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ERIC Number: ED497920
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 12
Open Pandora's Box: Curiosity and Imagination in the Classroom. Thomas H. Wright Lecture. Occasional Paper Series, Summer 2006.
Engel, Susan
Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College
The author of this article examines two powerful metaphors that have shaped the way people have thought about young children over the past 75 years or so, and argues that these two models are off base. These metaphors are "The Wild Child" and "The Little Scientist." The earlier of these two metaphors is that of the Wild Child, which hearkens back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's conception that children are innocent and unconstrained by adult conventions, and Anna Freud's view of the young child as a mass of unruly emotions with no control, governed by selfish drives. Innocent or anarchic, the Wild Child view implies that it is up to adults to constrain young children, train them, and rein them in. The second metaphor, the Little Scientist, traces back to Jean Piaget, and views children as being eager to understand the world, acting on their environment almost from the beginning, in their efforts to make sense of experience. Piaget viewed development as the process by which children form ever more rational and scientific understandings of the world. The author argues that there are two ways in which the prevailing metaphors of Little Scientist and Wild Child are inadequate. First, those metaphors are constricting, and lead us to expect children to be one or the other. Second, both metaphors ignore the powerful role imagination plays in the young child's mental life. The author offers curiosity and imagination as a more rich and dynamic view of children. She describes a study that she and her colleagues conducted in which teachers were asked to circle the five educational goals they most valued from a list of 25. A majority circled curiosity. But when teachers were asked to list their top five educational goals (without providing them with a list to choose from) almost no one wrote down curiosity. Teachers may passively endorse curiosity, but this study contains evidence that they do little to actively promote it. The author proposes that we view curiosity as a goal of education, rather than as a quality teachers should avoid squelching.
Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College. 1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708-5999. Tel: 914-395-2630; Fax: 914-395-2631; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Spencer Foundation, Chicago, IL.
Authoring Institution: Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, NY. Child Development Inst.