by Dr. Dobson

Question: I majored in education and was taught that children will provide their own motivation to learn if given the opportunity. My professors favored a "student-led" classroom instead of one that depends on strong teacher leadership. The children will then want to learn rather than being forced to learn. Do you see it that way?

Answer: I certainly agree that we should try to motivate kids to work, study and learn. They'll enjoy the process more and retain the information longer if their motivation comes from within. So I think your professors are right in saying that we should capitalize on students' natural interest whenever we can. But it is na?ve to believe that any educational program can generate that kind of interest in every subject and sustain it for the majority of students every day. Kids need to learn some things that may be boring to them, such as math or grammar, whether they choose to or not.

       A former superintendent of public instruction in California reacted to the notion that children have a natural interest in everything adults think they should know. He said, "To say that children have an innate love of learning is as muddleheaded as to say that children have an innate love of baseball. Some do. Some don't. Left to themselves, a large percentage of the small fry will go fishing, pick a fight, tease the girls or watch Superman on the boob tube. Even as you and I."

       Many students will not invest more effort in their studies than is required, and that has frustrated teachers for hundreds of years. Our schools, therefore, must have enough structure and discipline to require certain behavior from children whether or not they have an interest in the subject being taught.