My name is Steven and I am a personality theorist and this book is about the thing I care about most. How children lose their love of learning. It did not begin life as a book.
To whom did I originally write it? I originally wrote it to my own students as a weekly commentary on what at the time seemed to be a great mystery to me. How students can study and fail to learn. How teachers can fail to teach.
At the time, I had been asking myself how so many honest efforts can lead to passed exams and lost love. The loss of the love of learning. So what did I find? Do teachers teach the love of learning out of children, for instance? Are teachers the culprits here?
The truth. Teachers are not the culprits. Nor does the fault lie with the theoretical educators who spend lifetimes trying to find better ways to awaken what, by six years old, has been deadened and silenced in most of us; our desire to explore life for life's own sake. The desire to feed our curiosity.
What happens to this once wonderful legacy then, a gift with which we all arrive on the planet? Why call it a gift, for that matter? Well think about it. From day one, we voraciously seek to satisfy our need for sensation with unending variety. We touch life. We taste it. We listen to it. We smell it. We even try to see it through our day old, close to blind eyes.
Fast forward sixteen years. Most of us still long for the very same things. Well almost. We finger our notebooks. We chew our pencils. We listen for the sound of the three o'clock bell. We smell the air as we exit the bus. We even search for something in life still worth looking at, though our now tired, close to blind eyes.
Is this all there is then? Living life as a death sentence passing for a school. The love of learning all but gone. Our curiosity long departed.
Am I turning you off?
You know what? I hope so. You see, you know and I know that what I'm saying is the dirty truth. The filthy lie. The worst of the worst of our social failings.
To what am I referring? To the idea that no matter what we say, we are failing to keep our children's love of learning alive. Sadly, few of us ever do more than bitterly point at the someone we blame for this, either at our children's teachers and schools for not being tougher kinder or more alive, or at ourselves for not living up to what we once genuinely promised ourselves we'd do; spend more time helping our children learn.
Is this it then? In a whole lifetime. In a whole lifetime? In a whole lifetime! We'll complain a bit about this terrible flaw in our children's learning lives. That's all we'll do? Nothing more?
Know when I say "we, " I include myself in this group. And yes, I admit it. I have been no better than a finger pointing complainer myself. Until recently, that is. Until my finger pointing inadvertently precipitated my beginning to write this book.
Am I sounding like the soon to be killed messenger? Okay. Yes. I admit it. I'm being rather negative here. Really negative, in fact. Even so, have you ever asked yourself "the big question. " Have you ever asked yourself why you were born. What did you come up with?
The God awful truth is, we once knew this answer. We once knew why we were born. We were born to learn. That and to use the stuff we discover to sculpt and paint and paste and scissor wonderfully creative lives. Not a life of days passing until death do us part. Lives with which to make our children's lives worth living. As well as our own.
Now the currently big question. Have I, Mr. Smarty Pants, found any answers to this problem?
To be honest, yes, I have. Quite a few, in fact. Moreover, all these answers stem from my having asked myself this single question; why do we lose our love of learning?
Why do we? You're about to find out.
Introducing My Students and Me
Who are my students? Who am I, for that matter?
As I've told you already, my name is Steven, and I am a personality theorist. Okay. Yes. Gag, sputter, and cough. Have I just drained the life from your eyes? If so, don't worry. For many people, this appellation is a mind numbing mouthful. Not the Steven part. The personality theorist part.
What makes telling you this so important then? The idea that my being a personality theorist is what has enabled my group and me to explore what may be the most important question we humans could ever ask; what kills our love of learning. What kills it? There are natural reasons, based on questions only a personality theorist would think to ask.
By what right do I call myself a personality theorist though? Simple. I've written a whole theory. A whole new theory. An entirely new way to explain human nature and how we live and learn.
What makes me claim it as new? It is the first modern theory of personality not based on Roger Bacon's inductive reasoning. The first personality theory based entirely on Benoit Mandelbrot's fractals. Or at least, on his wonderful concept of fractals.
Translated into English, this book is based on living learning, not on science. At least, not on your grandfather's sense of science. That science is old and dead. In part, this book will address this death and hopefully offer a worthy replacement. The infinitely variable and yet unchanging pattern of oak leaves as opposed to the holy grail of most head-with-feet scientists; reliably invariable patterns of data.
Too flowery? Need me to state this idea more directly?
Science based mainly on statistics lies. And fails to deliver to us a living understanding. Not every time, mind you. Where the newborn child's curiosity still underlies the heart of the science, science is still alive. In most science labs, this rarely happens though. And in it's place are numbers, numbers, and more numbers. Dead, cold facts.
We are not dead though. We are warm flesh and blood. How then can mere numbers describe living learning beings?
The truth is, they can't. But fractals can. At least, fractals as Emergence Personality Theory defines them; as recognizable patterns which always repeat differently.
Speaking of deaths, recently a spite of books have pitched the idea that God is dead. No surprise the voices which pitch this heartless arrogance are rooted in the very same science I'm speaking against. God is not dead. We are dead. At least, the "we " that admires science's terribly arrogant claim that it can understand the mystery of life.
The mystery of life can never be understood. At least not by mere mortals such as ourselves. The good news is that because we can't, we have an infinite supply of reasons to still be alive. Including to explore the vast amount of beauty this mystery supplies. Which, after all, is what fuels the lives of babies. They, the consummate students of life.
Nice words. Yes. But can I actually deliver more than flowery words? The reality? For the past ten years, I and my little community of students have been using what we've learned out in the real world. In our professions. And in our homes. Including that we continue to find new ways to keep our children's love of learning alive. As well as our own.
Who are we out in the real world? Quite a few of us are therapists of one sort or another. Several of us are talk therapists. One of us is a licensed P.T.; a physical therapist. One woman is an art and music therapist. Two are licensed massage therapists.
Then there are the artists. One, my friend Austin, is one of the fastest rising graphic designers in New York City today. No doubt you've been exposed to his work, albeit, sans his name, of course. Unlike fine artists, graphic designers are basically guns for hire. Anonymous to the world. Perhaps this is why he and I aspire to create the first school of art to consciously teach creativity. No small task. Doable none the less.
Another fellow, Gary, is a bassist who in his off time records and edits the spoken word. Talks on tape and inspirational stuff. He's also a music teacher in a boys school. No coincidence he sports one of the warmest little boy smiles you've ever seen; he loves doing what he does.
Speaking of artists, several of us are also another kind of artist; martial artists. Tai Chi and Aikido mostly. And some of us work in other professions; a C.P.A., an Orthopedic specialist, a Spa owner and so on. One fellow even owns a construction company.
Of course, some of us also work as traditional school teachers, two of whom live and teach in nearby Connecticut. One works her magic with six year olds and the other coaches teachers of six year olds. Kids whose love of learning is still alive.
Despite the obvious differences though, we all share one common bond. The honest desire to make the world better for children. How? By finding ways to keep their love of learning alive. A desire I suspect we share with many who may now be reading this.
As for answers and whether I have any, you need to hear this loud and clear. I, myself, will be offering you no answers here. None. Rather I will be offering you ways and places in which to begin to find your own answers. How? By sharing with you what my friends and I have been exploring for over ten years. The nature of learning itself. Along with something we fondly call, "emergences "; the moments in life which reveal the very nature of learning.
Who Should Read This Book?
Who should read this book? No one should read this book. No one at all. Unless, of course, you are willing to risk becoming unable to ignore our children's lost love of learning. As well as your own lost love of it.
In a way then, this book purports to be the "red pill " of the Matrix. Remember? As Neo reaches for the red pill Morpheus warns Neo "Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."
This is what I'm offering you. The truth and nothing more. At least as far as the truth about how children lose their love of learning. And yes, I realize, this is a grand claim. Even so, if you are interested in seeing what lies beyond the parrot maker's truths, this book is for you.
As for those in whom technical knowledge causes blankness, know that a lot of what I'll be presenting here will be said in plain everyday language. Stuff addressed to parents. Stuff ordinary folks can understand. Not that I won't interweave this stuff with a few more technical things. I will. My point is I'll be doing both. I'll be combining technical learning with practical learning. Stuff for professional teachers with stuff parents can use. And yes. Parents are also teachers. They are. But professional teachers have different needs than parents do. Moreover, professional teachers risk their very livelihood trying to teach things to children while at the same time trying to follow the curriculum. As well as their hearts.
So yes. I will be introducing some parts of Emergence Personality Theory. Nothing too difficult, mind you. Just enough of the basics to ground what I'm telling you in real hard truth. And for those who end up wanting to learn more about it, know we have a web site wherein we've posted ten years of work; theemergencesite.com. As well as a next book in the works which will address this very thing. Coming soon to a theater near you. Or at least, hopefully, to a book store near you.
Two final things. One about fractals. The other about terms. Let's address the terms one first.
Throughout the book, I'll be introducing words and terms, many in ways which redefine or rather refine a word's meanings. Try not to take this refining process too seriously nor that I am making words a right or wrong thing. Rather, I do this merely in an effort to communicate my ideas to you as visually as I can. Unfortunately, my "visual best " often requires I refine the words' dictionary meanings. No disrespect to the dictionary intended. Only an open mind. Which leads us to the king of open mind words; fractals.
For me, fractals are no mere novelty. They're a serious science about a serious truth. Unfortunately, many people today casually toss this word around as if it is simply a code word for complexity. It is not. And at the risk of offending some pretty smart minds, I dare say very few scientists know what truly underlies this word. Let alone how fractals could and should replace statistically based sciences as the twenty first century's truth teller and future predictor. As well as becoming the basis for all of our children's teachings and grading.
My point? This book is about why children lose their love of learning; yes. But it is also about how our obsession with scientifically quantifying predictors of future events has all but destroyed our children's futures.
Am I being harsh? Yes I am. But when it comes to our children, we should all learn to bear up under the burden of admitting our wrongs. No matter how costly or embarrassing this might be.
So which is it, will you take the blue pill or the red?
Take the red pill. Believe me. Our children deserve nothing less.
People, Places, and Unusual Terms I've Referred to in This Chapter
Fractals (fractal geometry)
Head With Feet
Heart On Wheels
The Red Pill or The Blue Pill (from the movie, The Matrix)