Here’s an interesting little connection for you…
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, both went through Montessori education. The Montessori method has, at its core, a belief that children are natural learners and that learning therefore should be more child- rather than knowledge-centric than traditional approaches. Google appears to want to make rote learning redundant by indexing the sum total of human knowledge (alongside producing self-driving cars and spaceships).
But there is a flaw in their thinking. If you don’t have a in-built map of knowledge that you’ve learned, you won’t know what you don’t know. If every time we need to remember something you have to look it up on Google, very soon we’ll all become remarkably dim because you won’t know what to look for in the first place.
Now I’m not sure if the link between a child-centred education and what Google’s mission is is intended to be inferred in Ian Leslie’s book about curiosity, but it’s got me thinking differently about how we educate our children. Whilst I fear the Govian future of education deeply, having read Leslie’s book I’m much less dismissive of the hard work of rote learning than I was before. It’s a subject I’m paying increasing interest in as my eldest approaches his first day of school in the Autumn.
The book is much more, though, than an argument for the learning of times tables (good for “chunking”) and important dates in history (which gives us a mental time map). Leslie examines how human curiosity works, the distinction between puzzles and mysteries, the history of curiosity and ways in which one can stay curious (a skill that, he argues, is going to be of increasing importance in the years to come).
There’s one drawback with the book, and it’s one that Leslie himself acknowledges early on. The sort of person who’s likely to read a book about curiosity is going to be of an inquiring mind. The incurious aren’t going to be interested…
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