No word for learning

My trip to Denmark is going quite well right now. The weather is more beautiful than I would have imagined, that’s for sure. About 70 degrees each day with blue skies and lots of fun. I’ve wandered the streets of Copenhagen and seen plenty of evidence of why the Danes are regularly ranked near the top of the World’s Happiest People list!

Most interesting educational fact of the week so far has been that the Danes had no word in their vocabulary for ‘learning’ until the 1990s. Before that point, the words that they used when talking about schooling were ‘education’ and ‘instruction.’

This was a result of an educational system that was driven by the church since the times of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Schools weren’t designed for students to ‘learn.’ Instead, they were vehicles for delivering the mandated ‘curriculum’ that was predetermined by the church and the state.

So what I’m left to wonder is if our country’s curriculum is ‘learning’ friendly? Is the difference between ‘learning’ and ‘instruction’ simply a matter of semantics, or do the words that we attach to concepts highlight our values and beliefs?

Think about this: The governing body for education in my home is the State Department of Public Instruction. Shouldn’t it be the State Department of Public Learning? Would simple refocusing on learning make any difference in our country?

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