Neil Gaiman on motivated and unmotivated learning…

From Neil’s Blog…

Were your high school english classes helpful to you as a writer, or were they a waste of time?Thanks, Amy

Probablymore much helpful than a waste of time. I remember enjoying them, forthe most part, although I sometimes suspect that if I’d come to ThomasHardy on my own, when I was ready, I would have really enjoyed him, andinstead I found English to be a sort of Thomas Hardy aversion therapy.

Truthto tell, when I became a writer I realised that a lot of stuff I hadthought pointless at school was now desperately important, and I had toteach myself piles of history and geography and science that I hadn’tbothered with, and which were now really interesting subjects because Ihad a use for them. Writing and English I always had a use for, andsome fairly decent teachers so they were never boring.

5 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman on motivated and unmotivated learning…

  1. A particular bugbear of yours. I found that I wanted to know everything so there wasn’t really a subject that didn’t interest me at first. What did put me off was the amount of work required, for instance, in learning irregular German verbs and I can see that I’m unlikely to ever have a use for that knowledge. But then I’m a lazy sod. I think one way to overcome this, and something that Neil hints at, is to create a tangential interest. The divide into subjects is really rather artificial and goes against, to a certain extent, understanding the practical application of knowledge. It’s this latter that was rather lacking in my education and something on which I’m keener now. I don’t want to spend weeks understanding some obtuse statistical theory for my work if the upshot is a one line formula with, given a sensible check on assumptions, easy application. My wife is rather dismissive of my reasons for reading so much history, “That’s for Call of Cthulhu, isn’t it?”, and having a pretty good understanding of the Western Magical tradition when I’m an atheist but the practical application is what gives it the interest for me.

    1. Yeah, I’m constantly getting the “how the heck did you know THAT?” and when I tell them it’s from RPG’s… Motivated learning comes, in my experience through topics not subjects, which apparently the DfES agress with as goes 11-14 yeard olds. But then they miss the point by imposing the topics….

      1. I remember topics from junior school. A “topic” was a report that we wrote and presented on a subject of our choice. I remember doing a long one on meterology that included graphs of data collected over a month from our school Stevenson Screen. My brother, who was quite adept a recycling work, was encouraged not to do another one on Romans. At some point some of us also had agreement to do group projects. We made these bizarre Heath Robinson style machines with many moving parts which were basically intricate marble mazes. That said, I don’t like these universities that offer make your own degrees. Sure “knitting, calculus and phenology” might be interesting but it’s hardly a concerted body of knowledge or the basis for a job application.

      2. Well, speaking as a man with a Drama & Philosophy degree…. frankly, you’re right. If university level education means anything, I think it should mean study with a degree of rigour and restriction within a defined area of expertise. Then again, this is apparently against government policy where we should be getting 50% or more of our 18 year olds into university. Which makes university meaningless as a measure of academic excellence. I heard someone talking the other day about creating plumbing degrees to encourage youngsters to move into the business…

  2. about the only thing good that I learned whilst in school studying my A-Level Lit exams was God Bless Cliff’s Notes

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