On the bus on the way to work today I overheard a little boy asking his mom question after question about everything going on around him. Where are we going? Tachikawa. What is that? A place. What’s a place? It just is. Why did the bus stop? Because the light is red.

The little boy just couldn’t get enough. Everything around him was interesting and new. He was just thirsty for knowledge.

In economics we have a models of education where people don’t enjoy it, they just do it because it will increase their earning potential. Some are more dismal than others wherein the education itself doesn’t actually provide anything more than a signal of innate skill and nothing new is actually learned. Why do we accept it as perfectly reasonable to assume that humans do not enjoy learning about the world around them when it is so undeniable that we do?

I believe that our world is shaped by the words we use to describe it. It is said that every culture sees the same number of colors in a rainbow as they have words for the primary colors. In Russia they have two words for blue and can see one more color in the rainbow than Americans. I think that because we are told that school is not fun, that it’s not where you go to indulge your thirst for knowledge, but rather where you go to make yourself marketable for your future in the daily grinder, we don’t enjoy it, don’t look forward to it, and don’t think of it as a tool or a place to go to expand ourselves.

The effect of our language about schooling is double edged. Those who attend do so out of obligation and don’t bring their curiosity because they don’t find it welcome. Those who teach and design the systems don’t encourage exploration because that’s not the point. The correctness of their attitude is reinforced by the inertia of the students who rightly hold back their energies to release in more nurturing and fulfilling environments.

I wonder what the world would look like if we instead assumed that humans, particularly the young ones, were eager to discover all there is to know about everything.