The Teacher’s Job is to Prevent Students from Learning

Schools today are based on the underlying assumption that students should learn answers. This commonsensical assumption is wrong. Students should instead learn how to ask questions and pursue their own answers. __ Roger Schank

Children begin learning while in the womb. Immediately after birth, a child’s learning rates shoot up exponentially, as more and more sensory information washes over the tiny brain. Infants and toddlers devour information like sponges. Motivation for learning comes naturally — because youngsters want to learn how to do all the things they see older people doing so effortlessly and purposely. To that end, they develop a natural system of learning that is built on asking questions first, then pursuing the answers to those questions.

Children Learn Naturally; Schools Teach Artificially

Schools cannot simply tell the answers, they have to motivate the questions first. Schools that fail to do this will simply not work.

In their eagerness to fill students with knowledge, schools typically try to short-circuit the natural learning process. When we learn naturally, we start by developing an interest in what we are learning about. We try things out and get hands-on experience. We suffer expectation failures and we ask questions. Schools are not built around steps such as these. Instead, they try to cut to the chase. They rush to present answers to questions students have not asked and generalizations about experiences students have not had…

… Because schools were designed around economic considerations, and because curricula are inevitably controlled by the list-makers who want to tell us what everyone should know, school learning has traditionally been something quite different than “real world” learning.

Schools have not attempted to provide an environment within which natural learning can operate.

__ Failure of Schools

Schools focus on the goals of the school system. To achieve the goals of the system, schools must first rip down the “natural learning methods” which children have spent 5 or 6 years successfully and painstakingly building up. And that is exactly what they do — and one of the reasons why society has come to such a dreadful impasse.

Learning is One Thing; Accurate Understanding is Something Else

Roger Schank: The Importance of Experience in Learning

Children check the answers they are given against their own experience. Part of their experience includes answers they have found for themselves in the course of their own research. Another part of their experience involves direct observation.

The development of flexible, inquiring minds has rarely been the primary consideration in the design of educational systems. Making students into proper members of society has usually been of much greater concern than developing students who are creative thinkers.


Because schools destructively bend the minds of children away from natural learning, and force their minds into patterns of unnatural “school-centric” learning, the act of sitting in classrooms soon becomes a stressful experience. And as we know, stress is toxic to the type of deep learning which minds can retain and use constructively.

We have been programmed for so long to accept the type of teaching which school systems enforce, that we have been conditioned not to question whether there are better ways to help our children (and ourselves) to learn the kind of things that would make us better, more independent, more competent thinkers and actors in the world.

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