One of my private students – aged 16, inclined to learn facts but not inclined to communicate said facts – is frustrating the hell out of me. He has the typical Asian attitude toward education: tell me what to learn and I’ll learn it. Critical thinking is not going over too well with this boy. So I made him read some John Taylor Gatto. The student really liked the essays, read quite a bit, and wrote a fairly decent paragraph explaining his opinion. However, when asked if he was going to start questioning the things he was learning, my student replied that he would start questioning in the fall, when he started learning again.
Uh, your parents are paying me to teach you English every week, boy.
But it’s not real learning.
I didn’t thwack him over the head with “Death Of A Salesman”; I want brownie points.
Like most teenagers, he has been unable to find full-time work this summer, and so his parents have suggested he keep himself busy by educating himself. Some of this he does by watching the Discovery Channel, and Mythbusters. When I asked him what he had learned from Mythbusters, he came up with an extensive list and, without prompting, suggested he might explore some of those things this summer… although he couldn’t think where he’d find a good toilet to blow up. When I suggested that this “learning” was the same as “learning” in school, one of the little hamsters in his brain had a myocardial infarction. But I guess the other hamsters were in good health, because after a minute I could see the wheels starting to spin again.
This student does have Asian parents, and this will indubitably affect his perspective somewhat, but he has been schooled in Canada all his life. Why are the schools fostering the idea that learning is only achieved in school? Why is working with a tutor not learning? Why is watching Mythbusters not learning? Why are we giving them take 3 months off school each year, without giving them a purpose to those 3 months?
Humans are learning all the time. If you’re breathing, you’re learning. You don’t have to be registered in Ontario’s finest private schools to be learning. You don’t have to be attending school to be learning. You could be, say, 40-something years old and working as a tutor and a writer, and you’d still be learning. Arrggghhh! That’s it: I’m heading off to Scandanavia, and I’m never coming back!