We are surrounded by mystery


Kieran Egan — our greatest living educational philosopher — reflects on his schooling, and all schooling:

I suppose, being a university professor dripping with awards and prizes, that I have played the schooling game well. But I was never sure what sense it all made. Why did I have to learn to decline those Latin irregular nouns, or be able to prove that opposite interior angles of a parallelogram are congruent, or recall the provisions of the treaty of Ghent?  Much of the time I and everyone I knew was bored with schooling, and had difficulty relating what was happening in class with human life and its enhancement.

My book is an attempt to show that, indeed, everything in the world is wonderful, but that schools are designed almost to disguise this slightly shameful fact.  We represent the world to children as mostly known and rather dull.  The opposite is the case: we are surrounded by mystery, and what we know is fascinating.

My book is an attempt to show how we can reconceive the school and the process of education to engage students’ emotions and imaginations with knowledge.

(The book in question, incidentally, is The Future of Education: Reimagining Schools from the Ground Up, which may be the best introduction to his wide-ranging body of thought.)

In our (future) school, we don't want to cover knowledge — we want to uncover it. We want to help kids see that the world around them is a mystery — where do clouds come from? how does a microwave work? — and to excite them with the chance of unravelling it.

If we succeed at that, we'll succeed at nearly all our goals.