Friday, June 8, 2012

The end is near! Curious?

The end is near. No, not the end of the world, but the end of the school year, and what a year it has been.  Eldest is graduating this month and this past year has been a busy one for her. She decided to skip lunch periods in favor of filling her schedule with classes. Of the eight classes she took, seven were Advanced Placement (AP). She capped off a week filled with AP tests with my sister’s wedding, where she was the pianist, and her last piano recital of her High School career, where she played a concert version of chopsticks that had major classical themes woven throughout. The piece was fun, yet technically challenging. She also is involved in a Bible Quizzing program through church that is quite competitive ( This past weekend was the final tournament for the local area, and at the end of the month is the National tournament at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, WA.

I say all this, not only to brag, but also to point out that my daughter has elected to take on this heavy load. My wife and I did not force her to take this heavy load. She wanted to. We thought she was taking on too much and counseled her against it, but she did it anyway, because she was curious and wanted to learn.

The actions of my daughter illustrate that people are naturally curious; they want to explore and to learn and to grow. This natural desire to learn is evidenced in everything from the two year old who constantly asks, “Why?” to the popularity of the Google search engine. Google did not become the default search engine for so many people because of slick marketing and sweepstake contests. Google has grown because it met the basic need of curious people everywhere to answer the questions, who, what, where, when, why and how.

A few weeks ago Littlest came home from school a grumpy. She, along with thousands of other 8th grade students across New York State, were in the midst of taking standardized tests. The same test with the infamous talking pineapple, which challenges a hare to a race, loses, and gets eaten by the other animals. These tests are administered to gauge how well teachers are teaching. Consequently, teachers spend valuable classroom time teaching students to take the test.

Littlest summed it up this way, “School is so boring. All we do is prepare to take tests. Like who is going to hire me to take tests? That is just what I want to be when I grow up, a professional test taker. And what is up with the talking pineapple? I mean the story was funny, but it was dumb!”

The Sudbury Model of Education is the exact polar opposite of the way we assume education should be done ( It supports young people's curiousity by allowng their own interests and thirst for knowledge to guide the learning process. 

Exploring, asking questions, and solving problems are how we learn and grow. Standardized mandatory tests did not inspire Edison to invent the light bulb, the Wright brothers to invent the airplane, Chester Carlson to invent the copier, or the French to invent the french fry.

Perhaps someday the pineapples who mandate layer upon layer of bureaucratic testing for children will realize they have lost the race and promptly be eaten by an angry horde of 8th graders.

Until then, congratulations to all who are finishing up another year of education, and to those who are celebrating graduation and moving on to something new. Stay curious my friend, stay curious.

The end.

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