The reader will notice that this presentation does not directly address education. It speaks to a neurological phenomenon and begins to unravel an argument used far too often, that if one fails in school they will surely fail in life.
Many don’t find a love for learning until their twenties or thirties. We should never give up on ourselves or each other. The research Dan Gilbert brings to his presentation shows us that even after devastating setbacks we will rebound to a mental state where it’s possible to press on.
Classrooms are evolving into open spaces and learning hallways. But at this point in time, especially at the margins, many students simply cannot focus while in them. For them, learning begins after the race to the top ends.
We are all blessed (and cursed) says Gilbert, with a kind of ‘psychological immune system’. This means that the impact of failing in school can be temporary (as is the impact of doing well), when it comes to happiness. The diametrically opposed outcomes of success and failure balance out a year or two after events, at least as far as happiness goes. And this means that regardless of our personal situation, enthusiasm about learning can return. In short, it’s never too late to get back in the race for survival. What is needed from birth to the grave is ready access to inspiration about what is possible, encouragement to find our way, and the tools to improve.
How long does a child have to keep learning? The best answer is simple. We must keep learning until we want to keep learning.
The following video by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert is tangential to the theme of education. Yet it underscores how we have the capacity to synthesize happiness, regroup, and thus can benefit from and deserve lifelong opportunity.