Fostering Curiosity in the Student

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Jonas Salk once said, in explaining his success, “I was curious...” (

In the history of human endeavor it is certainly true that more has been learned from questions raised than from answers given. The tension between theories of education seems always to come down to “traditionalists”, who believe children can learn best in formal environments, and “reformers”, who believe learning flourishes best in an environment where curiosity and imagination are encouraged.

Jonas Salk may have benefited from formal education, but he also came upon his interest in science informally. It was curiosity and a desire to help people that led him to medicine. It was curiosity that led him to investigate the link between the influenza and polio viruses.

Maria Montessori, Rabindranath Tagore, Marie Curie–even Albert Einstein¬† did not find a comfortable fit between inquiry and rigid learning routines. Each of these individuals was well educated, in the sense that they had access to a body of information. Each, however, forged new paths, offered new ideas, because they diverged from an established body of knowledge and explored.

The spirit of intellectual exploration cannot flourish in an environment which insists there is only one path to knowledge. This insistence imposes on the student the limitations of the teacher. A future based on the limitations of the past is no future at all.