Making Learning ‘Unhatable’

Posted on January 23, 2013

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I was having a twitter debate the other day with a teacher about homework. I feel very strongly that we need to create an educational system that does not need to require homework to reach the necessary learning goals. For me, though, this goes beyond homework. When it comes to my daughter I feel very confident that she can grow in to a confident, intelligent, creative, and kind adult with more than enough ability to make a living doing something she loves without forcing her down any one path along the way.

In fact I’m more nervous that she won’t be able to reach such a place if she is forced down certain paths. Anytime someone is forced to do something it’s much more likely that they’ll develop negative associations with that activity. If it they then struggle with it they may reach the conclusion that they are “bad” at it, that they “hate” it.

If I can get my children through school without them saying to themselves “I hate math” or “I hate foreign languages” or “I hate writing” or “I hate science” I think I’ll be satisfied with their education.

I don’t really have a strong preference about what my kids do with their lives. I just don’t want them ever to isolate some subject and say “I’m just bad at that”. If I can keep them from reaching that conclusion so that they’re always interested in learning more on a wide range of subjects then I think they’ll be as prepared as I can help them get to deal with the challenges in front of them.

Interestingly enough one of the main arguments that the teacher I spoke with used to defend required homework was her own hatred of math, that homework was necessary to teach kids about fortitude and diligence and getting through something you hate.

I really believe that it’s so hard for us to imagine all students actually enjoying learning something as challenging as mathematics that we immediately feel that such learning must be forced. In the end it may be this forcing that actually accelerates students toward a hatred for such learning.

Making learning “unhatable” seems like such a low bar, but at the same time it seems like an impossibly challenging goal. If we were able to eliminate the idea from a students mind that they are “just bad at math” or that they “hate science” I think it would be a very satisfying accomplishment. Personally it’s what I’m dedicated to improving.

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