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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 6 2013: I also do not use 90% of things I learned at school and universities. The value of learning things is not the things we learn. The value is learning how to learn.

    I wrote and defended 2 theses in graduate schools. One was about electronic paramagnetic resonance of cadmium halide crystals, another about characterization of alternating-current thin film electroluminescent devices. Are you excited yet? None of these subjects have any practical significance today. But in the process I learned how to acquire and process data, how to present the data in scientific papers, how to research literature - and these skills I use every day now.

    My son says that school algebra class is boring for him, because he understands the topic before the teacher finishes explaining it. His grade is not great, because, as he says, he makes mistakes in tedious calculations in home work assignments and tests. To avoid calculation mistakes, he decided to solve problems by writing programs on his TI calculator. So, he is learning programming BECAUSE he is bored.

    And, by the way, patience, effort and self-control are useful skills by themselves.

    We learn from any experiences, especially from negative ones.
    • Feb 6 2013: "I wrote and defended 2 theses in graduate schools."

      So you learned how to learn by doing these 2 projects, but that was toward the end of grad school. Sure you did similar stuff throughout your learning career, but why not help people focus a little more on these kinds of projects that help you learn. Your projects were learning to know how to learn, but I'd argue that by far the vast majority of my education in the U.S. has unintentionally boiled down to cramming to learn how to cram. I'm not going to spend my time intimately learning something if I know I'll never use it, so I gladly cram over true learning. But there are plenty of things I spend countless hours on myself where the learning is more pure, would it be so difficult to make learning a little more applicable to people?
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        Feb 7 2013: Perhaps, these quotes from Mark Twain could shed some light on the issue... or add to the confusion :-)


        "What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it.

        Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work--not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great."
        - "A Humorist's Confession," The New York Times, 11/26/1905
        • Feb 9 2013: I'll be the odd one and say the first one not so much, the second one while definitely not a subject I'm strong or very knowledgeable in, I'd want to read and learn a bit more about the subject and would read a paper on said subject. Then again I'm interested in computer
          technology, more specifically the fields of computer science and computer engineering so it perks my interest a bit.
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      Feb 7 2013: Arkady,
      Mark Twain said that.....how cool!!! I don't think I ever heard it, and I call everything my work/play:>)

      I honestly cannot say that I'm excited about "electronic paramagnetic resonance of cadmium halide crystals", or " characterization of alternating-current thin film electroluminescent devices". :>)

      I AM excited about your perception that we can learn how to learn. I have sat in hundreds of classes, workshops, conferences, etc., (as many of us have done), and when leaving, felt like I may have gotten a couple usefull snippets of information. Many times, down the road however, information that was presented will pop in when it is needed......where the heck did THAT come from.....oh.....I remember.....it was a class or workshop I attended years ago.... LOL!

      You say..."would it be so difficult to make learning a little more applicable to people?"

      That is an excellent idea, however, it may not be very realistic because we are all different.....we learn differently....assimilate and use information differently, so it would be very difficult to make learning applicalbe to all people.....wouldn't it? We certainly CAN, however make an attempt.

      When I was guest lecturing at the univ. for example, we (the professor and I) spoke in the large classes, and then seperated the large classes into small discussion groups. which gave the students a chance to participate in discussions with their own perspectives. This practice engaged the students AND also gave them the opportunity to participate on an equal level with the teachers. So, we all became teachers and students, which I feel is empowering to all of us.

      I feel that the teachers AND students have the responsibility to contribute to the learning process. We, as individuals can sift through information to a certain degree, and decide for ourselves what serves us AND the whole at any given time.

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