Letter to the Editor: Learning How to Learn

Today a guest said he teaches his children that wealth is not about money and power. Instead, wealth is a happy life with caring, loving, laughing and sharing.

Later we opened a thank-you note from an employee. She and I had discussed that beauty is not looks, but inner being and caring. We agreed that valuable assets are people we learn from and can count on, not a fancy house or car. She thanked us in the note: “I know you had both my head and heart in mind. You affected and overwhelmed both.” I should have said that to her!

For 30 years in public schools, I researched ways to motivate kids to want to learn how to learn. For example, bullies learned to ask a question, research possibilities, work with and value others, reflect, and share ideas to make decisions based on facts. They learned from disagreements and admitted and accepted when they were wrong or had hurt others. They no longer felt ignorant or the need to bully. 

Thinking about my students today, I hope they are enjoying life with laughter, sharing ideas, valuing differences and understanding the kind of wealth and beauty that brings happiness. I hope they don’t assume they know the meanings of complex political ideas such as freedom and democracy, but instead unearth complexities by asking questions like, “What is democracy?” and “Who benefits?” There are autocratic, oligarchic, representative and inclusive democracies. Some are for all people; other democracies are for unlimited money and power for a few networking, self-serving people.

I believe my students still question, research possibilities, reflect, collaborate and value differences to make decisions based on facts. I hope they find out what candidates did – not what they say in ads – and then choose candidates who will improve rights for all people and protect fragile biomes in the critical resources of air, water and land.

I expect that they still discuss differences and then learn and admit and change when they are wrong. I hope they work to be less greedy and more caring in a representative government of, by and for (all of) the people.

Carole Vande Walle

Fish Creek, Wisconsin