Open Letter on Learning

An Open Letter to Kids About Their Education
Dwight Boud

Dear Student,

You are growing fast. Every year you are expected to learn more than you knew the year before. When you turn eighteen, you are viewed as an adult. You are expected, then, to go to college or take a job.

I was a teacher for thirty years. During those years, I saw how schools are set up and how adults often disagree about the best way to educate children. These adults are teachers, professors, parents, school board members, politicians, principals, superintendents, journalists, and political activists.

Every year that adults argue about education, you grow a year closer to adulthood. You do not have time to wait for them to decide on the best way to teach you. Don’t assume that they don’t know what they are doing. Many of them are wise and well-educated themselves. They can teach you much. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in a classroom or school where that’s not true. Don’t accept that as the way things have to be.

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, nearly everything you need to know is available elsewhere, mostly in books. You’re lucky to live at a time, too, when new technology is popping up all over the place: laptops, iPads, smart phones, search engines, etc.

Most of us learn in individual ways. That means that some people have to hear a lesson, others have to see it as well. Some have to try to do something new themselves. Others learn best by reading about something. There is no good way for one teacher to meet all these needs in the usual classroom. That’s where you come in.

In the long run, you are responsible for your own education. No one can keep you from learning if you are determined to do so. Some people continue studying and learning for a lifetime. When I was teaching in high school I used to remind my students that “all this stuff” (the material I was presenting to them) is in books. Now it’s in books, movies, DVD’s, online, etc. It’s very important for you, your family, your community, and even your country that you learn as much as you can. We all have skills and aptitudes that we should develop to their full potential.

So don’t wait for grown-ups to decide what is the best way for everyone to learn. Certainly don’t lock yourself into any theory, scheme, or organization that claims to know all the answers. Start where you are most interested but don’t limit yourself to only one subject, build on what you already know, consult with people who already understand an area that interests you (don’t forget your teachers, they love good questions) and dedicate yourself to continued learning.

© Dwight Boud 2014

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