The magic of interest

Sometimes the ink is barely dry on a column before I’ve had an idea for the next one. In other weeks I’ll get to Tuesday morning with a deadline at lunchtime with not a clue of what’s to be written. This morning, in the latter situation, I was putting a couple of empty bottles in the recycling when I discovered my subject for the week. There was a sheet twisted into what looked like a passable escape attempt from a second-floor prison cell, hanging over a stepladder in the garage. Obviously, yesterday’s persistent rain prevented it from being hung on the line outside. I do have a recollection of a request made to a teenager to “hang this up to dry in the garage”.

People will only learn something effectively if it’s important to them or if it interests them. The same teenager responsible for the damp sheet in the garage this morning, several years ago was able to recite, and probably still can, the names of 842 different Pokémon. Not only that, he could give you a detailed summary of their characteristics and capabilities. It can only be because he was passionately interested at the time, in the lives and escapades of the various Pokémon characters, whereas his interest in tidying up after himself or ensuring that his bed linen is washed and subsequently dried could be summarised on the head of a pin.

He left school last year under less than auspicious circumstances; Cambridge High School having failed, through no particular fault of theirs, to capture his interest. Since then he has gone some way towards teaching himself to speak Japanese and has declared his intention to spend six weeks in Japan later in the year.

There it is: Interest is the magic ingredient in learning, and saints are those rare teachers who can stimulate it.

There was a bit of an altercation in our home a couple of evenings ago when the lady of the house went to some lengths to express her disappointment and frustration at the persistent gathering of used crockery on the draining board, not a metre away from the dishwasher. Yet to encourage the children to move said items that last part of the journey appears to be an impossible task despite several years of instruction, pleading, begging, telling, teaching, and imploring. What hope is there for the planet if one can’t impress upon young, supposedly impressionable minds the importance of doing something useful? How does one persuade a world full of adults, set in their ways, prejudiced, and otherwise disinterested, that they should make a radical change to their lives in order to preserve the planet which, on any given day, appears to be perfectly fine?

There is, in my view, as much chance of the combined nations of the world sticking to the Paris-agreed 1.5° global temperature rise by the of this century as is there is of a teenager hanging out the washing correctly.

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