Re: Emergent Learning LO2122

Joseph O'Connor (
Sun, 16 Jul 1995 12:04:33 +0100

Replying to LO1977 --

In message <>, writes
>Replying to LO1925 --
>Bernard Girard expressed surprise that Doug Seeley claimed that his
>children learned to read without explicit instruction. There is a story
>that James Watt learned to read upside down first, at age three, by
>following his father's finger on the Bible while seated at the dinner

There are other stories too...Capablanca learning chess by watching his
father play a friend and then being able to beat both of them - Artur
Schnabel sitting under the piano watching the keys go down. Nice stories
that hide something really important.

I have really enjoyed following the threads here on Illich, emergent
learning and formal school (School is not equivalent to education
although many in our culture seem to believe so), and have some
personal experience to offer.

We did not send our dughter to school until she was eight, and only then
because she wished to go. School is not compulsory in England, although
again many believe it is. She learned to read very well without formal
instruction, and also learned to read music before she was five.
While formal instruction may be important and I am not denigrating the
skills involved, the whole context of learning I believe is more
important. In a supportive, loving context where learning is valued and
help is available, she could not not learn. I believe learning is
something we are all naturals at, it takes a great deal to squash this
talent, but many succeed, unfortunately. Sometimes the skills of formal
instruction are needed and so valued precisely because of the lack of
supporting context.

I have a friend who talks of 'wounded learners'. I think this probably
applies to all of us to some extent - unfortunate circumstances and
well intentioned people erode our natural learning state.

How to create a learning organisation? I am not sure. We create teaching
organisations easily enough.

I'll atempt to be more constructive in following posts. Our dughter is now
at a secondary school having won a place there by academic achievement in
a formal open entrance examination.

Joseph O'Connor