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Tampitump

Is it too late to learn certain things?

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I'm 25 years old and starting back to college. I completely goofed off during pretty much all of my school years. From grade school on up until high school graduation, I barely squeaked by with everything and neglected my education. I always struggled with math especially because it intimidated me and caused me to distance myself from it. I decided to go to college at the last minute after high school and only got into a very non-selective school by the skin of my teeth. I spent three years there and never progressed towards a degree. I just never applied myself. I left college when I was 21.

 

Long story short, I went through a drastic, 180-degree change in my attitude towards education between the time I quit college and now. I gained a new perspective on life in which I now value education and have decided that I want to achieve the highest possible education I can. I enrolled in college again this semester (which will be over next week). Of course, I was placed in the most remedial math course available due to my past short-comings in math. I thought that perhaps it would seem a lot easier to me now since I am more mature and I have learned a lot from a few years of avid reading and studying logic, rhetoric, science, etc. However, it is still proving to be difficult for me.

 

I have heard from so many people and so many places that after a certain point, you just can't learn things anymore. If you don't learn them as a kid it's just impossible (or nearly impossible) to learn them now. I believe most of these people are referring heavily to maths, but I think they are suggesting that it applies to many other things too. Is this true? Is it true that, at my age, I can't learn these things? When people say this, it just instills this nearly unwavering discouragement and pessimism in my mind. It's hard to believe that- "Welp, guess that's it, can't learn anymore things now." I would laugh at the people who say this and think them absurd if it weren't for many prominent and distinguished individuals who agree with this position. I'm pretty sure Sam Harris and Steven Pinker (among many others) have spoken about this and have stated that this is the case.

 

I so desperately want to move past where I am now and go to a top school. But there's almost this mentality that pervades our discourse that if you're not 18-22 years old and already sharp at these things, you can just never learn them. It's almost as if people state these things as absolutes, as if it is absolutely true in every case. If this is untrue or if I am utterly misunderstanding this, I would love to know about it. Before I really caught wind of these types of claims I had attributed my trouble with math to years of neglecting it and that it would only require me to go back over it, brush up on it, and that it would all be okay. But I hear these things said all the time it is starting to worry me.

 

I'm sorry for the long post. I also wanted to state that I see a lot of people apologizing in advance for the possibility of posts like this being "inappropriate". I'm not sure what makes posts like this inappropriate, but if they are, I apologize.

 

Thanks for all good answers!

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It is neverbtoo late to learn. In fact most academics (and other white collar workers) will agree that constant learning is part of their job.

You do not get to learn something and then are done with it. It is an ongoing process.

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It is neverbtoo late to learn. In fact most academics (and other white collar workers) will agree that constant learning is part of their job.

You do not get to learn something and then are done with it. It is an ongoing process.

I guess what I'm referring to is the notion that once you get beyond a certain age bracket and have not been introduced to certain things/conepts, then you will likely never be able to learn or grasp them. I guess math would be the notable one. But I guess language would be another one. If you don't learn it as a child or at a certain age, you just never will. I just wonder if this is true. If it is, then I am wasting my time trying to pursue this education. I just need to know if my concerns are founded. My experiences do seem to scale with this notion because I still struggle even with simple algebra.

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You are never too old to learn new things. Simple as that.

 

What are your longer term plans? This could be an issue with starting late. Not that 25 is particularly late.

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You are never too old to learn new things. Simple as that.

 

What are your longer term plans? This could be an issue with starting late. Not that 25 is particularly late.

 

I have refrained from making long term plans. Not to sound smart-alec, but your answer is kind of self-contradictory. You kind of said it's not too late while saying it might be too late.

 

I have heard many distinguished, respectable people say that there is a point after which you have pretty much missed your chance to learn or understand certain things, many things in fact. I think this is true with things like sex as well. If you wait too late in life, you will just never really be good at it.

 

I sort of see evidence for this when I go to school. There are kids who are 18-22 years old who have no trouble at all understanding complex things and I have such trouble with them. I get so embarrassed that I often don't interact with them in group studies because I'm always the only one who doesn't understand most of these things.

 

Here is a video in which Sam Harris sort of confirms this position.

It starts at about the 5:30 mark.

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Most things in nature sit somewhere on a bell-curve. Even assuming that most older people have a harder time learning new things, it is not necessarily true for all older people. If you want to find out if it is true for yourself you'll just have to give it a go.

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Since you posted your query to the Science Education forum, you might wish to check out the books and videos of Lawrence M. Krauss. His books are usually stocked at good public libraries, and lectures by him are available on youtube. His aim is to impart an understanding of what is interesting and important in modern physics without assuming that the reader (or audience member at a lecture) is particularly proficient in mathematics.

He is first rate at what he attempts to do. Sadly, most college professors are not. Speaking from experience, trying to prepare for college science examinations based on class material delivered by 2nd rate teachers is a real bummer!

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Since you posted your query to the Science Education forum, you might wish to check out the books and videos of Lawrence M. Krauss. His books are usually stocked at good public libraries, and lectures by him are available on youtube. His aim is to impart an understanding of what is interesting and important in modern physics without assuming that the reader (or audience member at a lecture) is particularly proficient in mathematics.

He is first rate at what he attempts to do. Sadly, most college professors are not. Speaking from experience, trying to prepare for college science examinations based on class material delivered by 2nd rate teachers is a real bummer!

I have read his "Universe From Nothing" and others. He is very effective in the written word. He's decent at lectures too, but he seems to fall short in debates IMO. Especially with creationists and fundies like William Lane Craig.

 

I like Carl Sagan as well. I have read his "Demon Haunted World" and it was fantastic. That's what I find strange about myself. I can understand the most abstract, hypothetical, and complex philosophical or scientific ideas, but put a math problem in front of me and I cower behind the covers and hyperventilate. I have trouble with maths, but I am way ahead of most people in terms of understanding logic, rhetoric, and philosophy. I don't get it. How is it that I'm terrible at math?

 

You can teach me something in algebra, and if I focus and try extremely hard, I might learn it. But you'll have to re-teach it to me the next day. I lose it pretty much instantly. Math absolutely terrifies me as well. My mind goes into panic mode just hearing the word "math". I instantly get this feeling deep down that I know I'm inadequate and incapable of doing it. It almost makes me want to quit pursuing knowledge and intelligence altogether. It confuses me so much why I am able to be so bright in virtually every other sense, but when it comes to math, I look like an absolute imbecile.

 

You could have a conversation with me and think by the way I speak, my knowledge of many things, and the words I use that I am a very intelligent person. Most people get the idea that I am very smart. Even one of my math tutors this semester told me that I seemed much more intelligent when I speak. But gosh, math is the best way to make me look like I've never even been to kindergarten.

 

This deficiency is almost analogous to very macho men who are not well-endowed in the "manliness" department. It is a huge blow to their confidence, and if you look at them from the outside, they look like they probably would be well-off in that respect, but they're not. Fortunately, this is not my problem, but it is very similar in many ways. I feel like a smart person in the body of an illiterate person when it comes to math. I could go to any Ivy league college and carry on a conversation with any top science professor and they would think it a conversation well worth their time. But I can't even do basic algebra that my seven year-old niece can do in her sleep.

Edited by Tampitump

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You kind of said it's not too late while saying it might be too late.

 

To learn new things it is never too late. If you want a career in science research then thing can get more difficult the older you start, and by start I mean get an undergraduate degree. That said, I do not think the 25 is really a problem if you want to go down that route.

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I'm 25 years old and starting back to college...

 

When I saw the title of this thread I thought it was going to be from someone at least twice that age.

"Is it too late to learn certain things?"

No, it isn't.

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If you want a career in science research then thing can get more difficult the older you start.

Please expand upon this if you don't mind. What makes it tougher for an older person to get into something like this or learn things of this sort as opposed to a younger person? What is the age limit?

 

I'm mainly talking about learning things like math later in life after having neglected to learn it as a child or teen? I hear so many people say it's impossible (or very difficult) to learn after you have reached a certain age. Most people act as if you can't gain a full education unless you are within the 18-22 age bracket. This just puzzles me. What abut me being 25 makes me incapable of learning things to their fullest extent? Am I really supposed to believe that one's ability to learn things suddenly declines immensely as soon as the clock strikes 12:00 midnight on their 23rd birthday?

 

I seriously don't get what many many people are saying when they say things like this.

Edited by Tampitump

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What makes it tougher for an older person to get into something like this or learn things of this sort as opposed to a younger person?

People will tend to expect you to have more experience. They expect you to be further down the line with your professional development. They want to offer junior positions to younger people so that they can start a long career.

 

This is nothing to do with actually learning or contributing to a subject. Just the realities of having a finite work life and finite money to invest in people.

 

I have a collaborator who is just about to finish his PhD. He is much older than typical and I (and his supervisor) worry that he will find it impossible to get a post-doc position.

 

 

What is the age limit?

I do not know. It will not be fixed and would depend on many factors.

 

I'm mainly talking about learning things like math later in life after having neglected to learn it as a child or teen? I hear so many people say it's impossible (or very difficult) to learn after you have reached a certain age.

It maybe more difficult after a long break from education. That said, many older people obtain degrees later in life. But then you are 25, which is only a little older than 'normal'. I doubt you have any real disadvantage based on your age.

 

 

Most people act as if you can't gain a full education unless you are within the 18-22 age bracket. This just puzzles me. What abut me being 25 makes me incapable of learning things to their fullest extent? Am I really supposed to believe that one's ability to learn things suddenly declines immensely as soon as the clock strikes 12:00 midnight on their 23rd birthday?

There is no reason here, at least based on your age alone.

 

I seriously don't get what many many people are saying when they say things like this.

Do not let their comments put you off. You do not need such doubts in your life. If you want to continue your education and understand the hard work that involves, then go for it.

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To learn new things it is never too late. If you want a career in science research then thing can get more difficult the older you start, and by start I mean get an undergraduate degree. That said, I do not think the 25 is really a problem if you want to go down that route.

 

oh ,ajb ,that's just great your this sharing. intimately, I feel proud of you because of this comment.thanks ajb :).

Edited by blue89

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People will tend to expect you to have more experience. They expect you to be further down the line with your professional development. They want to offer junior positions to younger people so that they can start a long career.

 

This is nothing to do with actually learning or contributing to a subject. Just the realities of having a finite work life and finite money to invest in people.

 

I have a collaborator who is just about to finish his PhD. He is much older than typical and I (and his supervisor) worry that he will find it impossible to get a post-doc position.

 

Actually, I think that in many fields the age for postdocs is not much of an issue. At least in experimental fields the actual technical expertise is usually more valued. On the grad level it is usually even less of an issue, as some maturity (should it exist) can be seen quite positively (I had students or know . On the faculty level competition is much fiercer. Yet, I rarely find that age in itself was ever an issue. It can be seen as a negative with everything else being equal, though.

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You might find it interesting to read about about Dr. Joe Tsien's 'Theory of Connectivity'. He points out that filtering information and getting rid of old 'data' is what makes it more difficult to learn as you get older and not your ability to absorb new data.

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It can be seen as a negative with everything else being equal, though.

This I think is the key point, and why I worry about a friend of mine. He will be starting a career that cannot be so long.

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hello dear , actually I join ajb's idea , but I would share my own opinion in addition ajb's.

 

"I think if / whenever you say I feel healthy,of course it will / should be possible to learn everything by the time you have no economic problem. and also I would express , it is not needed for someone like me that somebody tells him to learn something , it means you can learn whichever you would by your own, now for me requirements are (only theese ,having silent and convenient temperatured remaining home, having options for healthy feed. and written materials."

 

however, I would remind something.

 

I prefer you to be strong in mind. here is already high probability to have some problems everytime,in spite of the fact that you feel qualified. there is no exact information about this statement I implied. but this probability will be available everytime. (it may depend on :which country you live, the characteristic of you family you live and especially the life conditions)

 

if I understood sirona correctly (that she implied shortly: the more you be older ,the more it will be difficult to learn) I do not join this, I am 26 years old (not like being >45 years old) but again I think the truth should be like ,ajb shared.he is more rightfull his opinion above I have market.but to be objective, of couse it may be more difficult in the future to learn something.(not now ,in the future especially when you higher than 55).

Edited by blue89

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He points out that filtering information and getting rid of old 'data' is what makes it more difficult to learn as you get older and not your ability to absorb new data.

This translates to: you can't teach an old dog new tricks. If you keep your mind plastic and accept that knowledge is constantly evolving then you will too. It's when you think you know it, that is the time your brain/learning starts seizing up. I shall be forever plastic. :)

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Well I have some data to go by now. Today was the last day of the semester and I made A on my math final. I suppose things can be learned.

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if you think you are intelligent I propose you

shortly , do not worry , continue to study hard...

 

I wish/hope you to be succesfull..(do not forget ,somethings are relevant to luck )

 

regards

 

blue.

Edited by blue89

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Hello. My answer is: Ofc, no it is not late.

Even if it is more difficult in some terms, "no" would be a 'more-wrong' and 'conditioning' answer.

* * *

I finished undergraduation on "mechanical engineering" 'postponely", after I was able to focus and give the continuous(which is essential for engineering, I guess) effort. I finished it at my 29, under some difficulties. (Undergraduation in 9 years, but studied truly only at 1st year and last 2 years).

Nothing is late but your love and devotion might be judged (in some environments) time to time, which you sohuld not hear or care. Especially if your family not familiar with the field, as well. Sometimes thats not the only thing. You may have difficulty for earning life, too(Which might affect your motivation and course)...

Most importantly beyond these, you should realize that you must not have a pride of a "weak-learner". Because learning requires humbleness, discipline,and respect, along with not comparing yourself to anybody.

However it became easier for me, to study after 27, according some terms: My mind was more 'stable', and I had got what I needed from the other side of the life. Luckily my family support continued. Moreover, I found myself, myskills improved about research and studyng after 25. Maybe just being able to focus and having clearances in life made it easier altogether.

If you seriously would like to go on, good luck and be aware of your situation. Never despise, Seek for truth, Always love to learn newer things wherever you are, whatever you do...Whatever happens, you will win...

Edited by TransientResponse

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It is neverbtoo late to learn. In fact most academics (and other white collar workers) will agree that constant learning is part of their job.

You do not get to learn something and then are done with it. It is an ongoing process.

 

 

Indeed. I originally went to college on an athletic scholarship and barely cracked a book. After years in the non-academic world, goofing off and also trying and failing to make a living by playing my sport professionally, I returned to school years later. I didn't receive my BS till I was 33, and now at 35 am pursuing my Master's. I have also found that in this day and age my case in not nearly as unusual as it was, say, two decades ago. As far as I can tell even the 20-somethings take very little notice to guys my age or even middle-aged being among them in classes.

So, no, it sure never is too late. In fact a good argument can be made that students returning to college after a brief hiatus, for whatever reasons, might perform better than the straight-from-high school crowd.

 

Thanks!

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I have somewhat of a similar problem, although i did very well in school i was bad at math, i cant believe I got a c in all of the high school math classes. I want to go into science but my worry is i will spend a lot of money on college and end up retaking math classes and still not getting it. my self esteem was so low in high school that i thought i could never do well in any academic college so i went to art school. i am graduating next year and i feel like i just wasted a whole bunch of money. my self esteem is still the same, I got heavily bullied for being in English as a second language and remedial classes and my school skrewed me over by taking me out of all classes and keeping me in esl. if you are serious about studying you will learn. also another worry for me is i do not do well by reading things and learning i would much rather have a lecture. even my art college classes in academic classes more then half of the education is based on reading the text book or supporting texts. I just get c's in thoes classes.you seem like a hard working person, im sure if you keep at it you will do well. you already have motivation, which is something I still don't have, I feel like I need someone to make things easy for me so I can learn.

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I think it's never late to learn something new. However, learning becomes harder and languidly with as we get older . finally never let somebody tell you you can't do something.

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Learning is a continuous process. There is no limit to learning, nor there is an age restriction for learning. You can learn as long as you wish to learn.

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