The education on offer in Australia is truly spectacular. Historically, it’s very unusual that almost every citizen gets access to the education that we do.
So, here is a list of the four most important things I learnt in school. I’ve tried to give thought to how I learnt these things too, but that is hard because sometimes it’s our most invisible values and habits that have the greatest impact.
While I was homeschooled, this is not a homeschooling list. There’s no reason you can’t pursue these things in school also; I certainly hope to impart them to my classes as a high school teacher.
#1: Learning is for people, not the other way round
My parents drummed it into me through conversations, Bible studies and parental correction that there is no point learning information if you don’t learn how to love your neighbour as yourself. After all, God created humans in His image and that makes people central to God’s universe. Their mantra was “God created ideas for people, not people for ideas”. That means being humble enough to respect others regardless of what they do or do not know, willing to share what you know to make others greater, and fundamentally interested in other people and not just data.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this attitude doesn’t just make you a better person, it makes you a more teachable learner.
#2: A Love of Learning
Knowing lots of information is useful. But what has proved far more impactful in my life is the love of learning. If you love finding out new stuff, then you will go and find that stuff out whenever you need it, for the rest of your life. This is crucial because obviously school cannot predict all the things you will need to know for the next sixty years of your life.
It’s hard to say how my parents taught this, but I think the key was they stressed the realness of what we were learning. These are real people, these are real dilemmas in life, these are real things that happen. This gave learning immense significance, which in turn wired our brains to trust that learning is meaningful. Similarly, my parents drove us to pursue our passions, and this again taught us to sub-consciously associate learning with value, desirability and worth.
#3: How to Learn
Especially in the age of the internet, you can learn anything at any time. The trick isn’t to retain information in high school for the rest of your life until you need it in your forties. The trick is to know how to learn what it is you need to know, and how to go learn it.
I am glad I learnt how to research: how to construct a good Google search, how to use a library or an index or a table of contents. More fundamentally, I’m glad I was taught how to ask good questions. This creates a positive feedback loop that rewards curiosity; when you’re used to asking questions successfully, you get lots of practice at finding answers!
#4: Touch Typing
This might seem an oddly specific skill compared to the rest of the list, but I am so, so glad Mum made us sit down with that Typing Tutor program and learn to touch type (type without looking at the keyboard). I genuinely believe typing is the penmanship of the 21st century. Neat handwriting is nice, but we only write by hand in very specific circumstances. Typing is a near-universal chore, so being able to type comfortably and speedily is essential.
Watching anyone who has office work to do or an email to write “dinosaur peck” at individual keys is painful. It’s tiring, uncomfortable and slow. Touch-typing lets you get so much more done in the same amount of time before you weary of computer work, and makes the experience of writing far less off-putting. That means you will do more, and do it more quickly!