They Won’t Even Notice They’re Learning!

This promise is sometimes attached to a ‘fun’ learning programme which is supposed to appeal to young people. Underlying slogans like this are some poisonous assumptions which undermine genuine education.

Firstly, there is the assumption that young people are not naturally curious, and so their curiosity must be artificially stimulated by something extrinsic to the knowledge itself. Although it is nonsense to assert that education can happen naturally without effort, struggle, or formal structure, it is equally untrue to say that there is no innate desire to know within every human being. That desire to know is frustrated at every step by progressive methods which do not feed it, but somehow expect it to feed itself, like a parent who refuses to put square meals on the table. The main reason teenagers lack curiosity is that they have not been provided with satisfying quantities of knowledge from an early age. Thus they have gone elsewhere to satisfy their thirst to know more. They know a lot about many things which have nothing to do with school, even down to the most obscure details.

Young people are naturally curious. When we start satisfying their appetite for knowledge with real solid fare, they’ll start seeing school as something worth bothering with.

Another poisonous assumption is that young people are incapable of exercising self-discipline and making a free decision to apply themselves to study, even if it does not provide them with instant gratification. This reduces them to the level of babies. When I am changing my baby son’s nappy, he wriggles a lot, and I have to give him things to play with and distract him in order to stop him from rolling off the change-mat when I am halfway through. But he is nine months old, not nine or nineteen years old. I accept that he has to be distracted in order for this essential function to be performed. Are we going to say that teenagers must be somehow distracted while we cunningly slip some knowledge into their brains unawares, as I cunningly slip the fresh nappy under the bottom of my baby son?

We need to expect more from young people, and when we expect more, we are giving them respect and promoting their personal dignity. They do want to know stuff, and they are capable of putting in the effort to acquire that knowledge.


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