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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thirst for Knowledge

One of the ways I define myself is as a seeker of truth, beauty, and wisdom. I am a life-long learner. That concept is at the heart of this blog. I realized that as someone who continues to challenge himself to learn new things, read (and re-read) great books, and to ponder the deeper questions of life, that a blog about my intellectual journey might be worth sharing. I have observed over the past year that many people (of varying ages, races, and walks of life) tend to fall into one of two categories: self-induced learners and non-self-induced learners.

This has come to light not only in my classroom (all teachers will tell you that students come in both varieties; and students who are not self-induced learners can certainly grow to become self-induced learners as adults), but in conversations with other teachers and with my wife (who deals with these different kinds of people in a business setting). A friend of mine has recently asked me to give her some instruction in Latin, because she wants to recapture a sense of what it’s like to be a student. She is an excellent example of an adult who is a self-induced learner. She isn’t getting anything out of this experience other than knowledge. She’s pursuing this purely for the self-edifying aspect of learning a new language, expanding her own knowledge and perspective. I’ve been reading about the ancient Minoan civilization, and expanding my own knowledge of Bronze Age civilizations.

There is a thirst for knowledge and an ability to investigate and “work up” a subject on one’s own that some people just seem to have instinctively. I cannot say where it comes from; but it is immensely helpful. In business, for example, people with this instinct are able to quickly pick-up on office protocol and procedure; they also learn the ins and outs of their specific company’s business more quickly than those who don’t have this instinct. In academia, this instinct is essential for authentic learning; past a certain point, real educators stop spoon-feeding you information, and start expecting you to find it on your own. If you don’t have an internal drive to learn and acquire knowledge, then this is going to be challenging.

I wish I could say that there is some sure-fire method for helping children cultivate an internal drive to learn. Certainly it seems that exposing children to many perspectives and experiences is a key pre-requisite to helping them develop an thirst for knowledge. The other thing that seems possible is that it is a kind of learned behavior; children who see this internal drive to learn in adults mimic it until it becomes part of their own personality.

Anyway, I guess the fact that you, gentle reader, are taking time to read a blog about books, reading, and life-long education, puts you in the category of “self-induced learners”. So keep up the good work!

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