Robust curiosity in practice

Pro-learning ecologies are teeming with questions. Learning occurs because so much curiosity is nurtured and responded to effectively. Learners get the sense that it's good to "not know" and "be somewhat ignorant" for the time being. Everyone seems to be in the midst of inquiries, experiments, remedying previous errors and cultivating their next hypothesis. Their questions are neither shallow or fleeting. The curiosity in practice is robust.

Anti-learning ecologies are choked with old answers that signal the futility of asking questions or nurturing curiosity. Patterns of domination, control and abuse seem so prevalent because compliance with those answers is expected and rewarded. Learners get the strong sense that it's bad to "not know" and only losers are ignorant. Everyone seems to be in the midst of making excuses, avoiding responsibility and making a thing of being right.

Pro-learning ecologies differ from those phases that kids go through where every adult's answer is followed by another question "why". Learners with questions in these systems are far more resourceful than that. When we give a listen to such an environment, we will hear things like:
  • Which change seems the most beneficial and feasible to you?
  • What questions have been raised in your mind by the new information?
  • Which alternatives are you comparing before taking your next action?
  • What explanation do you favor to connect these dots?
  • What are you forecasting for the next development in this chain of events?
  • What difference do you think it would make to pursue this with more dedication?
  • What do you foresee as the consequences of focusing on this issue now?
Anti-learning ecologies fill the air with a very different kind of questions that make curiosity seem scarce and fragile:
  • What do I have to do to comply?
  • What's the reward for getting this done on time?
  • How much has to be done to qualify for the next level?
  • When is the deadline and can you cut me any slack?
  • How much of this is actually required?
  • How long do we have to continue doing this?
  • Why are you making us learn this?
From the sounds of what gets said in an anti-learning ecology, everyone is keeping learning to a minimum. Learning is neither rewarding as a process or pursuit of outcomes. Asking insightful questions would be unproductive, self-defeating and possibly embarrassing. Robust curiosity is not practiced.

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