In many ways, our education system strips us of our natural curiosity and directs us towards memorization. We forget how much we once liked to learn. I want to discuss this dilemma and ways to tap into your innate childlike curiosity.
For most people, the peak of their curiosity was most likely the first day of kindergarten. From here, it probably seemed that as the school years dragged on, your passion for learning diminished further and further. Curiosity is such an incredible thing to sacrifice in the name of academic success, but you might not have to.
Yes, Our Education System is Messed Up
Standardized tests more or less define your future in today’s education system. From elementary school until the ACT and SAT in high school and maybe even the LSAT or GRE later on in graduate school.
These tests boil down your intelligence and worth into a set of questions, answers, and an all-telling final score.
Not only does garnering one’s worth from a numerical representation of intelligence diminish our intellectual value, but it promotes a society in which curiosity cannot thrive. A society in which the answers to the “important questions,” represent themselves through a single letter: A, B, C, or D. This leaves no room for situational variations and ultimately curiosity.
You are pressured to excel at every subject, which is impossible. We all have individual strengths.
Humans harbor extensive curiosity, fundamentally rooted in creativity. These characteristics that truly flourish within humans we’ve now suppressed through our memorization-driven indicators of success.
School Was Once Fun
Let’s re-visit that first day of kindergarten. You’ve packed your clear, crunchy backpack with pencils and notebooks, Velcro-ed on your light up sneakers and had your Eggo waffles. Last night’s sleep was minimal because you couldn’t contain your excitement.
Walking into class is as great as you’d imagined, everything is new and beautifully confusing. I mean, you can’t even read yet!
The first day unravels into a string of miraculous breakthroughs, meeting other children and listening to your teacher read of far-off adventures. You go to bed that night, oblivious to the fact that this enthrallment with education will end as soon as it began.
The subsequent years fill themselves with memorization, and enforcement of the idea that the number or letter at the top of your test is all that matters. You’ve most likely lost your true desire to learn around middle school.
Repairing Your Relationship with Learning
In order to undo the damage inflicted upon your relationship with learning, you first must establish what you do and don’t whole heartedly enjoy. If you’re currently enrolled in school, think of which assignments you don’t mind completing. Are essays a breeze? Do mathematical proofs just really get you going?
If you’re out of school already, reflect on things you enjoy outside of what you have to do in your daily life and career. Do you get a bit too wrapped up in your doodles during company meetings? Or concoct the perfect recipe to cook for dinner?
Once you can identify which topics or tasks you enjoy, analyze why. This will directly lead you to at least a vague idea of what you may be passionate about. Focus on that.
If you have the luxury to exclusively write, for instance, if that’s your passion, then allocate as much time as possible to writing in whatever way comes with ease.
If you’re in high school or taking required classes, then you still have to do the work you’re less interested in (sorry). But through identifying the components of your academia that you don’t mind, your “work” load can decrease significantly.
You’ve now re-shaped your perspective on certain elements of your learning experience, therefore only miniscule parts seem like work. You might dread your math class, but your other three writing-intensive classes now exist in an increasingly positive light.
Once you shamelessly recognize that you do enjoy some aspects of school and essentially learning, you can begin reuniting with your long-lost love: curiosity.
Curiosity’s Triumphant Return
Now, you have found a factor of pushing the limits of your mind-space that excites you. Let’s get curious again!
Return to the subjects or tasks that you shunned in the name of focusing on your passions. Now that you’ve defined what interests you, these subjects no longer threaten your perceived “value” of yourself. Meaning that just because you’re not interested in Calculus or American history, doesn’t mean that you’re less intelligent than anyone who is.
Through harnessing this inquisitive-freedom, the subjects your not as conventionally skilled in become more intriguing and less ominous. They no longer exist as some unconquerable mountain, but as something asking to be understood.
Let’s say you’ve always hated anything and everything math. Expose yourself to some mathematics and look at it through the lens of striving to understand why it might appeal to others. Become amazed at the way that someone else’s brain may function in this way that’s completely different to yours. Research deeper.
You’ve now shed the chains of any shame regarding your own personal brand of intelligence.
No one in the world can do what you do, the way that you do it. Even the things you don’t think you’re as good at.
Now, Continue This. Forever.
A part of re-discovering your love for learning and curiosity is also accepting the fact that you don’t, and never will, know everything. That’s what makes life amazing. Curiosity is something ever-evolving as you grow, so cherish this and never stop learning.
Image via Hilary Clark Studios
Also published on Medium.