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spelling and knowledge

Mon Nov 17 14:46:35 EST 1997

Maybe this is really off-topic, but the tone of all the posts about 
learning has brought this to my mind.  I've been influenced quite a bit 
by the book "The Teenage Liberation Handbook:How to quit school and get 
a real education" (author has slipped my mind, but if anyone's 
interested I'll look).  My children introduced me to the book, the year 
the two  oldest dropped out of high school to self-school. Now that they 
both are safely on academic scholarships at the colleges of their 
choice, in computer programming and environmental engineering, I can 
safely say that it was the best thing they ever did and if the youngest, 
who's still in high school, wants to do it also, I'm all for it.

By taking away the need to study when they were told to and what they 
were told to, they rediscovered what learning just for the joy of 
learning was. This was the point of the  book-from elementary school we 
train our children to learn for a reward-a star, an A, a scholarship-and 
not because of the intrinsic  value of knowledge.  The author, a former 
teacher, points out that even (no-especially) little  children enjoy 
learning; what many learn to dread is school, which is something else 
entirely.  My children were  attending a private high school with all 
kinds  of advanced curricula and they hated it with a passion.  Yet when 
they dropped out, they worked harder than ever; it wasn't the work they 
shunned, just the meaninglessness (in their eyes) of many of the things 
they were asked to do.   They still had exams after they dropped 
out-they took AP exams and standardized test and the GED, all of which 
they studied for themselves, but they also read many more books than 
they would have in high school, learned quite a bit about business and  
the "real world", and became much happier  people.  Now that they're in 
college, they once again go to classes and take exams, but  because they 
chose this, and because they're studying what they want and know what it 
takes to enjoy the  priviledge of doing work one enjoys in the  "real 
world", I think they're much better off.  

What I'm getting to here (honestly-this has a point) is that time off 
the educational track can do  wonders for the desire to learn.  It's 
often advised that students in science not go straight from college to 
grad school; I think there's something to be said for not  going to 
college straight from high school, but making it a conscious choice.  As 
a non-traditional  student myself, both in  college and grad school, I 
believe that knowing what I wanted to learn and why helped me appreciate 
the opportunities I got (I've had a lot of good professors in my career, 
and only a few dreadful  ones.  I don't  think I'm exceptionally lucky, 
just that I wanted to learn.)  It's also helped when I've had to do some 
of the "jumping through hoops" stuff that graduate school can entail-if  
I know why I'm doing it and how it  benefits  me, I honestly think I can 
do  almost anything.

This sounds really elitist, and  I don't mean it to be, but I think if 
college was something people did because they wanted to learn, and not 
because it was the next party after high school, student attitudes would 
be differrent.

Given that this is not likely to happen  anytime soon, maybe the best we 
can hope for is that we awaken a desire to learn in some of the  
students we deal with and at least give those who don't care a take-home 
fact from the course.  Sometimes that take-home fact is that one doesn't 
excel just by showing up and if that's all some learn from your class, 
IMHO ,  they've learned a lot.
Julia Frugoli
Dartmouth College

visiting grad student at
Texas A&M University
Department of Biological Sciences
College Station, TX 77843
FAX 409-847-8805

"Evil is best defined as militant ignorance."        
																										Dr. M. Scott Peck*****************************************************

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