The difference between want to and have to learning

Reading Turning Learning Right Side Up*, and two other recent articles The Old Revolution and Apply Business Practices to Education, has helped me reflect on the idea of education and learning just a little more. I think the real difference is between want to and have to. There just seems to be something about the idea of have to that upsets people. I know I would rather want to rather than have to.

Looking at the Sudbury Valley School, while students have to attend the school at least 5 hours per day, they then get to choose what they want to participate in throughout the day. In the US, we have to attend education for 12 years of our lives, for the rest of our lives we can do what we want to. Why do we have this 12 year have to period? Why can we redesign it as Ackoff and Greenberg recommend to reflect a more want to environment.

While I want to earn a doctorate and want to continue going to school, graduate school has been reflective of the have to environment I remember from secondary school. Why can it not be redesigned to reflect the suggestions that Ackoff and Greenberg recommend. Why can it not reflect more the want to learning environment I experience in work. At work, I have problems to solve. If the problems are non-routine, I then enter a learning episode to discover a solution. To discover this solution, I typically start to interact with human and nonhuman resources. I either talk with colleagues or do searches on the Internet. The test is whether or not I solve my problem and move forward. At work, I discuss the upcoming year with my boss and together we develop a work and learning plan. Why can’t higher education be similar? Why can’t the students help decide what will be taught, who will teach it, how it will be taught, and how it will be assessed? It is interesting, one day students do not seem to be capable to organize learning, and on the next after a stroke of a pen and confirmation of a degree, they are suddenly in charge of developing instruction for students. When does the osmosis take place?

As I listen to discussion about education from secondary to higher education, it would seem that people could not survive without it. Yet, the majority of Americans have not gone to college, and are surviving on different degrees of the continuum. There are people who have dropped out of secondary school, and have survived. Since education as we know it is a relative (150 years) recent experiment, could it be improved if we changed it from a have to environment to a want to environment. Rather than dictate what must be learned and when it must be learned, let’s change it to one where the learner has more input. I believe people will learn when they want to and they have a need. Let’s create opportunities not the mandate.

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