Things I Know 335 of 365: Curiosity is sufficient

Enclosure occurs when content industries try to turn the Internet into a pay-per-use vending machine; when sports teams commodify the folk culture of fans by auctioning off the naming rights to sports arenas; and when companies disrupt the openness and collegiality within scientific disciplines by privatizing research and imposing non-disclosure agreements.

David Bollier

A few weeks ago, a link came through the P2PU listserv. It led me to this list from the Open Knowledge Forum providing a great initial collection of resources for thinking about open and its implications. In conjunction with the video below from a 2007 interview with Howard Rheingold for Steal This Film 2, it’s got me thinking.

A classroom strikes me as the optimum commons. Upward of 20 individuals from diverse backgrounds meet daily with the goal learning about themselves, the world and their place in it.

Each of these people comes equipped with knowledge, skills, and experiences not shared by the other people in the room.

The questions each has about the world might intersect in overarching ways, but would likely be as unique as the individuals in other ways.

Attached to each group is at least one adult who has been trained in the general theories and practices around helping others to learn, to seek out the answers to their questions and develop deeper questions.

The classroom, considered this way, becomes laboratory, testing ground, focus group, intellectual locker room and support group. It becomes the commons ground.

The teacher need prepare very little, but should stand ready to adapt to most any eventuality. Anything can and will happen if curiosity is unhindered and unhampered.

This isn’t the case. Not enough.

If curiosity is referenced in the modern classroom, it is in the implied statement, “You should be curious about this.” If not, then we, will make you become curious about this, or at least get you to fake curiosity.

Allowing student curiosity is frightening. I means a lack of control. It means abandoning the plan and abdicating control. In most contemporary schools, even the teachers whose inclinations pull them to such abandon and abdication have no model for curiosity-driven learning in their own lives. Professional development is decided at the institutional level. Teachers are told what they are curious about. Here, again, we cannot lay blame on the shoulders of administrators. Their learning, too, is absent a model of curiosity-based learning. What they must care about is directed by the policies and directives of those above them.

This externally-directed curiosity continues up the hierarchy of formal education until those making the directives become so diluted in their understandings of the power of natural curiosity and the potential of the commons that they make decisions apparently absent any faith in an individual’s propensity to wonder.

This can shift in several ways. Those within the hierarchy at various levels can wait for the directives to change, for the strictures to be reduced and for curiosity to be the guiding principle of education. Additionally, they can move themselves from one level of the hierarchy to another and attempt to cling to their ideals while using those ideals to shift the strictures.

Perhaps most immediately effective, though less impactful on the entire system until critical mass is reached, is ignoring of the directives and belief that learning led by curiosity will be sufficient.

This means embracing the commons of the classroom. More importantly and difficult, it means teaching in the face of scholastic inheritance and trusting the sufficiency of students’ curiosity.

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