The claim, “Kids don’t want want to learn” (sourced via Jackie Gerstein), is wrong. If kids didn’t want to learn, then they really would all just sit around and do literally nothing. But we know that they don’t. Yes, there are kids who sit around “bored”, who tune out in class, who do just what’s needed to get by. But for every kid who’s tuned out, there’s at least one other who’s found something interesting and is working to learn more about it and add to the body of knowledge on her own in her free time.
I’ve talked about this before, but it will always bear revisiting until we get the clue and retool education to reflect this. How many of those “tuned out” kids really are? How many of them are biding their time during the school day, or using class time to doodle or write stories? (I wasn’t tuned out, but I tended to fill in the gaps between my note-taking by doodling and writing…unless I was working on what I felt was a really awesome story, and then all bets were off.) My point is, not every kid who thinks school is a waste of time thinks learning is a waste of time.
It’s not that they don’t want to learn. It’s that they want what they learn to be relevant to them, and they want it to be understandable. There’s a huge difference. That same kid who races out the door the instant the bell rings may also be the same kid who spends his free time learning how to code, to skate, to write, to draw. He checks out during class because he can’t see how it fits in with his personal interests, and checks back in for that one lesson that he can see extends to what he does outside of class.
What we need to do, and what many good teachers do as time permits, is help kids make the connection between the skills and concepts they’re learning (both the curriculum components and the metalearning components). Once those who do pursue outside interests see that what they learn at school can often apply to what they’re working on in their free time, they’ll be more likely to tune in to see what else can benefit them and make them better at their chosen craft.
The kids do want to learn, but they want to be able to pursue their own interests. And they will seek out instruction wherever they feel they’re getting the most relevant information and experience.