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Killing curiosity

By Brian Holden - posted Thursday, 15 May 2008

The one service the school education system should be providing is to teach every child to love learning for its own sake. In meeting this one overriding moral responsibility, it fails disgracefully.

Why did Indigenous people of a century ago have intellectual powers in some respects which are beyond our own? It was because their minds were not shaped by formal western schooling to support entrenched and distorted institutional values.

The education of the Indigenous child was driven by the desire to learn what was seen by the child as being desirable to learn. The adults were the facilitators of the learning process.


Killing curiosity

Like all pre-school children, I was in a world of imagination and discovery. Then, from the first day at school, my sole objective was to please my teacher who represented authority. In high school, it was to pass exams. I became a victim of “the system”.

After learning to read and write and do basic arithmetic through the usual rigor, my schooling should then have been essentially a series of free-flowing discussions with fellow students facilitated by the teacher. From this platform my education would have been driven by my own curiosity.

There may be a killing of natural curiosity in primary school, but it is from the first week in high school that the real mind-deadening begins. The greatest injustice is done to those who leave at age 16. They come away with essential reading writing and arithmetic skills and little more of any use. That is a tragic outcome for the expenditure of 10 years of one’s life when one’s brain was at its most receptive.

If a child is to be kept in class by order of the state until age 16, then that child deserves to be taught how to think properly during those vital years instead of having to face tests of one’s ability to retrieve information that the child sees at the time as being totally irrelevant to his or her life.

For 30 years Edward de Bono has been pushing for school to be a place where children gain an understanding of the nature of perception if they are not to have lives seriously set back by wrong decisions in the management of money; in the choice of career; or in the choice of a partner.

The system in the hands of rigid thinkers

Currently there is pressure coming from some people - with minds confined to a small box - to make a foreign language mandatory in high schools. After the three Rs are taught, nothing should be mandatory.


The study of French and Shakespeare gives some people a lot a pleasure - but so does the study of engines for others. We have lobbyists on the boards of education attempting to force their own special interests onto children held captive by a compulsory school system.

The backbone of our distorted system is the process of exams. High school students are forced to learn what can be easily tested - with the one objective of moving 18-year-old people onto university. The keepers of the system seems satisfied that those who leave at 16 - as being labeled “limited” - have at least been kept off the streets.

A measure of the state education departments’ gross failure of our young people is the high proportion of school students in this technological age who leave school hating science.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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