Teaching Curiosity to Satisfy Knowledge Cravings

Students will learn to harness the power of their curiosity to satisfy their knowledge cravings in an effort to advance society.

Curiosity to Satisfy Knowledge Cravings

Before the internet was in our pocket, this was the state of education:

The making of knowledge is a task preserved for specialists and that the point of education is to disseminate the knowledge “downward” to the untutored masses. People make sharp distinctions between expert knowledge and mere popular opinion.”

Richard Miller, Teaching the Action Horizon

Today, however, most young people know more about the world and create new knowledge more often than a teacher who still teaches downward. Students have the technology and tools, they know how to use them to seek truth, and they’ve become masters of research.

I read on the internet the other day that a person retains more knowledge when they are motivated to seek the answers on their own.

Personally, I like the phrase knowledge cravings. However, educators call this process self-directed learning.

The internet, Google especially, brought the possibility of satisfying our knowledge cravings. Up until this point we had to take the word of our parents or teacher when they told us the “right way” of doing something, or the “right answer” to a deep question we had.

It was interesting to read that a person who has a craving to find her own answers means she is more likely to absorb more information on the journey – much of it unrelated to the actual answer she is searching for. This happens because from the moment she hits “enter” on her keyboard she is reading everything in sight on the following page of search results. She knows she has the power to find the answer – which is a revolutionary concept in the history of humans – all she has to do is read through anything that seems close to what she’s looking for and eventually, AH HA! She found it.

In my experience, it is rarely one article, or one video, or one link that provides me with the full “answer” to my question. This is because there are many versions of the truth in the world. Until now, a person was subject to only a few: the truths set by her family, the truths set by her teacher, and the truths set by society.

One of the core virtues of life is natural, innate curiosity. It’s in our biology to be curious, and to find what we’re looking for, or to look for something to find – even when we don’t know what we’re looking for.

Growing up as a child I vividly remember being curious about whether my parent’s version of the truth was always “right”. I wasn’t allowed to do homework assignments “my own way” – it was either arrive to the answer using the teacher’s method or else fail.

The internet created an influx of knowledge for the younger generations because we figured out how to satisfy our biologically driven knowledge cravings. The younger this process starts for a person results in massive amounts of knowledge to accumulate in the brain. During a curiosity binge, a person’s brain becomes similar to a super sponge that soaks up every piece of information it comes in contact with.

How can parents and teachers maintain their roles as leaders, but also adjust their methods to satisfy students’ knowledge-cravings?

Start by admitting that you are equal to them. In order to empower youth with an opportunity to become the successful problem solvers we need them to be, we must treat them differently than the previous generation was treated. Youth should be at the forefront of society, blazing a trail into the future.

If you speak down to youth they may resent you. One child has the power to create new knowledge that you may never have the potential to create – and visa versa, of course. You also have the power to create new knowledge that the child would never have the potential to create. Learn from each other.

One problem we notice is rising generations not being equipped with the skills and experience to take on present day challenges. As each new day passes, subjects evolve. Knowledge is being created every passing minute. Students are just as responsible for the creation of knowledge as any other human.

The education system is predicated on the notion of “specialization” – major in something and pursue a career in it for the rest of your life. This creates a downward-teaching style where the teacher speaks at the students, telling them what they need to know. This process of learning does not naturally encourage the brain to retain knowledge which is why students must become masters of memorization.

To succeed in the education system a person must obey and memorize whatever the teacher says they should memorize. If this is the track a person is on, it is safe to conclude that a person is conditioned since birth to disregard her unique and creative thoughts.

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

Pablo Picasso

Today, humankind faces serious threats to existence: global warming, energy crisis, food/water crisis, income disparities, etc. Meanwhile, the leaders of tomorrow are being trained to memorize the topics of yesterday instead of learning how to ask questions about tomorrow. The problems I mention above are not solvable by a simple solution. They are complex in the idea that they don’t, in fact, have a solution. How can a teacher tell a student what to memorize if she doesn’t know the answer herself? There is a different approach that can be taken.

Teachers must utilize the innate curiosity of youth to develop solutions for global dilemma I previously mentioned. Provide an end goal for the student, or describe a complex issue such as a local development project in their city. Tell the student it’s their job to figure out what’s going on with the project; who’s leading it? Who’s paying for it? Why was it created? Is the development sustainable? Ask the student to produce a visual composition including video, audio, images, and documents that analyzes the complexity of the issue.

This type of project, to embed the student in the community, causes a relationship to form between the student and the city. The student begins to take pride and ownership in the city. A deep sense of empathy is engrained into the student. She begins to rediscover her humanity by looking residents in the eye as they answer her questions – just like she would be satisfying knowledge cravings on the internet, she absorbs the people’s emotions, problems, struggles, and she begins to feel compassion and duty which results in a yearning to help. This is a truly remarkable phenomenon and is the cornerstone of humans reaching the next phase of our social evolution.

It’s been a long time since we cared enough about other humans to the point we go out of our way to help them. This process puts teachers/parents in a very unique and strategic position to have a colossal impact on the future outcomes of humankind, not to mention the student’s life and happiness.

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