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What "Kills" Students' Love of Learning

Valuing Credibility Over Experience



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What Kills "The Love of Learning?"

If you were to watch a group of newly born babies or a group of babies in their first year of life, unless these babies had very difficult births, what you would immediately see is a group of human beings who love learning. This love, in fact, is normal. We are all born with it. Yet, if you were to watch this same group years later, for instance, as teenaged students in a classroom setting, very few of these children would have retained this love of learning. Most, in fact, would have long lost their desire to explore their world, especially just for the sheer joy of discovering for themselves what their world is like.

And if you were to follow this group into adulthood? What would you likely see?

Most likely, if you were to watch these same beings as adults in a learning situation, most would either shy away from learning or approach it with great caution, with attitudes ranging from anger and disgust to fear and shame.

What is happening here? What is it that kills "the love of learning?"

I believe the answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question, "what prevents learning?" I believe the answer to both these questions is: the "love of learning" dies whenever a "teacher's" credibility is valued more than the student's own experience.

This article will explore this idea, the main points of which I have summarized in the diagram above along with what I believe is the true sequence in which we learn.

What you see there then is, in some way, my attempt to put this idea on paper, an idea I feel is similar to what Thomas Kuhn wrote about in his famous book on how science progresses. For me, he was writing about how science progresses only when the new learning of generalists exceeds the value of the credentialed specialists. More important, I believe this idea generalizes to all learning, to learning at large. What am I talking about?

Having a Love of Learning

I felt very young in Kindergarten. I was, after all, a very young Four when I started. Even before this, though, I loved learning and I loved teachers who loved learning.

I have always felt different in this.

What do I love about learning?

For one thing, being given clues with which to solve the mystery of how things connect, the relationships between everything and everyone. For instance, I remember the manila-colored printed cards pasted above the green "blackboard" in that kindergarten. To me, they each were encoded with some mysterious black symbol which I somehow knew connected to the pictures below each of these symbols. I can also distinctly remember wanting to ask the teacher what those markings meant and how they connected to these pictures but having to wait until the time was right for her to reveal this "secret knowledge" to us. And that this waiting and wanting set me strangely apart from the other children, the majority of whom simply longed to be on the playground laughing and scrambling about with each other.

Not such a bad thing for children to want after all. But learning has always been my playground.

What else do I love about learning? Gazing at a teacher's face for long periods with rapt attention, loving every minute of the discourse and every hour of the process. Here again, I feel a great excitement in the possibility that I will somehow be given the keys to solving yet one more mystery, included in the inner circle of the "illuminati."

I also love hearing a teacher teach about what he or she loves and in this, witnessing a being similar to myself; more, being seen by such teachers in our sameness. This experience has been rare. And so valuable. The sunlight and water which has nurtured the little seed in my kindergarten cup and kept it growing.

From the sound of it, you would think I have enjoyed learning, that it has been a great experience for me. It hasn't. Why?

Often, I have been called a "teacher's pet" or a "brown-noser." At the very least, I have felt strange and alone.

Over the years, then, I learned to hide my love of learning, having heard so many messages that because I loved learning, I was somehow defective and a traitor to the rest of the students for who a love of learning had long since died.


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