 

You really should worry – there’s always something to worry about – it’s not as though you’re a success. 

And get ready to be judged. You really aren’t naïve enough to believe in happy ever after are you?

happily ever after not_edited-1

Now I should say that no one person told me this fictional story and my parents gave me lots of love and plenty of encouragement. And I know there are many alternative narratives out there for me to believe in – plus I can think for myself. It’s just that society does a powerful persuasive job on us – worthy of a top Naplan result.  Doesn’t mean it’s not fiction being sold to us.

And that’s the thing – we get to choose how our own story unfolds, how it ends, by learning and unlearning every day. What are you unlearning? 


Linking up for another IBOT with Essentially Jess and because work is crazy and I haven’t written a new post, with Grace for FYBF.

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Kathy KrugerWhat do you need to unlearn?

18 Comments on “What do you need to unlearn?”

  1. mummywifeme

    Wow what an interesting fairytale!! I am seriously concerned about when my kids go to school and I will need to help them with their maths homework. I think I will be re-learning that with them. As to what I am unlearning, that’s a tough one. I will need to get back to you on that!

    1. Kathy Kruger

      A bit of a scary fairytale – I don’t think we buy into all the evil stepmother (or society’s) ideas but there is a lot about comparing ourselves to others, always trying to please others and conforming that we could do well to ditch.

  2. Tegan Churchill

    I remember one of my teachers in highschool saying that he wished that tests like Naplan and (in QLD) the QCS because they where for a one size fits all rather than taking into account the different skills each child had.

  3. always josefa (@always_josefa)

    I like the idea of unlearning and I’m trying my hardest to help my boys keep an open perspective to their learning of thing sin life. As for me, I think I am unlearning the need to hold onto my anger and stubborness – I think it is working 😉

  4. Lydia C. Lee

    God, my list is soooooooo long. But I just learnt (from LeeAnne Walker’s Is it Just Me?) the saying “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms”. So I’m unlearning getting distracted by what I’m ‘meant’ to be doing, and just doing my thing as best I can.

  5. Lydia C. Lee

    Though can I also say, I’m a fan of NAPLAN. If it was used as intended, to put resources into learning gaps, then it’s fantastic. It’s us parents that have distorted it, and forced the schools to distort it too.

  6. Maxabella

    I’ve never thought in terms of ‘unlearning’ something, but this really speaks to me. I have A LOT to unlearn, but I’m a willing student!! x

    1. Kathy Kruger

      Thanks so much Bron – glad you got something out of it. I think recognising what we need to learn (or unlearn) is the biggest part! Sorry I haven’t been spreading much weekend love, but will get better. Where do these weeks, and weekends go?


    I need to unlearn my own (insecure) mother’s childhood messages to me that I was “not that special” and her constant reinforcement “that the teacher obviously had the wrong kid when they told her I could be anything I wanted to be’. It’s held me back my entire life and stops me taking a chance on myself every time! :/

    1. Kathy Kruger

      Sorry to hear that Aleny. The childhood messages are the hardest to let go of aren’t they. I reckon you’ve taken a great chance and made a great success with your blog and writing despite your feelings, so well done.

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