[Discuss-sudbury-model] Passion versus forced learning

From: <m.m_at_excite.com>
Date: Mon Feb 24 18:05:00 2003


You are making a few assumptions about your learning French that I'd like to point out. One is that if you learned the language as an adult, you'd have an accent. (There is also the subtext of that assumption that having an accent when you speak a non-native language is bad.) The other is that you wouldn't have learned the language on your own if given the choice. As someone who is passionate about learning languages, I would like to speak to both of these assumptions.

First is your ability or inability to rid yourself of an accent when learning a foreign language. I speak several languages, mostly learned as an adult. Languages that I was passionate about learning, I speak as a native or fairly accent free. Languages that I had to learn, in other words, languages for which I felt no passion, I still struggle with. Granted, some people have very little ability to learn languages but I do have to wonder how much of that inability was programmed into them through forced, displeasurable learning of languages in school. My experience in school was that learning languages was fun and easy but that certainly wasn't the experience most of my peers were having. In my experience, traveling throughout the world, I have seen adults approach extremely difficult languages (ie. Japanese, Navajo) with no former knowledge of that language and not only master the language but enjoy not just the ability to speak it but the process of learning to speak it.

The second thing that I'd like to address is whether you would have learned French at all. I believe that you are right. You probably wouldn't have studied it but instead, you may have discovered that you are passionate about the stars, or fish, or dinosaur bones. Or, perhaps you would have met an Latvian boy and learned Latvian because it was cool or sounded neat or just because you wanted to understand when he and his mother spoke. After that, who knows? Perhaps your passion for dinosaur bones would lead you to lecture in Paris and that would lead to a desire to learn French. Or perhaps, you would be in China, learning Chinese. After all, how valuable is French in China?

My point is, I can't tell you how different my life would be if I had been handed the responsibility for my own learning at an early age. I'm thirty years old and still learning that lesson to this day. Would I still speak Spanish? Yes, that was something I did with passion. Would I still know Algebra and Calculus? Yes, a chance comment from my mother at the age of 12 about negative numbers sent my head spinning until I finally figured them out with the help of Algebra - and by then, I was hooked. Would I know anything about history? Probably not. I find history boring. I have forgotten most of what I memorized for exams in school. But, then again, maybe I would have found an interesting book which would have led me in fascinating directions that a dry school textbook never offered to me.

My advice, if you truly want to explain democratic learning to others, is get some books and lend them out. "Free at Last" is a great one to entice people into understanding.

Monica Moon

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Received on Mon Feb 24 2003 - 18:04:45 EST

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