Each year, millions of students enroll in schools, be it elementary, intermediate or higher education. They sit at the feet of teachers who have been deemed qualified by administrations because of credentials and degrees they have obtained. Teachers in many ways shape the people of society, as we know it. More powerful than teachers are the systems that govern methods used and materials taught by teachers. I’m talking about educational systems. Educational systems are designed to promote effective learning, but in many ways limit the capacities of students by their absence of curriculum and evolution. The question is ours to consider: Are educational systems of the day nurturing ardent diligent learning, or are they fostering fraudulent accreditation?
To answer the question, three issues will be discussed; importance of learning, ardent learning, and how current educational systems affect ardent learning. Before purporting the idea of ardent learning, and its importance in educational systems, we must first answer the question: Is learning important? With out this support the idea of ardent learning would be null. It seems like a silly question, because there is so much out there that supports the idea of learning. However, many neglect its importance and the resources that foster it.
Learning is defined as “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill” (Collins English Dictionary 2009). It can be said, “Without learning we wouldn’t “know” how to do anything.” It is essential for survival. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, quoted Brigham Young during one address, “the object of [our mortal] existence is to learn.”(Bednar 2010). If one of our main purposes for existing is to learn, shouldn’t we be placing heavier attention on learning as individuals, and further how we approach learning, including the educational systems which govern much of what is taught? If learning is ever important how must it be obtained?
Abigail Adams once said, “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought with ardor and attended with diligence.”(McCullough 2008) Ardent is defined as “intensely devoted, eager, or enthusiastic; zealous,”(Collins English Dictionary 2009). Both definitions of ardent and learning combined, accurately define “ardent learning” as intense devotion to the act or process of acquiring knowledge.
In “Drinking Hemlock and Other Nutritional Matters”, Harold J. Morowitz argues, “If we believe the rationality [of people] will lead the way to the solution of problems, then we must start by making the examination of what is ”real” apart of everyone’s thought.” He concludes by saying “Starting at the first grade and continuing through graduate training we must see that students become sensitized to the meaning of what is said and the realization of how valid knowledge is established.”(Morowitz). Morowitz suggests a transformation of education systems by introducing the curriculum of epistemology, the science of inquiry, the very doctrine, which brought Socrates to his grave. This curriculum could open the minds and fill the gaps of these systems so ardency could be obtained. It would help, I believe, foster ardent learning.
Or how about Mortimer J. Adler’s suggesting of marking up a book? He says “Why is marking up a book so indispensible to reading? First, it keeps you awake. And I don’t mean merely conscious; I mean wide awake.) In the second place, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The marked book is usually the thought-through book. Finally, writing helps you remember the thoughts you had, or the thoughts the author expressed.”(Adler 1940). Educational systems would be fostering ardent learning by teaching this early to students. We all are familiar with the adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Implementing this in the material is providing the students with a skill set that will serve them and their minds for the rest of their life.
It is true, intense devotion to acquiring knowledge is very much an individual thing. However it can be affected through outside learning sources, such as teachers and educational systems.
Sometime ago, I attended a chemistry class. I must confess that I wasn’t “ardently learning”. I sat with friends and participated in classroom discussion occasionally. Like most High School students my mind was focused on my next source of entertainment or the girl I was dating. I rarely turned in homework assignments, however my grades on the exams were fairly good. The end of the semester neared and my grade in chemistry suddenly became important to me. I remember feeling uneasy about the laziness I had approached the class with. Guilt filled my chest. This uneasiness lead me to ask for a grade report from the teacher after one class. The teacher explained while handing me the grade report, “The only thing that is keeping your grade alive is the excellent work you have done on homework assignments.” This was shocking to me because I had only turned in two homework assignments. He then said, “Where your grade has been injured is your performance on exams.” I knew this was not true. I confessed and contested my teacher on my slacking with homework assignments, and my good performance on exams. He assured me his assessment was correct and I was wrong. His assessment happened to be in favor of a better grade because homework assignments were worth more points than exams. After mentioning this situation to some other students, they reported similar things however with some, the teacher’s assessment did not find them in favor with a better grade. It was obvious that this teacher plugged random numbers in the computer grading system because he was either lazy, unorganized or both. There would also be times when students would arrive to class and he would show up late without a lesson prepared. The class would spend the period reading the assigned textbook. It was obvious he didn’t care about teaching his students the curriculum. He was just there to get a paycheck.
It may seem a bit hypocritical to point out a teacher’s faults when I, as a student didn’t come prepared to class or have a passion on the subject. But could I have had a passion if I had a different teacher? Could I have been provoked to ardently learn chemistry, which may have opened up other doors and opportunities for me?
I call upon this experience to bring relevance to a cancer that infects many school systems, the issue being: lazy unorganized teachers. Most have experienced them. It’s as though their motive for teaching isn’t teaching at all. A student’s intense devotion for acquiring knowledge can be affected by circumstances like these, especially if the educational systems are allowing this infectious disease to fester and infect many. Teachers have a multitudinous of power to influence.
Educational systems have many things within them that cause much controversy. Debates are sparked about grading systems, what is taught, what is not taught, the way curriculum is taught, what textbooks are good, what text books are bad…etc. It is for good reasons these controversies are brought up.
Within the micro-systems of educational systems there are gaps, and controls to learning, and ardency is affected as a result. I’m not going to exploit each individual problem. There is too many. I will however suggest transformation. It is apparent in today’s age the value of a grade is worth more than the value of learning. In “Americano, Outra Vez!” Richard P. Feynman said during an address to educators, “I [can’t] see how anyone could be educated by this self-propagating system in which people pass exams and teach others to pass exams, but nobody knows anything.” (Feynman 1985). The goal of the students was passing exams ultimately for a good grade. The defects Feynman observed in the educational system were leading students to fraudulent accreditation. They were not taking anything away with them because of the system. This vocal objection caused disruption among educators, however many considered it, and the system began to transform to encourage ardent learning.
It isn’t wrong to suggest a transformation of educational systems. It is science. Science evolves by the transformation and improvement of theories. The education system is a theory set in motion. Educators are the scientists that work in the system and help the system evolve. The system should evolve because it isn’t by any means perfect.
This essay calls upon educators, administrators and faculty alike, who are “scientist”, to contribute to the evolution of educational systems. We need more scientists like Morowitz, Adler and Feynman, educators who are teaching for a purpose, and trying to improve the system. It is through this, that education systems will evolve to help foster ardent diligent learning. They will be a springboard to the lives of those students and teachers who become apart of them. Students will not be variables passing through the system only to achieve a grade, a diploma and a job. They will acquire knowledge and skills that serve them. They will value learning. Learning is ours for the taking. Learning is ours for the giving. “It must be sought with ardor and attended with diligence.”
Bednar, D. A. (2010). Learning to love learning. W. Brugger, D. Hammond, M. K. Hartvigsen, A. Papworth & R. Seamons (Eds.), The way of wisdom (pp. 1-5). Rexburg, ID: BYU-Idaho. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ilearn.byui.edu
Morowitz, H. J. Drinking Hemlock and Other Nutritional Matters. W. Brugger, D. Hammond, M. K. Hartvigsen, A. Papworth & R. Seamons (Eds.), The way of wisdom (pp. 1-5). Rexburg, ID: BYU-Idaho. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ilearn.byui.edu
Adler, M. J. (1940) How to Mark a Book. W. Brugger, D. Hammond, M. K. Hartvigsen, A. Papworth & R. Seamons (Eds.), The way of wisdom (pp. 1-5). Rexburg, ID: BYU-Idaho. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ilearn.byui.edu
McCullough, D. (2008) The Love of Learning. W. Brugger, D. Hammond, M. K. Hartvigsen, A. Papworth & R. Seamons (Eds.), The way of wisdom (pp. 1-5). Rexburg, ID: BYU-Idaho. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ilearn.byui.edu
Feynman, R. P. (1985) O Americano, Outra Vez!. W. Brugger, D. Hammond, M. K. Hartvigsen, A. Papworth & R. Seamons (Eds.), The way of wisdom (pp. 1-5). Rexburg, ID: BYU-Idaho. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ilearn.byui.edu