How schools kill curiosity

How do plants make their own food? Photosynthesis.

How does water reach the topmost branch of a tall tree? Capillary effect.

How do plants breathe? Transpiration.

How does a frilled flower turn into a fleshy fruit? Pollination.

To stop children from asking too many questions, school feeds them with a list of superficial definitions. When a child persists, she is met with some variant of the following response:

‘Didn’t you already study in Standard 4 that plants use photosynthesis?’

Some ‘busy’ person in the past must have thought, ‘Alas! If only we could trap the wonder of the world around us into Latin words whose definitions we can have children memorize so that they stop badgering us with their stupid questions.’

Thus, primary school textbooks were born.

4 thoughts on “How schools kill curiosity

  1. Hello Pom,

    I’ve been reading your posts!

    In “How school kills curiosity”, I think you are committing an error in judgement which is known as Hanlon’s Razor – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    Especially this part –

    *Some ‘busy’ person in the past must have thought, ‘Alas! If only we could trap the wonder of the world around us into Latin words whose definitions we can have children memorize so that they stop badgering us with their stupid questions.’*

    Our knowledge of what the best way to educate the young has evolved. Maybe people were genuinely ignorant back then, as we still are in many ways.

    Regards, Balaji

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Bala,

    Thank you for mentioning Hanlon’s Razor here. Have a couple of points here though.

    Hanlon’s Razor (like Occam’s) is merely a heuristic rather than a rule in judgement or logic.

    Also, I didn’t attribute malice to the creators of school textbooks – merely busyness. ‘Busy’ is in quotes because of misplaced priorities rather than morals 🙂

    In another post, I explored how we could extend Hanlon’s Razor to include busyness:

    https://anupamobserved.com/2019/10/28/extending-hanlons-razor/

    Like

  3. Yes, but busyness is one explanation amongst several and therefore cannot be viewed in isolation without considering the others.

    The error in judgement here is to not completely consider all possibilities that explain a particular observation and to check how likely each of those are, before concluding that one particular cause is the most likely candidate

    By highlighting busyness, you make it seem more probable, which it may not be.

    Like

  4. Other possible explanations –

    1. They genuinely think it is the best way for children to learn.
    2. They did not have enough time to frame the best curriculum and did the best they could.
    3. They tried something different, but the parent body complained that the syllabus was too radical.
    4. They tried it on a focus group and it seemed effective.
    5. They have evidence to show that it is effective in ways that are counterintuitive.

    …..

    Obviously, some of these are wrong, but they need to be systematically eliminated. But in the absence of evidence, each is likely to a degree.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s