Monday, May 17, 2010

What have we done to curiosity?

Through this process of homeschooling, I have opened a never-ending discussion in my head regarding the differences between teaching and learning. We often use the terms interchangeably as we discuss our children's schooling. "What are you teaching them?" assumes "What are they learning?" Reality is teaching me (and I am learning) that the two are quite different.

Until a kid wants to learn, I can teach until forever and never connect. We know this. Yet we continue to harbor a school system that teaches its way to The Test each year, losing our kids' interest and curiosity along the way.

Consider the typical discipline issues a science teacher must deal with. Let's say each student has been given a straw, a rubber band, a 1/4 cup of water and a piece of paper. On each desk is a worksheet with clear instructions that will draw the student to an intended conclusion. Instead of following the directions, Charlie snips his straw in half and the battle begins:

"Charlie, why did you snip the straw in half? The directions stated the experiment will  only work with the whole straw."
 "Charlie? Perhaps you should head to the principal's office."
From a teacher's perspective, I get this. In a classroom of thirty plus students, one must maintain a sense of unity and power. But what if Charlie just wanted to know what would happen if he cut the straw in half? What if he were *gasp* curious?  How did Edison discover the light bulb? He had to try a ton of stuff. He had to first be curious. Have we become so intent on the teaching that we have disallowed our kids the opportunity to learn?

I am not dissing teachers. They have an impossible job. How can we move to correct this travesty in public school? What do you think?


  1. I cannot say that if the child's only possible answer was "dunno" that I wouldn't react with some frustration, whether I was teaching in a classroom or here at home. I do get your point. Our brick-and-mortar school teachers do not have the luxury of indulging curiosity. It's that simple. Go homeschooling!

  2. For the sake of brevity, I didn't carry the classroom discussion scenario out as far as it might typically run. Thanks for your comment!