“The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn.” ~Seymour Papert
I use that quote often in my presentations, because even though Papert said that 18 years ago, the environment we now find ourselves in today makes it even more relevant. And it’s not just the skills needed to learn, but it’s the dispositions as well. I’m not saying humans aren’t learners by their very nature, but there’s no question some end up being much more voracious than others when it comes to learning more about the world around them and their place in it.
But we don’t focus on being able to learn that much in schools, do we? Instead we put most of our attention on making sure kids are able to be taught. That’s what the systems and structures and policies support. To be able to be taught, students must learn to follow rules. To be able to be taught, they must conform to certain expectations. They must be grouped in certain ways, for specific amounts of time. They must get into certain routines, all of which develop them as “students” who depend on the institution to teach them what they need to know. This is our easiest path, to dictate and organize the entire experience.
In the process, we basically ignore the skill of being able to learn. In fact, we may damage what learning skills and dispositions kids already bring to us when they start school. But the vast majority of kids end up right where we want them, being teachable.
The irony is we’ve known this forever. We knew it when we were students. We perpetuate it as adults, as parents, as teachers, and as policy makers.
Read the whole Papert piece. Hard to argue.