Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Limits to Learning?...

When I discussed the subject of the Well Trained Mind and its recommended curriculum with my public school teacher friend, I was not at all surprised that she hated the idea. "Why on earth would they need to learn Latin?" she asked me, "And who cares what they're reading as long as they're reading and enjoying it." She does have a bit of a point. There are lots of adults from my generation who read for pleasure, and I think that's fantastic. However, what they're reading leaves a lot to be desired. They never broadened their minds to accept anything more complicated than Harlequin novels. When asked about reading something even slightly more complicated, like Mark Twain, they comment with things like, "I don't like that kind of book, its too boring." Not boring, they just don't get it. The classics, full of complicated terminology and large vocabulary words, are full of adventure, humor, unbridled passion. But if you don't know how to read it - more importantly to understand it - you miss all that. It's like reading a page full of nonsense words.

My sister-in-law once commented that she isn't going to teach her children most of the things she learned in school because, "I never used that information. They don't need it either." Sure, if you want your children to grow up to be unemployed, or work at Walmart or McDonald's, that's perfectly fine. But why wouldn't someone want to give their children as many options as possible? I would certainly rather my child be capable of rocket science but choose to work at Walmart because they enjoy it, than have them want to be a rocket scientist but lack the knowledge and skills to be anything but a checkout girl.

I have been (as well as most others still are) too focused on "he has to learn this to get through second grade." I've presented him with all the stories in his basal readers, given him all his worksheets, and when he was done we just did something else in our "free time." Most people never consider what else their children could learn, because "that's not something he does until 4th grade." We are raising a society of people who only want to learn the absolute bare minimum to get by. Few are the college students taking classes just because that subject interests them, they don't even want to take the classes required to graduate. In high school, the general attitude of the students (as well as myself) was just to suck it up and get through the class, and in a few years it would all be over. Learning is treated as something you have to get through to move on in life, not something you should actually enjoy. The result is a society of lazy, unmotivated people, content to leave their learning behind at 25 and spend the rest of their lives just going through the motions of adulthood.

Why do they need to learn it? Obviously they don't. But why would they want to learn it (or why would you want to teach them)? The same reason Boy Scouts learn to tie knots. Because you might use it someday. Because you might actually have better ejoyment out of life due to your knowledge. 20 years down the road you could buy a sailboat and already know how to tie off your sails because of a month-long lesson in Boy Scouts. And those who can see a benefit to learning throughout their lives could someday enjoy Homer, see a play in Italian, or even be a rocket scientist.

No comments: