“We value knowing things, not the process of not knowing something and wanting to get the answer — and those are a world apart, those two perspectives.” ~ Susan Engel
When Charles Darwin was trying to make sense of the species he was – and was not – finding in the Galapagos Islands, he famously and repeatedly asked, “Why should this be so?”
It is a scientist’s refrain: the question one asks while testing a hypothesis — finding, perhaps, that another is needed. It is a question Susan Engel, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Founding Director of the Program in Teaching at Williams College, asks of herself as well.
What I Learned: Adults’ responses to a child’s exploratory behavior have a big effect on how those children will explore, how long or what they’ll investigate. The very kids who might most need help from an adult to pursue their curiosity are the ones who are going to be most damaged by adults who discourage any curiosity.
What I Loved: It’s hard not to fall in love with Susan’s devotion to curiosity, learning and education, but I think what I loved most was her final bit of advice and newest curiosity practice. You’ll just have to listen to hear why! Hint: she embodies the learner ethos.
Susan Engel is the eighth in my series of interviews with the contributing authors to the forthcoming anthology Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge (University of Minnesota Press, 2020). Stay tuned for future episodes!
Find more about Susan Engel’s terrific work here, here and here. Check out The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood.