Why Interest Matters

Children and adults tend to learn about things that interest them. How does interest work? What can parents and teachers do to foster a child’s interest in a given subject? Should adults seek to foster such interest, and, if so, how and when should they do so? These are some of the important questions addressed in a recent podcast discussion between “Schooled” host and education professor Kevin Currie-Knight (whom I’ve interviewed) and and psychologist K. Ann Renninger.

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Skepticism about Learning Styles

How much should we tailor a child’s instruction to the child’s preferred learning “style”? I was surprised when someone I know from the field of education, Kevin Currie-Knight, suggested that learning styles aren’t too meaningful. Currie-Knight suggested a couple of starter articles: “Learning Styles as a Myth” from Yale’s Poorvu Center and “The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’” by Olga Khazan. (See also my podcasts with Currie-Knight.)

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Individual Podcasts on Education

See also my Resources page for links to various podcasts. Here I link to individual podcast episodes about homeschooling and education.

My own Self in Society Podcast offers several episodes about education and homeschooling:
* Michael Donnelly on Homeschooling and the Law
* Kevin Currie-Knight on Crisis Schooling Versus Homeschooling
* Kevin Currie-Knight on Self-Directed Education

Kevin Currie-Knight discusses homeschooling at Libertarianism.org. On the same podcast (Free Thoughts) Currie-Knight also discusses “Education in the Marketplace.”

Bryan Caplan discusses his approach to homeschooling with EconTalk (video).

Learning about Human Progress

I’m a big fan of Jason Crawford’s work for “The Roots of Progress.” Crawford’s main theme is that people have improved their lot dramatically through science, technology, and the underlying causes of those developments. So why not make more of an effort to teach children about human progress? In a July 27 Interintellect discussion that Crawford hosts, several educators weigh in on the topic.

I agree with Lisa VanDamme, founder of VanDamme Academy and one of the presenters, that the project of teaching children about human progress quickly can run into problems. First, she notes, “progress” is not a primary field unto itself, at least in terms of K-12 education, although aspects of it properly integrate with history and science (which are both major fields of study). Second, the proper aim of education is to enable children to ably pursue their own values and live their own lives, not to convince children to embrace certain conclusions (such as “progress is good”). That said, as VanDamme also notes, well-educated children typically will turn out to be the sort of people who do appreciate human progress (among many other things).

Kyle Steele (one of VanDamme’s associates) adds a great point: Properly, children have lots of room to explore their interests outside of their core education. For example (as several speakers discuss), a child keenly interested in music might want to limit time spent learning core subjects and maximize time spent practicing a musical instrument. Similarly, a student keenly interested in science, technology, or entrepreneurship might want to spend disproportionate time in those areas. So, for example, Crawford organized “Progress Studies for Aspiring Young Scholars.” This fits perfectly well as an extension or special-interest program with the sort of core education that VanDamme has in mind.

The entire discussion is fascinating. (Those interested in learning more about Crawford’s project also can check out my podcast discussion with him.)