Monday, July 6, 2015

The Death of Curiosity!

Are we killing a few Einsteins and Newtons as we let curiosity die a slow, silent death?

Studying doesn’t mean loading the head with facts and figures, rather it means comprehending something once and for all...

Years back, my son (now in teens) was preparing for his third grade annual exams. A chapter in his Environmental Science was dedicated to the universe and there was everything from the sun to earth to moon. When he came to the ‘different phases of moon’, there were quite a few hiccups and no matter how much I tried to make him visualize the different positions of moon with respect to earth and sun, he preferred to take a short-cut when things got a little complicated. The short-cut was learning by heart! Hadn’t it been explained in school? It had been. It bothered me to no end that he had silently taken the route of cramming when the time came to dive deep to understand what was actually happening! I found it difficult to explain to him that learning a conceptual thing is not a quick, single step. It involves knowing the facts, relating them and imagining what could result from stringing the facts in the right order. And that is where the hitch is. Beyond a point, he could not imagine or he did not want to take the pains of imagining when the easier option lay before him – memorise and throw it up when needed.

Checking with children in the neighbourhood, I was surprised to find most of them stood in the same bracket as my son. They were happier cramming than sitting down to relish the ‘why’s and ‘how’s of things. What was wrong? Flipping through the pages of different books, there seemed to be nothing amiss. The illustrations were great, there were photographs that supported the information neatly laid out in sections, there were experiments described that could be carried out at home. There were some questions that were brainteasers too! Then why didn’t the children love to think and understand and then learn?

It’s widely known that children are born curious, they are born inquisitive. Somewhere along the way these precious traits are lost! What goes wrong?!

I looked deep inside me and an ugly answer began raising its head.

It was me, the culprit. As a parent, I wanted my son to excel in his studies, to stay somewhere at the top. How could that be achieved? Good grades, of course! And how was that to be accomplished? Well, with spending the major part of the day with a variety of subjects and extra-curricular activities in and out of school, was there any scope of delving into the depths of a subject, look for the links between the different portions of a chapter and glow with understanding that suddenly fills the learner with thrill?

In the rapid, mad rush to accumulate information and reproduce it on the answer sheets, aren’t the young learners missing out something vital during their journey? Are we giving them ample time to look for the pearls in the ocean of knowledge or are we hurrying them, pushing them too much to move fast to that one goal – GET GOOD GRADES! SOMEHOW! Are we allowing them enough time to ponder over what they’ve just got to know? To try out what they’ve learnt from books? Are we not denying them the satisfaction of trying out something they’ve got to know? In the pursuit of grades and marks, are we allowing them enough time to develop love for any one subject?

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