The Gift of Learning
It’s a new school year. The headline of a local paper reads: “Only 179 Days to Go Before Summer Vacation Begins.”
An area supermarket chain, trying to be cute in advertising school supplies, runs a radio ad in which the word “school” is never spoken but is always negatively referenced: “Remember that place where you had to sit still all day?”
A DJ on a radio station interviews children on the first day of school. “What is your favorite part of the day?” the announcer asks. “Recess!” answers a little girl with a lisp. The DJ rewards her response with laughter and a prize — prompting the next three kids to come up with variations on the same theme: “recess,” “lunch,” “going home.” More laughter. More prizes.
There’s something very wrong with this picture. Just what are American values around education anyway?
Learning Can Be Joyful
Learning and, more important, the drive for learning is a natural part of being human. The greatest gift we can give our children is a lifelong enthusiasm for learning new things.
Remember our babies? Every moment was a moment of learning. Everything in the environment was touched, smelled, tasted, turned over, and examined. Every day was filled with curiosity and insatiable exploration. Watch any 2-year-old and you’ll see a learning machine. Talk to a preschooler about almost anything and you’ll find yourself having to think about it in a new way. Put a 3-year-old on a playground where no one speaks his language and watch how easily he learns words and phrases by the end of the day.
How do we make sure that this natural drive for learning isn’t snuffed out by the first grade? It really is up to us. Like everything else, we communicate how much we value education and learning in hundreds of direct and not-so-direct ways each and every day. We don’t have to say a thing. The kids know what we think is important and what we don’t by how and how much we talk about a subject. A friend of mine says that kids pick up our attitudes through the soles of their feet!