White-Bread Education

Discovery Center of Springfield is an interactive, hands-on museum committed to inspiring people of all ages with a life-long love of learning…

Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy checking out whitebreadthe Discovery Center when I’m in Missouri visiting my family. As a museum junkie in general, and an adult who’s trying to fully recover his childlike curiosity, it’s a great place. But something about that quote triggered something in me and drove me to the keyboard just now.

Specifically, it’s the notion that we can inspire a love of learning in someone else—not only can, but have to. The clear implication is that something happens to our innate and powerful curiosity, our drive to learn, and so it has to be jump-started or replaced at some point. And this made me think about bread.

You know what “enriched” bread is all about, don’t you? As I understand it, white bread has to be enriched—that is, injected with nutrients—because, for the sake of a bread that lasts longer and/or meets a certain aesthetic standard, the nutrient-rich elements are removed from it. So to turn the bread back into food, vitamins and minerals have to be added back in.

Well, I don’t think I’m off in sensing an analogy with children’s curiosity here. We only have to inspire and motivate young people in school if their natural curiosity has been removed for the sake of extraneous criteria. These might include getting kids to sit still for long periods of time, or imposing on them our ideas of what they ought to learn, when, and how. What bothers me most is knowing that, after squeezing their natural love of learning out of them, we’ll then accuse the children of not wanting to learn. Talk about blaming the victim!

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Sudbury schools, for example, are built upon the practice of preserving and supporting children’s innate drive to learn, their powerful curiosity and will to master their environment. So we don’t have to inspire/enrich children unless something’s already been taken from them—even then, their ability to recover their innate drive to learn is quite remarkable, and requires mostly being left alone with sufficient space and time.

In a word, learning is natural. We should never have to replace with our own weak copies something we’ve evolved over millennia;  Just as with food, so with ourselves: organic learning will always be the healthier way to go.

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