The Crippling of Curiosity

Modern schooling has served to cripple the intellectual lives of every generation since its inception.

In schools, children are herded and harrangued into completing academic chores.  These chores are usually utterly mindless, pointless, forgettable, boring, harrowing, or some combination of the above.  Some students never get the hang of it.  Some put their heads down and plow through it, because they know how important it is to their future.  Some have been conditioned so well by their Pavlov-like teachers that they come to enjoy the work for the sake of the expected reward.  And a few of them manage to find interest in the world of thoughtfulness despite all the schools do.  The kids in the last group (and a few in the second-to-last) end up as thoughtful adults.  A smaller subset of them become true philosophers, in the broadest sense of the term, with an insatiable curiosity and a lust for the truth.  But the majority of people end up as one in the burgeoning mass of the shallow and the frivolous.  Even those who manage to succeed in school, college, and even graduate school generally end up never reading a book from cover-to-cover again: let alone explore a school of thought, question long-held beliefes, or debate another person intelligently about politics, religion, or ethics.

That is why on the television show “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”, the answer to the show’s fundamental, eponymous question is so often, “No.”  Many people peak intellectually in the fifth grade, or soon thereafter.  They cram their brain with as many facts and algorithms as they need to in order to succeed while in school, but then intellectually check out for the rest of their lives.

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