As a teenager myself, I can confidently say that teenagers do want to learn. Any assertions otherwise can only have been made by adults too out of touch with young adults to understand them. Teens are learning all the time, but not necessarily what schools are teaching.
The problem is not a lack of desire to learn; it is the manner in which information is presented. People learn best from and with others they can relate to – their peers. Schools should encourage student-run clubs, where teens with common interests can meet.
Students can learn about things that interest them directly from people of their same age. Where a student attends school can make a difference in whether or not they like to learn. People have difficulty learning in settings where they aren’t comfortable socially, or where a curriculum is too easy or too challenging for them.
Parents should send their children to the school that fits their personality and aptitude. Also, learning environments where discussion holds precedence over lecture are more effective with teenagers.
Discussions foster an atmosphere of respectful equality between teacher and student, and allow students to come to their own conclusions based on their own observations.
Teachers also should remember that not everyone thinks and learns the same way. Some people are very visual learners, and can easily interpret a diagram, but have trouble gathering information from text. Others are very verbal learners, and for them it is the opposite. So it will benefit the class as a whole if a teacher appeals to everyone when teaching.
Another way to encourage teenagers to enjoy learning is to answer the timeless question: “Why are we learning this anyway?” Just like adults, teenagers don’t want to waste their time learning things they won’t use in life. If teachers can find ways to show students that taking their class is worthwhile, then kids are more likely to respond positively.
Students would also benefit from being able to customize their schedule more liberally. Why take classes that have nothing to do with your preferred field of study? It would be more practical for people to take classes that pertain to a career path that they find interesting than to take classes just because they are required.
In short, we want to learn. But we want to learn subject matter that interests us, and we want to learn it in a way that we feel comfortable. Instead of griping about how people my age don’t want to learn, adults should change the education system to better provide for today’s youth.