“Read the manual” – A disregard for the kinesthetic learner

Have you ever been in the situation where you ask someone a question about how something works and they rather snidely say “Hmmph, just read the manual”.

I have, and it’s a shit trend which needs to stop.

I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn by example. It’s a more hands on and practical way of learning whereby you look at the process of how something is done, or are shown how it is done, and make attempts based on that example rather than reading about it.

For years we’ve been stuck in a text based learning system which, considering that there are 4 major learning categories, means that a lot of people are getting left behind. School was a pretty hard time for me as I just couldn’t seem to absorb knowledge from a textbook no matter how hard I tried. This of course led to the accusations of being lazy or unfocused but it wasn’t that, it was due to a system which was trying to figuratively fit my round peg in to it’s square hole (Ooo!). I couldn’t get why other people seemed to get what the textbook was saying but I couldn’t. It all seemed like a bunch of vague examples with no context and then a practical exercise which included new content that hadn’t been explained yet.

For years I beat myself up and just accepted the fact that I might be stupid and had to put up with things like book shaming whereby, becasue I wasn’t much of a reader, I’d again be put in the dumb category. However my learning ability was always confusing becasue I could recite audiobooks and whole film scenes after only one listen/view and I took to creative things like art, music and crafts so naturally. Even recently I’ve taken up game programming as a hobby and I’m finding that I CAN actually do things which I previously thought were impossible for a dummy like me such as maths, and it all came down to one thing: the way I learned.

With the programming, there were forums with people willing to give out snippets of code which I could try out and reverse engineer – in other words a practical example. The textbooks were still a bit confusing though and a great example of how it’s the method at fault rather than the individual, was that I was working on a problem with my code and so I looked up the manual and tried study the description and example. I just couldn’t understand it and I must have spent the best part of a day trying to decipher what it was trying to say. However, then it clicked that I had written a similar piece of code which did pretty much the same thing, and only then did it dawn on me what the textbook was trying to say.

It’s all about finding that knack. It’s almost like a needle searching for the groove in a record. If you can’t find it then it’s horrible, but once you are locked in then it’s plain sailing. Locking in is the hard part, not the actual difficulty of the task at hand. Understanding and effort are NOT the same thing and it’s all about how the information is presented which will determine how fast you lock in and what your talents are geared towards. It’s very much the classic example of telling a monkey and a fish to climb a tree of the same height. One will obviously do better even though the conditions presented are equal.

In this day and age, asking a question seems to be a mark of shame. Timid noobs will always usually begin a sentence with “I know this is a stupid question but…”

I’m sorry, but seeking out knowledge is NEVER stupid. I don’t understand why we are made to feel like we are dumb if we seek to acquire new skills and new understandings by asking people who DO know about it. I do however, know HOW we are made to feel stupid and it’s an issue with the people who hold the knowledge.

Sometimes people who have a certain skill will elevate themselves above others due to it. It’s elitism and arrogance at the end of the day, but it’s little more than having a particular aptitude for a certain way of learning. It grind my gears then when someone ask one of these elitist a question and they snort and tell you to go read the manual. What they fail to realise is that a manual won’t give you a personal opinion. It won’t give you an emotional response and if you are not a text based leaner then it won’t give you the information that you need becasue it’s not presented in the way that you require.

That is the manual’s fault, not yours, and it doesn’t make the person whom you are asking the question any more intelligent for having a text based aptitude. It’s not “special needs” either, it’s “different” needs.

Of course, elitists have a defining trait in that they really don’t want anyone else to have the same knowledge as them becasue it will dilute their own sense of importance, so of course they will do anything to put people off.

As for the bigger picture, we have a long way to go in society to deal with learning. Ideally schools should be divided into the different learning divisions within, and curriculums devised for each, but with education struggling as it is you’re always going to be met with “Well, it’s too expensive”, which when you are taking about people, is an unacceptable answer.

Just remember, it’s the textbook’s fault for not presenting the information correctly according to your needs, so the next time someone tells you to go read the manual, tell them to go fuck themselves.


Author: Kitsune Mifune


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