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Should we force kids to learn material they don't show interest in?

As a college graduate I was thinking about how much material I have studied in all of my educational career and then promptly forgotten after the test. Is it a waste of time to try and learn something you are not interested in? To what extent should we allow educational autonomy?

There are a lot of different ways to be intelligent. Memorization and regurgitation are just one small facet.


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  • Feb 5 2013: You are hinting at something along the lines of having a students education being molded to that particular individual, and not applied to a general population. This is slowly starting to happen, but at the same time, you have to look at education from several perspectives, since it's such a complex issue.

    I am currently in college, and I know how you feel. I am taking classes that I normally would not take unless I was forced to. Although a good amount of this information is something that I don't find interesting right now, I have no idea if I will have use for it in the future. But I'd rather have general background knowledge about a particular subject versus knowing nothing at all.

    It also is hard to tell what subjects are actually "needed" by an individual. Also, some of my favorite classes were from subjects that I would never have taken on my own. Many of my friends have changed their majors, and therefore the entire direction of their future, due to classes like these. I am sure there are just as many people who thought of those classes as a waste of time.

    I guess the question I would ask is, how can we make the information we "need" to prepare someone for the world interesting to every single student? I would like to be able to have greater freedom in choosing a teacher that works for me, as well as a time that works for me, as well as a format that works for me. Some of us don't learn so well from someone with a monotone voice at 8:30 in the morning with a class of 250 students:/
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      Feb 5 2013: Good points Ryan, and I agree that as we become more aware of the fact that we all learn differently, I believe people within educational systems are realizing that it may be benificial to "mold" programs to fit student's interests.

      I also agree that sometimes, we discover interest in the least likely places......as you say....some of your friends have changed their direction due to what they discovered in classes that they may not have been particularly interested in.

      You ask..."how can we make the information we "need" to prepare someone for the world interesting to every single student?"

      I suggest that we probably cannot make information interesting to every single student, and that is where the student may have a responsibility? When we engage in something with curiosity, and intent to learn something, it usually is a more beneficial experience. So in some respects, we have an opportunity to create interest. If we continually think of something as a "waste of time", that is exactly the reality we create for ourselves. If we are open to the possibility of discovering SOMETHING interesting in each and every interaction, that is also the reality we create for ourselves. Based on your comment, it appears that you and your friends are open minded, open hearted and genuinely exploring possibilities:>)

      Another factor, is that perhaps it is unrealistic to assume a college age person is going to decide what s/he will do for the rest of their life? I am 60+ years of age, I've had several very interesting, challenging, some lucrative (some not so much) careers, and volunteer opportunities, and I have LOVED the opportunity to explore all of them with curiosity. We are living so much longer now, perhaps it would be good to let go of that idea that we need to decide at age 20, what we are going to do for the rest of our lives?

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