Kids won’t learn if you don’t make ’em.
This is really a corollary of assumption #3 (learning is a product of teaching), but I think it deserves its own entry. More than the other assumptions, this one has the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve met plenty of kids who won’t “learn” (read: won’t put any more effort into learning “school” things than they absolutely have to), but will spend hours learning about things that interest them.
After I left Montessori, I went to a funky, democratic-ish, alternative middle/high school. There were no required classes, no grades, and no tests. I spent a lot of time fielding questions from people about how I ever learned anything if no one made me. Here’s a transcript of a conversation I must have had about five thousand times while I was in high school. The words are made up but the meaning is real:
Other person: You don’t have any tests?
Other person: None?!?!
Other person: And you don’t have any grades either?
Other person: How do you ever learn anything? I’d never learn anything if I didn’t have to study for tests.
Me: Well, since I’m not worried about tests and grades, I usually enjoy what I’m learning, so it’s not a big deal.
Other person: Okay, fine, but how do you ever know you’re learning enough if you don’t get grades.
Me: (In my head: Huh? What do grades have to do with learning.) I have long conversations with my teachers which help me know if I’m learning enough, but mostly I have to figure out for myself if I’ve learned enough to satisfy me.
These conversations usually ended with me and my interlocutor wandering off scratching our respective heads in wonder and consternation. I could never believe that people really thought learning only happened under duress, and the other person couldn’t fathom that I would ever learn everything I “needed” to know unless someone was forcing me to.
(Wow, that all sounded remarkably self-satisfied. I hope I wasn’t that obnoxious when I was a teenager! I’m sure I was.)