All educators know that Enquiry (sic) is a “jolly good thing”. They also know that teachers must model the attributes they want to encourage in their students, else the kids will think it’s just some kind of “do as I say, not as I do” mumbo jumbo game. Like advice on not smoking from Fag-Ash Lil, or sex education from Syphilitic Sid. I made those up, in case you’re wondering, but you get the picture: you need to exemplify the virtues you’re trying to instil.
So, I look at myself and wonder how I could model enquiry. If I had a class of kids, how would I do that? What interests me? What gets MY juices going? And the answer comes back: … or rather it doesn’t. There’s silence. I can’t really think of anything. And so I have this conversation with myself:
Surely there must be something? Something you could find out about? Research? Enquire?
No. I’m too old, too forgetful, too disinterested, disillusioned, couldn’t really give a toss, stupid, thick.
That can’t be right!
It is. I can’t think of anything.
Go on, make some effort, try…
Hmm. Umm. (Five minutes later) I suppose there’s Bitcoins.
Bitcoins? Are you serious?
Yes! How do they work? What’s the advantage of them? Can you make money from them? I’ve always wondered.
OK, so on a scale of one to ten, how interesting would it be to find out about Bitcoins?
… well, about four. Maybe two. OK, not very interesting but I could find out and it would be “Enquiry”.
And you would know about it for five minutes then forget whatever you learnt.
So what’s the point?
And there’s the point. It has to be a self-motivated enquiry for it to be at all meaningful. You can’t just “do enquiry”. Enquiry on its own is half the picture. Not even half. It is meaningless without self-motivation. I could go through the motions but would I really care? Nope.
I used to be curious as a kid, making things, trying things out, experimenting, asking questions, wondering. I remember a book I had: “10 Things Every Good Boy Can Make” or “The Everyday Boy’s Book of Hazardous Popular Hobbies” or some equally captivating title. Didn’t matter – a red hardback with gold writing. I pored over those pages! Boy, did I? But not all pages were equal – the ones thumbed the most were of radios, triode valves, dipole aerials, variable condensers, cat’s whiskers, 90-volt dry cells, 6-volt lead-acid accumulators … exciting stuff to a farm kid in the early 60’s. And planes and kites… Nothing in school compared, except perhaps the projects I did on Canada and Australia. The fact that I can still remember those and little else must mean something.
Where did all that curiosity go? Did familiarity breed contempt? Can I blame my mother? Has mundane life simply smothered it? Was it unrecognised, unloved and unfed? Something you grow out of? Is it possible to rekindle it? Rejuvenate it? Resuscitate it? Bring back that sense of childhood wonderment? So many unanswered questions …
… so much irony.