Question: I've heard that we forget more than 80 percent of what we learn. When you consider the cost of getting an education, I wonder why we put all that effort into examinations, textbooks, homework and years spent in boring classrooms. Is education really worth what we invest in it?

Dr. Dobson: In fact, it is. There are many valid reasons for learning, even if forgetting will take its usual toll.

First, one of the important functions of the learning process is the self-discipline and self-control that it fosters. Good students learn to follow directions, carry out assignments and channel their mental faculties.

Second, even if facts and concepts can't be recalled, the individual knows they exist and where to find them. He or she can retrieve the information if needed.

Third, old learning makes new learning easier. Each mental exercise gives us more associative cues with which to link future ideas and concepts, and we are changed for having been through the process of learning.

Fourth, we didn't really forget everything that is beyond the reach of our memories. The information is stored in the brain and will return to consciousness when properly stimulated.

And fifth, we are shaped by the influence of the intelligent and charismatic people who taught us.

I wish there were an easier, more efficient process for shaping human minds than the slow and painful experience of education. But until a "learning pill' is developed, the old-fashioned approach will have to do.

Question: My former wife and I were married for 13 years before we divorced two years ago. She has since remarried and has custody of our 12-year-old daughter.

Recently I've learned that my ex-wife is saying things to our daughter that I feel are damaging to her spirit. She frequently blames her weight problem, smoking addiction and financial woes on our daughter ("I wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for you"). She also has no respect for our daughter's boundaries, and routinely confiscates cash gifts that are received for birthday or Christmas presents.

Since I am no longer recognized as the primary care-provider, I am somewhat hesitant to raise objections. Should I stop in and make things right?

Dr. Dobson: I'm sure what you are witnessing is extremely distressing and I wish there were legal remedies to help you protect your daughter. Within certain limits, however, your ex-wife is permitted by the court to be a bad mother and even do things that are harmful to the child. If you attack her or try to place her on the defensive, you could even make things tougher for your daughter. Apart from what you can accomplish with your wife through negotiation and personal influence, then, your hands are tied.

There is, however, so much that you can do directly with your daughter, even though you don't have custody over her. Work hard on that relationship. Be there for her when she needs you. Give her the best of your love and attention when she visits. At 12 years of age, she is at the most vulnerable time of her life and needs a father who thinks she is very special. You can have a profound influence on her if you demonstrate your love and concern consistently during this difficult period of her life.

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