Awasu » A thirst for knowledge
Tuesday 6th January 2004 10:09 AM [General]

Earl Mardle posts some thoughtful comments on the state of education.

Why is it that, given our early thirst for information, knowledge, skills and a dedication as a child to learning that amounts to obsession, do we find, often by the age of 6 or 7, that the openness to new knowledge, let alone new data, has just about gone and for most of us never comes back?

My theory is that it is essentially beaten out of us by the inherited attitudes of our parents and the pressures of the society in which we live, abetted by the education system.

As I said not long ago, I've always had a strong interest in how people learn and couldn't agree more. For our kids, school is a chore at best and they go to university simply to get that piece of paper to help their job prospects. These days, who is interested in learning for the sake of knowledge and self-betterment, or simply the satisfaction of knowing something today that you didn't yesterday?

I have been a long-time fan of John Holt who wrote many books about teaching younger people. His books are very accessible and if you have young children, I would consider them to be a must-read. And even if you don't, the number of times I've read what he had to say about the things that 5- and 6-year olds get up to in the classroom and realized that they were exactly the same thing that my co-workers do in the office is utterly frightening! 🙂

Earl closes with this:

Our problem now is that the demand for ever more sophisticated and subtle thinkers and innovators in western society has never been greater. As more and more manual tasks like making clothes, or shoes, or manufacturing components and even services like call centres are being exported to India and China and Taiwan or Korea and Thailand, the remaining work demands higher and higher levels of concentration, knowledge acquisition and application in ever more conceptual realms; and we aren't teaching for that.

Indeed. The scary thing is, we're now exporting our high-tech jobs and training up the Indians and Chinese and Koreans to do this work in the interests of a better bottom line for the current quarter. Cheap clothing and manufacturing are one thing but IT is critical infrastructure. What's going to be left for the West in twenty years from now?

3 Responses to this post

Teaching dependence.
Earl of A Networked World has some interesting thoughts about the state of education. He quotes the excellent John Taylor Gatto (I've read his Dumbing Us Down as well as a lot of other stuff he's written). This part of Earl's write up interested me:...

[...] I’ve written a few times before about my long interest in how people learn [1], especially young kids, and came across a crackerjack story today about exactly this. Sugata Mitra set up the Hole in the Wall project where he goes into slum areas and rural villages in India, bungs an internet-connected computer into a hole in the wall and then comes back a few weeks later to see what happened. [...]

[...] written a few times before on my long interest in how people learn and our efforts to teach them [1] so this was definitely an article I was going to find interesting (despite the long ramblings [...]

Have your say