Learning is Fun

Schools should be fun.

But it is quite clear that for most people their one- word description of their lives as students would probably be something quite different than "fun". One cannot read a description of any writer's time in school without hearing quite painful (and often funny) tales. For most people, school was an annoying, stressful, and sometimes painful experience. The tales that people tell when they look back fondly at school rarely have anything to do with school itself but are instead about making friends or playing on teams. When people do tell tales of school-related success, the stories are usually about cramming for the big exam, or working hard to get a grade. They are almost never about learning. Why not?

It is clear that the interesting action, the stuff that comprises a child's mental life in school, is about interaction with other children in one form or another. School is not about learning. It is about jobs, it is about winning the competition, it is about money, it is about getting other kids to like you, it is about getting the teacher to like you. None of these things are inherently bad. Most of the things that school is really about are a normal part of life, and there is no reason why kids shouldn't deal with them in school, too. But the kids should also be learning.

Mostly, they should be learning that learning is fun. They should be learning that expanding one's horizons is fun, that learning you were wrong about something is not so painful, and that taking an educational risk is worth doing. They should be learning that school is a good place to do these things. The children of today dread going back to school in September, dread exams, dread receiving their grades, and are generally fearful. No wonder school is stressful. But there is no reason children cannot have intellectual fun, cannot be excited by ideas, and cannot be challenged to acquire new knowledge. Natural learning is a basically enjoyable thing to do. Two-year-olds love to learn. Many adults love to learn. Only school-age children associate learning with fear of failure. We must get the fear of failure out of the school system. Cramming for an exam or trying to please a teacher ought not to be the goal of those seeking an education. If we fail to understand this in a profound way, there will be no helping our schools or our children.

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