“Wired to Learn” versus “Programmed to Perform”: A Reflection

Humans are naturally very curious and imaginative and yearn for knowledge from a very young age.  Observe any group of pre-schoolers who become absorbed when inventing fun games or investigating why something works a certain way.  Our wide-eyed and innocent pre-schoolers are “wired to learn”.

As time progresses, youngsters become enculturated and schooled in societal norms.  Bit by bit, they loose their spontaneity as they are encouraged to conform to the “right” way of thinking and performing.  By the beginning of middle school, the most children have lost their spontaneity and are “programmed to perform” in an educational system that rewards conformity, high test scores on standardized, and academic excellence.  This trend continues through high school as the pressure increases to master the SAT as a prerequisite for attending the “right” college with the “right” pedigree.  Subsequently, there is some relief as four years of an undergraduate degree becomes a quest for critical and independent thinking.  Nonetheless, the fun is once again interrupted with a jolt as the need to attain that allusive 4.0 GPA for the degree draws loser. 

College quickly fades as we join the rat race for that great job in the corporation.  The more corporate “cool aide” we drink the more we are “programmed to perform” as we gain all the vestiges of success-house, car, credit cards, and mounting debt.  The cycle continues as our lives morph into unbridled performance for the corporation at any cost through more work, more stress, less leisure time, and mounting resentment.  Welcome to “life” in the 7X24 world….until the cracks appear and disillusionment takes over.   What have we become?  Why has life become such a drag?  Why aren’t we having fun any more? 

Bit by bit we question more and more and are reawakened to the fact that there is a life outside the corporate facade.  It’s now time for more fun, experimenting, and learning for the heck of it.  We’ve regained the inquisitiveness of our pre-schoolers and are reinvigorated to learn, albeit with new perspectives and insights from our extensive databank of experiences.  There is always hope and the promise of a better life if we make the conscious decision to question, reflect, and change.  Thank goodness for the indomitable and optimistic human spirit!

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