At times students in my class raised the objection, “Why do we have to learn this stuff? I’ll never use it anyway!’
Usually this was in response to a difficult or tedious task. After hearing it repeatedly, I realized my students were asking a good question. Good questions deserve good answers. I didn’t have one. So I set out to find one.
(“Just because.you have to…” and “It’s part of the curriculum…” do not qualify as good answers. They offer neither relevance nor context for the particular learning activity in question.)
The question was brought home as I embarked on home schooling our four children. My evasive answers did not satisfy them nor me.
Why do children have to learn this stuff! What relevance to real life are the myriad of learning activities called school? What reason can I propose that will motivate children to engage in the learning process with purpose and delight?
In my quest to formulate a good answer to the question, one that was both meaningful and satisfying, I found four. The first—learning activities provide mental fitness exercises—is the subject of my previous post, Mental Fitness and Learning. The second—learning creates knowledge capital with which prosperity is built—is today’s focus.
I am fascinated as my grandchildren create amazing designs, landscapes and machines with lego® blocks. Totally engrossed in the creative process, their little minds are fully present and fully engaged. With spontaneous, unrestricted imagination, they experiment, discover and invent.
Some learning involves gathering bits and pieces of information that are stored in the mind like lego® blocks thrown into a toy box. They appear to be unrelated, but when they are connected, amazing thoughts, ideas and inventions are created. The more lego® blocks in the toy box, the bigger and better the creative possibilities!
Creative, inventive people are those who explore learning with spontaneous, unrestricted curiosity and garner useful pieces of information for their ‘toy box’. Innovative strategies for business, industry, agriculture and social development emerge from the cognitive ‘toy box’ that is well-stocked with mental lego® blocks.
“Why do you have to learn this stuff?” you ask.
I say, “You want to gather as many lego® blocks as possible. Fill your ‘toy box’ with as many pieces of varying sizes, shapes, colors and functions as you can. They may seem unrelated and useless at the moment, but these will be the very pieces needed to create a solution to a very perplexing problem or to design an amazing invention in a time to come. Then you will be glad that your toy box is full of creative ideas and resources.”