Friday, September 21, 2018

20 Ways to Make Kids Hate Learning

This post originally appeared on my Patreon in March '17. Occasionally I'll share an older Patreon post on the main blog, but most of them remain accessible only to patrons. Join me there to see all of them!

I talk a lot about ways that self-directed learning works, and how to embrace and encourage it... But now I’d like to take a moment to talk about the opposite, the anti-unschooling, what could more readily be referred to as--dare I say it--schooling (whether it actually happens in a school building or not). If you were to sit down, as I did, and say, how could I best discourage self-directed, delight driven learning? this is the type of list you’d come up with (or at least, it’s the list I came up with). What do you do? This is what you do:

  1. Tell them learning--or at least important learning--only happens in a specific place.
  2. Only allow them to learn about certain topics, in a certain order, and from a select few people.
  3. Make sure that they have very little--or even no--free time in which to pursue their own interests (unless, of course, they’re happy to forgo eating and sleeping).
  4. Discourage collaboration by deeming kids interacting with each other to be goofing off, being disrespectful, or even cheating.
  5. Ban or severely limit the use of modern technology (aka “screens”), thus cutting children off from their social groups, and effectively eliminating the easiest way in which to look up information.
  6. Tell them (or imply with your attitude) that their interests are silly, unimportant, immature, and worthless.
  7. Call them lazy and unmotivated when they appear to be doing “nothing,” or doing something deemed, as aforementioned, to be worthless.
  8. Constantly test their learning, compare them to their peers, and create hierarchies of best to worst students based on those tests and comparisons.
  9. Attach strong emotional reactions/acceptance/love to grades.
  10. Strip all real world authenticity out of learning in favour of teaching to the test.
  11. Convince them that learning has to have an obvious purpose.
  12. Focus only on major accomplishments in lieu of recognizing simple progress, no matter how big.
  13. Create an environment that feels critical, unsafe, stressful, or otherwise unpleasant, and mandate that children spend a majority of their time in that environment.
  14. Separate everyone into either “student” or “teacher”--those who have useful knowledge, and those who don’t.
  15. Focus on (potential) future problems instead of current reality.
  16. Turn every pleasurable moment into a “learning activity,” or somehow attach work to everything that could potentially be fun (i. e. book reports). 
  17. Force them to take on responsibility that they express clearly they are not ready for. Alternatively, refuse to allow them to take on more responsibility even when they clearly express that they’re ready to do so.
  18. Hammer in the point that learning has no personal relation to what they actually want and plan to do.
  19. Tell them you always know more about their needs/goals then they do.
  20. Make sure they feel incompetent and incapable of making their own decisions. Bonus: act surprised and disappointed when they reach early adulthood and struggle with feeling competent and making their own decisions.

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