Whose responsibility is it?

I find that a lot of my maturity as an artistic, creative person has come from subtle realizations about how I interact with the world. It’s the stuff that you don’t even realize it’s there until you see it. Like how a fish is unaware of water. Here is one that came out of a conversation with my husband this morning when he was surprised that an online coworker asked for clarity rather than looking up a word she didn’t know.

Research has shown that children who work to please their parents learn better and more deeply than children working merely to please the teacher. This is one reason why parental involvement in education is so crucial to a child’s success. Kids who believe that learning “big words” and “fancy grammar” and “boring algebra” is something that is imposed upon them from outside the family unit don’t feel invested in learning these types of things. It’s for “other people,” and they comply as long as they feel that they’re “supposed to” or even “forced to” do it. Because it’s not important in the family culture, these kids feel that these things are merely important for getting a good grade. It’s external. This is evidenced in the reality that nearly 40% of adults don’t read books. In short, once there’s no longer anyone pushing them, many people stop pursuing structured, intentional learning.

On the other hand, as we move from being children to being adults, we gradually stop doing things because our parents (or teachers) want us to. We start doing things because it benefits us. We brush our teeth, wash our dishes, drive the speed limit, and don’t put our shoes on the furniture for very good reasons! We no longer feel that it’s someone else’s responsibility to catch us (or not). We internalize the importance of these things. We become self-directed.

People who are not self-directed learners feel that it’s someone else’s job to teach them things. It’s the boss’s job to provide the training manual and pay for courses. We see a variation on this when people come to Facebook groups to ask basic questions that could easily be googled. They’re not as lazy as we often assume. Rather, they have a subtle understanding and reality that it’s someone else’s job to tell them what they need to know. They are not self-directed learners.

Depending on your family culture, social culture, social class, and many other things, you probably have unspoken assumptions about your own education and growth. Where does the responsibility lie?

Because you’re here in Insiders, I suspect that you are a self-directed learner. You wouldn’t have found your way to my little polymer world if you weren’t. But (and here’s the tricky part), do you still carry assumptions that learning (or even some types of learning) is a thing that someone else must teach you? Do you carry a subtle expectation that someone else must carry the burden of the process? Or even that investing in learning to excel is only for other (perhaps more talented) people?

If so, how does this show up in your growth?