In Orbiting the Giant Hairball, an insightful manual for innovative businesses practices, author Gordon MacKenzie recounts his voluntary monthly visits to teach art in Kansas City public schools. He found almost all first grade students raised their hands enthusiastically when asked if they were artists. When he asked that same question to fifth and sixth graders, only one or two in the class would sheepishly admit they were artists.
From my experience with similarly aged children, the same pattern prevails as to how curious they are. So, what happens during those intervening years? There seem to be a multitude of factors.
Unfortunately, most schools are contributing to this curiosity decay. Perhaps we should have curiosity doctors and dentists who give checkups twice a year to check for curiosity loss! In schools, too many educators believe: if it can’t be measured, it probably isn’t significant. And for those who decry its importance, curiosity may be too hard to define (though I thoroughly disagree).
Being in a state of wonder, of not knowing, may make us feel a bit insecure. But our senses become fully alive. We are living more in the moment–where true joy and power often exists. We are learning, and our brain rewards with pleasurable feelings. The more our curiosity lessens, the more boring and dull we become. We have one point of view and look no further. There is little room for growth. For others the loss of curiosity translates into becoming susceptible to the latest trends and fashions that advertising agencies are paid to push. Getting outside of myself and asking, “Why?” leads to revelation. How do we learn best? What is the thing I love to do most that makes the world around me a little better? Being curious leads to exploration–even adventure. How much more fun is that than having a pat answer?