Monday, January 9, 2012

The lost art of learning for yourself

First, I don't believe anyone learns in a vacuum--no, I don't mean inside a Hoover or a Dyson, I mean something devoid of outside influences.

These days, especially from my thirteen-year-old, I hear a barrage of "Dad, what does _________ mean?"

Fill in the blank with whatever you wish.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind answering questions for my children.  But I'm finding more and more often they already know the answer.  When I was young I wasn't much of a question-asker.  I sought out the answers to whatever questions tickled my fancy.

While growing up, my parents had a large set of encyclopedias.  They took up one whole shelf, with a volume for each letter--what, you don't know what an encyclopedia is?  Imagine Wikipedia in physical book form.  I was constantly looking something up in either the encyclopedia or the dictionary.  You do know what a dictionary is, right?

At our town's little library, over the past few years, we've had a few writers grace our presence and give enlightening talks--two of which were award-winning Minnesota author Will Weaver and literary coach and publisher Ian Graham Leask.  During both of their talks, someone undoubtedly asked the old standby question: how do you get an agent?  This question did not come from me, for I've been researching how to contact literary agents for years.  How did I do it?  I sought out the answers.

I don't mean to sound like I am completely against asking questions, and I get a lot of questions asked of me on a daily basis, but I just feel that sometimes one should be accountable for themselves and try find the answer.  Especially in today's Information Age, where the answers to your wildest questions (for the most part) are at your fingertips.

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