Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] What happened to Curiosity

From: David Rovner <>
Date: Thu Apr 7 11:29:00 2005

Are we discovering the wheel again, Molly ?

~ David

"For people who like to think through the important questions in life for themselves, Sudbury Valley stands as a challenge to the accepted answers.
Intellectual basics

The first phrase that pops into everyone's mind is: "We go to school to learn." That's the intellectual goal. It comes before all the others. So much so, that "getting an education" has come to mean "learning" -- a bit narrow, to be sure, but it gets the priorities clear.

Then why don't people learn more in schools today? Why all the complaints? Why the seemingly limitless expenditures just to tread water, let alone to progress?

The answer is embarrassingly simple. Schools today are institutions in which "learning" is taken to mean "being taught." You want people to learn? Teach them! You want them to learn more? Teach them more! And more! Work them harder. Drill them longer.

But learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you! That is true of everyone. It's basic.

What makes people learn? Funny anyone should ask. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle started his most important book with the universally accepted answer: "Human beings are naturally curious." Descartes put it slightly differently, also at the beginning of his major work: "I think, therefore I am." Learning, thinking, actively using your mind -- it's the essence of being human. It's natural.

More so even than the great drives -- hunger, thirst, sex. When you're engrossed in something -- the key word is "engrossed" -- you forget about all the other drives until they overwhelm you. Even rats do that, as was shown a long time ago.

Who would think of forcing people to eat, or drink, or have sex? (Of course, I'm not talking about people who have a specific disability that affects their drives; nor is anything I am writing here about education meant to apply to people who have specific mental impairments, which may need to be dealt with in special, clinical ways.) No one sticks people's faces in bowls of food, every hour on the hour, to be sure they'll eat; no one closets people with mates, eight periods a day, to make sure they'll couple.

Does that sound ridiculous? How much more ridiculous is it, then, to try to force people to do that which above all else comes most naturally to them ! And everyone knows just how widespread this overpowering curiosity is. All books on child rearing go to great lengths to instruct parents on how to keep their little children out of things -- especially once they are mobile. We don't stand around pushing our one year olds to explore. On the contrary, we tear our hair out as they tear our house apart, we seek ways to harness them, imprison them in play pens. And the older they get, the more "mischief" they get into. Did you ever deal with a ten year old? A teenager?

People go to school to learn. To learn, they must be left alone and given time. When they need help, it should be given, if we want the learning to proceed at its own natural pace. But make no mistake: if a person is determined to learn, they will overcome every obstacle and learn in spite of everything. So you don't have to help; help just makes the process a little quicker. Overcoming obstacles is one of the main activities of learning. It does no harm to leave a few.

But if you bother the e person, if you insist the person stop his or her own natural learning and do instead what you want, between 9:00 AM and 9:50, and between 10:00 AM and 10:50 and so forth, not only won't the person learn what s/he has a passion to learn, but s/he will also hate you, hate what you are forcing upon them, and lose all taste for learning, at least temporarily.

Every time you think of a class in one of those schools out there, just imagine the teacher was forcing spinach and milk and carrots and sprouts (all those good things) down each student's throat with a giant ramrod.

Sudbury Valley leaves its students be. Period. No maybes. No exceptions. We help if we can when we are asked. We never get in the way. People come here primarily to learn. And that's what they all do, every day, all day."

[Intellectual basics, Back to Basics, Why go to school?, by Daniel Greenberg, , The Sudbury Valley School Experience,]

  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2005 4:47 PM
  Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] What happened to Curiosity

  To whomever posted the "what happened to curiosity" - thank you. Thank you for the reminder that this is about the children and about preserving children's innate love for learning. If we are able to do that, all else falls in place. Molly Mancasola
Received on Thu Apr 07 2005 - 11:28:20 EDT

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