We Are Born to Learn We Are Born to Learn
The Other School

We Are Born to Learn

A New Model of Classroom Learning
Berenika Steinberg
time 12 minutes

Learning not only can, but really ought to be a source of joy, according to educational neuroscientist Dr. Marzena Żylińska, in discussion with Berenika Steinberg.

I liked going to school, although I didn’t like studying. The most important time was breaktime. Lessons had their uses too—okay, the teacher might be prattling on in the background, but that didn’t stop us from whispering with friends and sending letters from desk to desk. Today, I’m trying to find out why that was the case, and if it’s possible for classes to be so captivating that the pupils don’t even notice the school bell ring.

Berenika Steinberg: I remember at seven years old I went to my first class happy. But my enthusiasm quickly waned and soon learning became an unhappy obligation. Later on, it was even hard to force myself to read books from the curriculum, even though I devoured non-syllabus books with a passion.

Marzena Żylińska: “You have to,” kills, “I want to!” As early as the 1970s, the American pedagogue John Holy wrote that education is useless if a child loses the will to learn at school. After all, every child goes to school full of enthusiasm, just like you did. They all want to learn. But then they end up in a place that can effectively deprive them of this inner motivation.

Why does that happen?

Our school system is based on the Prussian model, which was created over 200 years ago by Wilhelm von Humboldt and Karl vom Stein zum Altenstein. We could ask ourselves, “what was it once like to work on the land?” If someone from the 18th century saw a combine harvester, they wouldn’t have a clue what it was. And if they went into a modern classroom, they’d have no trouble understanding what was going on.

In what sense?

Even if there’s an interactive whiteboard instead of a blackboard,


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Also read:

When Will I Learn to Fly, Mum? When Will I Learn to Fly, Mum?
Photo from the Children’s University Foundation archives
The Other School

When Will I Learn to Fly, Mum?

An Interview with Anna Grąbczewska
Aleksandra Pezda

The dream school exists! And in it, the children ask: Where do stars come from? Why can’t we see the air? How come it rains? Who gave birth to God? Who decides what is just? Then they get an answer, or reach it on their own. Anna Grąbczewska gives advice on how to tap into children’s curiosity.

Aleksandra Pezda: Young children ask a great deal of questions about the world around them. Once they go to school, they stop asking. Often they are no longer curious about anything. Why is that?

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