Whatever happened to love of learning?

I’ve been thinking a lot about learning lately. Educators I hang out with on Twitter are always talking about students pursuing their passions, learning about things that interest them. I have some reservations, or at least concerns, about how that works out in practice.

Theoretically, teachers make sure that all students develop basic skills and basic knowledge while learning  pursuing their individual interests in dinosaurs, rap music, haiku, solar cell technology, baseball, and signs of the zodiac. I wonder how many teachers have the ability to slip a lesson on commas into a study of baseball cards or slip drill in the six times tables into haiku.

However, assuming for the sake of argument that K-12 teachers are able to teach essential skills and knowledge on a personal basis to every student, should pursuing one’s passion be the focus of public education?

I haven’t answered that question to my satisfaction yet, but I think there’s a case to be made for school being more about learning how to learn things that aren’t interesting and which don’t appear to have any utility than about pursuing one’s passion in third grade.

Recently a friend’s son told her proudly, “I is a learner, Mama!” He’s two-and-a-half. He’s not pursuing a passion, or learning something he thinks will be useful, or even having fun. He’s because learning is empowering.

Isn’t that where love of learning starts?