Only thing that primarily differentiates human beings from other animals is their ability to learn. Although all animals can learn some skills but we have outpaced them all by all growth that we have made. So what is that one thing that makes us to learn and do so much more than any other animal. Almost all animals can wonder to some extent about what it is when they see something. Some animals can also wonder How it is done when they need to do something for e.g. we now know that chimpanzees can use tools to get their foods. We even have proofs that chimpanzees can learn language to some extent. But there is one thing that no animal except human being, has asked so far or will ever ask and that is Why?
This one ability to ask Why and trying to go in depth of it has made all difference. No other animal raises his head in night and asks what are these blinking small lights in sky? why do I walk, can I fly even without having wings? Why do I need to depend on seasons to get food? Why can’t I grow my own food. This why has made all our progress or for that matter survival possible.
Now that we know that this asking why is the only differentiating factor between us and other animals, let’s think for a moment how many of us actually ask Why, and if we agree that we don’t do it often, let’s agree that now we will ask why we don’t ask why, that’s what this article is all about.
This ability to ask why and desire to know is called Curiosity. Curiosity has been the basis for all human growth and learnings. Nothing could have been achieved if human being were not curious about their environment and surroundings. The newton was curious about falling of apple, so were Adam and Eve about the fruits from tree of knowledge. Galileo was curious about universe. So anyone who knew something was driven by desire to know. This basic curiosity is basis for any learning. But do we see this in our education system any more. The children who are going to schools, do they have curiosity to know the content that we teach them. Let’s think for a moment, how many of us actually were excited in morning while going to school that today we will get to know in which year Akbar was born. Still they kept on teaching us.
I would like to quote famous American educator Abraham Flexner from his paper The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
“……….throughout the whole history of science most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.”
Curiosity comes very naturally to all of us. No one needs to teach it to a child. As he or she grows, we build barriers to it. To quote from book Curious:
“Curiosity starts with the itch to explore. From a very early age, we display a yearning to conquer the unknown. A 1964 study found that babies as young as two month old, when presented with different patterns, will show a marked preference for the unfamiliar ones. Every parent knows about the child’s compulsion to stick tiny fingers where they are not supposed to go, to run out of the open door, to eat dirt.”
If curiosity comes so naturally to us, why we lose it as we grow. To a great extent, society needs to be blamed and to some extent we ourselves. Why would society be against curiosity? Because curiosity is unruly, it doesn’t follow rules. Those who are truly curious don’t follow rules set-out by society, they are ask why? And that’s where problem starts. If you don’t agree with me, try recalling what society did to Galileo or Darwin. They were never accepted at large during their time. A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity.
Secondly, we degrade in curiosity as we age, due to our own laziness built into our DNAs. Curiosity takes effort and our natural instincts is to keep putting efforts always unless we consciously try to. As we grow older, we tend to rely more on what we have learned so far rather than purring efforts to question everything.
For limited purpose of this article, we will focus on need of curiosity in education.
There is a big epidemic in education in developed countries, not that there is less supply of school education. The problem is on other side, yes demand is going down. Children don’t want to go to schools they are dropping out. According to latest statistics every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day. If you think the problem is only for developed countries, figures for India are more disheartening. According to survey, between age of 10 to 14 years one in every three children drop out of schools because they are not interested in education. Drop-outs for other reasons are far lesser than this reason of dis-interest. Can you imagine that children don’t want to learn? Isn’t it fundamentally different from our picture of children asking so many questions, always trying to know more. We have failed them, we are teaching them what we want them to learn not what they are curious about. Our education system has taken one essential element out of education that is curiosity. We have made education dead and boring. There is need to bring this back, that’s the only way to create true learners. We don’t need more schools and colleges, we need better ones. We need to find ways to make children hungry to learn, question and create. This one thing i.e. Bringing Curiosity back in our education systems, can change it drastically. Jigyasa is dedicated to that purpose only.
Originally published at gauravsangtani.com