Self-knowledge, Personalised Learning and Butterflies.

There’s a lot of talk about making learning personal at the moment. We should all be tailoring it to the needs and interests of the child. Much of it is sensible and I agree with much of the sentiment.

I also think there is a risk that comes attached. That risk is an overt focus on self-knowledge and an assumption of some positive understanding, breadth and direction that isn’t there. The child, so the thinking goes, chooses what he/she wants to learn and then builds up from there, with more vigour and more enthusiasm and more lasting success.

Well, possibly. But as Andre Gide said,

“Know thyself” – a maxim as pernicious as it is odious. A person observing himself would arrest his own development. Any caterpillar who tried to “know himself” would never become a butterfly.

While we shouldn’t stop personalising learning, we should neither decide too early against the idea that there are some things, beyond the child’s knowledge or perceived interests, that they will look back on and thank us for the introduction.