Roland Barth is an educator who was instrumental in the development of the Head Start Program and has written many books on school practices. This is one of my favorite passages on lifelong learning from the book Learning by Heart.
“School cultures in which students commit to learning and the threats of punishment for not learning generate students who want to be finished with learning when they graduate from school. A challenge of immense proportion to our profession is to find ways to uncouple learning and punishment. We must change the message from “Learn or we will hurt you” to” Learn or you will hurt yourself.”
I believe the most important requirement for graduation …is evidence that the student is becoming or is a passionate independent, lifelong learner. What evidence is there of enduring intellectual passion? Is the student capable of posing questions, marshaling resources and pursuing learning with dedication, independence, imagination and courage?”
(Some people think) legitimate learning in schools occurs when a student sits at a desk, receives instruction by a teacher, fills out worksheets of problems devised by the teacher, writes papers required and graded by the teacher, and takes tests, usually constructed and graded by the teacher. If this is what learning is all about- it is spinach. Where is the rest of the menu?
For us to ever attain the goal of creating lifelong learners (we) must recognize the importance and power of learning that emanates from the rich daily experiences youngsters encounter and to recognize the intense personal meaning these experiences have for students. And only when we succeed in relating the curriculum to what is relevant in youngster’s experiences will we begin to teach them.”