Curiosity Without curiosity, education cannot transcend slavery

Dante held that doubt was the lure that drew us on to further our education. So, questions play a large role in our coming to appreciate the beauty of thought. Often teachers want to present to their students answers to questions that their students have never asked. This haste may be justified claiming we have for little time education, yet without laying a foundation of questions, our own understanding may not be ready to build on those important answers.

Questions are essential in education, but there are some who rarely ask them. This disposition shows a profound lake of curiosity. Curiosity is what opens us to the attraction of questions. Curiosity is closely akin to freedom. Curiosity is the mind acting with its own sense of self-determination-- confident that it is safe in its own leisure.

When we think that we are under attack or that life pressures will soon crush us, we close down and look for immediate solutions to our pressing needs. We cannot afford to be curious or to delight in wonder, because they do not appear to provide the immediate answers we feel we must find. Courage and curiosity are closely related. One of the beautiful aspects of a good childhood is that a parent can create a safe space for a child to feel secure enough to follow his curiosity and live without fear. This safe space for curiosity is gradually striped from the child as we continue to warn them about the dangers faced in the future. The future does need to be faced, and we need to buckle down and find our place in the common societal yoke; however, we can be penny-wise and pound foolish. Curiosity is a much more potent force in education than fear.

Curiosity is more important in education than fear because we were born for freedom and not slavery. Everything that we fear in life while eventually sink into the sands of time, particularly death and taxes, and everything that is beautiful and lovely is not only eternal but will delight our souls with its pregnant meaning.

We cannot frighten our children into educating themselves. This brow-beating simply grinds them down as we impress upon them our own conviction that they were born to the slave house. The kingdom of God requires we be like little children, not accountants or prophets of doom.

Education is exhausting without curiosity. To stretch a young mind to do great things is a huge endeavor. A young mind often is bound to the small world that it is familiar with. Yet, to draw it out and help it see what is truly worth knowing in human history requires a large amount of reading and reflection. Using fear and warnings about future income levels will never inspire a child beyond the lowest levels of mediocrity. The fight against small mindedness is a desperate fight and demands we bring in the big guns: curiosity.

The master educator is skilled at presenting an issue in the terms that naturally show why it is so worthy of our curiosity. Difficult questions abound in life. We actually need to conduct ourselves very carefully if we are going to successfully obscure the curious in life.

Curiosity provokes the mind to tug and tear at the persistently pesky questions of life. What can we know of God? What is my nature and what does a well-lived life look like? Why do we desire friendship and how is it formed? How much truth can really be known?

Curiosity is often provoked by those questions that are the most difficult to answer and these questions are rarely easily reduced to a multiple choice test. Curiosity does not easily find a place in factory model education. It is precisely this ideal that makes us flee the factory to pursue the intimate and the human.

As a younger teacher I was quite impressed by the students who could read, remember and digest large amount of complex reading and then converse about it eloquently with apparent ease. Yet, after seeing many of these students have little enduring devotion to the pursuit of truth, I came to realize what I was watching was a natural skill, not the goal of education I should encourage. Often it was the late bloomers who were slow, but still deeply understood and appreciated what they learned who showed more fruit through the years. I am afraid that the mental speed of some arises only because they think with their mind alone and do not take time for the soul’s rumination.

Curiosity digs deep in the soul and is the only effective motivation for students to courageously face the complexity of a life of wisdom. It is a slower path, but yields lovely fruit in due season.

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