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The importance of being curious

From an early age we discover the world by trying things out. Crawling, grabbing and failing forward. All driven by a curiosity to find out how things work. Making them your own in your own unique way, by having your own unique experiences. You could say that being curious is a natural thing for human beings, always trying to aim further and higher. And that it takes a very important role in our natural learning process. But why is it that most people don’t think of curiosity when it comes to learning at school? And that consuming and reproducing seems to describe the school process better? Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson described his personal experiences in “The Logical Song”:

“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

Over the last centuries school was something that prepared us for jobs where curiosity didn’t seem to have a place. Unless you were becoming an inventor, researcher or developer, gaining knowledge and skills and being able to reproduce that knowledge and skills was more important. As Hodgson sings: Being logical, responsible, practical, clinical, intellectual and cynical was considered more important than being playful and joyful. Two things that are in my opinion directly related to being curious.

These thoughts nowadays still echo throughout our schools. Standardized tests judging over the competences and knowledge of students and the quality of education make teachers do what is being expected from them: Let every student get as close to or preferably above these standards as possible. Arranging the schoolsystem like this is also the most manageable in the opinion of a lot of people. This system makes sure that students will gain what society claims is “the right knowledge”. But what is the right knowledge?

Times have changed. Where students that finished their studies used to start working for the same company for the rest of their lives, they now switch jobs almost every 5 years. Most of the times they even get to work in different fields than they used to. Jobs change, disappear and are being reshaped. Situations in which people who only learned how to consume and reproduce experience big troubles to adapt. And who can blame them? Over the years they have learned that walking along in the system would bring them more than being curious and finding their own path.

This is also one of the reasons why educational reform towards a more curiosity driven curriculum takes such a lot of time. Most teachers also grew up in a time where consuming and reproducing was considered the best way to learn. In my opinion real educational reform towards a futureproof curriculum starts with every teacher awakening their curiosity again. Throwing ready-made opinions and past experiences overboard approaching the future with an open and curious mind: crawling, grabbing and failing forward like we used to when we were kids. Once we get ourselves to be curious again, questioning every decision over and over again, seeing if it still fits the needs of the current students; we will take education into the 21st century!

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