Re: Emergent Learning LO1941

Rachel Silber (
Wed, 5 Jul 1995 11:58:36 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO1925 --

> Doug Seeley writes about his children : "They were not taught explicitly
> how to read, and how to do math, yet at some moment they spontaneously
> started doing these things, much in the same manner in which () they
> rapidly began speaking French once they made up their minds to do it."
> (Doug is an Australian living in Geneva).
> We all know that children learn how to talk a foreign langage without
> explicit education (which does not mean "no education"), but I am very
> surprised to hear one can learn how to read without explicit tuition.

Many, many children (including myself when I was young) "teach themselves
to read" much the way they learn any other skill performed by people
around them without explicitly being taught. I don't remember being
taught to read, and my mother tells of being surprised when she discovered
I could. My own daughter, entering first grade in the fall, is reading
more competently by the day. While she's been in a kindergarten program,
noone set out to teach her to read, but her questions about letters and
words have always been encouraged.

> Reading is a difficult task. It's not something you do in a community (you
> have to be two to talk it helps learning a langage without lessons), but
> something you do by yourself.

I don't know of any child learning to read on their own without being
read to. Being read to is a moment in a child's day to have a parent's
undivided attention, nothing solitary about it.

> And the motivation to read is usually low :
> children don't need to read to live and enjoy themselves (whereas they
> need to talk to play with friends). One of the firt tasks of a teacher is
> to give children the desire to read, to show them that one can find
> treasures in books

In my experience, children are highly motivated to read, if they see
the adults around them valuing books and treating reading as one of the
significant skills of adult life. I fear that if that motivation
waits to be formally imparted by a teacher, it is too late.

Anyway, to connect this discussion back to learning-org, John Holt wrote
extensively about the innate capacity for learning in each child and how
it is best encouraged. He believes that the institutions for schooling
that we currently have destroy love of learning, and the facility for
continued independent self-education in adulthood. Another perspective on
why it's so hard to make learning organizations happen -- they're
populated by people who've gone to School, and have internalized the
implicit lessons of our educational system along with the explicit ones.
(eg: Learning starts when the bell rings and stops when the bell rings...
If it's important, you'll be tested on it... )

> Behinf this discussion, I see another on acquisition of tacit knowledge
> which should be of great interest on this list.

I really liked these examples (lanolin in fleece, swimming, cycling, sales
technique), but I'm condensing to save some space. All of the examples,
and part of what distinguishes "tacit knowledge" from things you can learn
from books, will provide feedback to the learner, whether you like it or
not! I can learn that the capital of New Hampshire is Concord, and Concord
NH will give me no response. I can't learn the knowledge that a salesman
has without getting responses from customers to let me know if I got it
right. Bicycling is even more direct, if you get it wrong you get a bruise
to show you, even if you memorized the book.

Rachel Silber