The Sensible Death of Curiosity

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There’s this idea bandied about that we beat the curiosity out of. Children, it’s said, have a naturally healthy attitude towards the world, one of wonder and questioning. From their wondering curiosity, they ask questions that we bland adults would not ask. Why is the sky blue? How much does light weigh?

The usual argument is that we grind this curiosity out of them at school. We force feed them facts and expect them to regurgitate answers. We neglect entirely the mental muscle that asks questions from a place of curiosity.

This is one argument, but regardless of the argument, there’s always the suggestion that curiosity is ground out of kids by the external world. It is unambiguously bad that they lose their curiosity, supposedly.

Now, I don’t think its unambiguously bad. The gradual loss of curiosity is the natural and sensible result of taking responsibility for one’s own learning.

At first, when full of curiosity, the child wants answers in the same way it wants toys. It demands them of someone else, expecting them to just be handed over, free of cost.

The child asks, “Why the sky is blue?” The child rarely investigates by itself, or interrogates the answer given, or even does any fact-checking. Over the course of childhood to adulthood, one realises that to feed curiosity one must be willing to do some intellectual leg work. One must be willing to research for oneself and think critically about one’s findings. And that is a lot of work. Quite often, the answers to the questions our curiosity poses are not worth the work.

As Buddhism teaches, the source of suffering is frustrated desire; the end of suffering is abandoning desire. It is irksome to work for answers, so stop asking questions. Curiosity is mainly an invitation to toil. Children quite sensibly grow out of it.

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Robin Berry

Robin Berry

Random things are posted here, from an unusual attic.

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