Birds fly, Fish swim; Man thinks and learns

“I would be against trying to cram knowledge into the heads of children, even if we could agree on what knowledge to cram, and could be sure it would not go out of date, even if we could be sure that, once crammed in, it would stay in.  Even then, I would trust the child to direct his own learning. For it seems to me a fact that, in our struggle to make sense out of life, the things we most need to learn are the things we most want to learn. To put this another way, curiosity is hardly ever idle. What we want to know, we want to know for a reason.  The reason is that there is a hole, a gap, an empty space in our understanding of things, our mental model of the world. We feel that gap like a hole in a tooth and want to fill it up. It makes us ask How? When? Why? While the gap is there, we are in tension, in suspense. Listen to the anxiety in a person’s voice when he says, ‘This doesn’t make sense!’ When the gap in our understanding is filled, we feel pleasure, satisfaction, relief.  Things make sense again – or at any rate, they make more sense than they did.

When we learn this way, for these reasons, we learn both rapidly and permanently. The person who really needs to know something, does not need to be told many times, drilled, tested.  Once is enough.

Man is by nature a learning animal. Birds fly, fish swim; man thinks and learns.”

John Holt from How Children Learn

john holt

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