I wanted to call this blog the epistemophillic instinct, but a voice in my head kept saying it was a terrible idea and why do I insist on using this psycho-babble nonsense to explain the bleeding obvious. As it happens, the name was already used so I have ended up with ‘the unconscious curriculum’ which I don’t dislike but perhaps sounds grander than it really is. Anyhow, as part of the beginning I feel I must set out my stall, so back to the epistemophillic instinct – an innate appetite for knowledge.
Psychodynamic writers believe that humans have in-built drives. Freud gave us the ubiquitous ideas of thanatos (death instinct) and eros (life instinct). Melanie Klein develops this framework by suggesting a third drive, curiosity or the epistemophillic instinct. By nature, we are curious about the world and how things work. As soon as we are able to use words, we ask questions. To some extent, we are born scientists. This impulse to ask questions and find out about the world has been formalised by the enlightenment thinkers into the modern scientific method but equally observable in the free play of infants and toddlers.
Curiosity is an essential tool for psychological understanding and it is the main tool of effective teaching and learning. I find myself endlessly curious about what goes on in my classroom and the puzzle of learning. I find myself using the words ‘I wonder why …’ probably more than is healthy. I am curious about what is learnt as well as curious about their and my own behaviour. Some might say this curiosity is pathological. I think that might be fair comment but as others have said before me an unexamined life may not be worth living. Let’s hope for the sake of this blog that reflection and examination of ones internal mental states is both cathartic and fascinating to read, otherwise dear reader we are in for a long journey together.
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