Sabotage – the love of learning

One of the saddest things to see in children, a teenager in this case, is a seeming loss of the love of learning.  There have been other incidents but this one happened today.

Today, over lunch, we were eating a delicious alternative English breakfast that included spiced up beans  courtesy of chilli powder and Tabasco.  It was a great success however our eldest reminded the family about the time Dad (me) seemed to sabotage the last time we had this by adding way too much Tabasco.

I refuted the accusation but, being still basically a teacher, I was impressed with her use of the word ‘sabotage’ despite it being an outright fib.

“Great word.  Did you know that it’s a French word in origin?”

(Teenager returns a *bad smell* face)

“Yes.” I direct my words to the youngest who, though only 7 years old, seemed to be very interested in knowing exactly what it meant.

“What do I need to know that for?” asked the teenager.

“Well, with your love of language and words I thought you’d be interested to know a bit more about the origins of such an interesting word – seeing as you used it.”


Reaching for my iPhone6 I Googled for more while our plates were still warm.

“Ahhh!  It’s believed to have 16th to 19th century roots….” I read from Wikipedia.

“When am I ever going to need to know all that? It’s not like someone is ever going to test me on it is it? I just don’t need to know all that.”


“Listen.” I said. “This isn’t about being tested.  It’s about learning something new just for the pleasure that comes with knowing and understanding it.  Just because someone won’t be testing you on it does not mean it’s any less valuable.”

(Teenager returns the *bad smell* face again)

“But I’m never going to be assessed on it so what’s the point?”


“Wow.  Do you know what art is? You love art right? Well a lot of art exists for no other reason than just to ‘be’. It may serve no real purpose or practical application, it may not even be exhibited, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable or valid to the artist for having created it – it’s still art.”

(Teenager returns a *where the hell is he going with this?* expression)

“What I’m saying is that you can still learn something, like what a ‘sabot’ is, and it can still be really valuable as a piece of knowledge without anyone actually testing or assessing that you know it. Do you see what I’m saying?”

(Teenager returns a *Kevin* noise)

“Forget it.” I look, defeated, over to my wife.  “Has it left her already?”

The above is a true story.  I hope that it’s “just a phase” and that our adventurous learner with an insatiable appetite for language and wider knowledge returns one day.

It strengthens my resolve that the best I can try to do for her, other children and teachers is try to create opportunities where the love of learning cannot be easily sabotaged by testers and measurers.  Whether it’s making apps, exploring code or school engaging with mums and dads, it’s a driving force for me personally that everyone is entitled to love learning and I for one hope to never stop.

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