The Curiosity Cycle by Jonathan Mugan

Summer is here and I just had the pleasure of reading a new book for parents by Jonathan Mugan, Ph.D, entitled, “The Curiosity Cycle: Preparing Your Child for the Ongoing Technical Explosion”. Though the book is geared towards parents, it is applicable and essential reading for anyone working with Young Children or to those longing for greater insight on how the world is changing so quickly.

First and foremost, Jonathan’s writing style, natural curiosity and good naturedness shines through and makes the book accessible to everyone. A Ph.D in Computer Science with a focus on Developmental Robotics, Jonathan writes directly to the parents of young children and leads us through his thinking in a gloriously enjoyable read. How he manages to make such a dense subject light and airy is a testimony to his deep thinking, sense of wonder and expertise in learning.

In the first chapter, “Constructing Intelligence” Jonathan shows how Children Construct Their World through concepts, models and the testing of those concepts and models. He shows how the cycle of curiosity leads a child to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct a continuous web of knowledge that underscores the importance and uniqueness of supple thinking in the human animal. The Curiosity Cycle is filled with everyday conversation models to engage in with your child in order to further his or her thinking.

The Curiosity Cycle gives parents specific games to play with their child that explains why Tic-Tac-Toe is such a wonderful game to play with Young Children and even more importantly, why parents shouldn’t let their child win. “Problems lead to Transformation” Jonathan explains. “Think of an argument as a cooperative job to get to the truth” andIt’s funny how in order to learn something you have to admit you were wrong.”

Jonathan explains how “Embracing the Absurd” and finding “Everyday Magic” helps develop creativity, an essential skill for the future as robots will not be able to replace that quality easily. He shows why and how talking about complicated world problems and systems become accessible to children by creating metaphors and soap operatic stories. He emphasizes the importance of these metaphors as leading children to develop more supple thinking, a skill, he points out over and over in The Curiosity Cycle, as essential for success in a future increasingly dominated by automation and robots.

“If you were to walk up next to a guy in the year 100 and tell him about boxes that play music by pulling invisible energy out of the air, you would be called nuts.”

“A seed is an incredible machine. It somehow converts dirt matter into a tree that can be 100 feet tall.”

“If you get a cut, the skin amazingly heals itself. It is like the new terminator in Terminator 2.”

Jonathan cites a motorcycle racing contest in which a favored designer failed to launch his motorcycle because he forgot to flip a switch. He points out a colleague noted, “The real mistake was not forgetting to flip a switch…(but) in designing a system that forgetting to flip a switch could so easily end in failure.”

His insights on computers and robot “thinking” help us see humanness in a completely different way. He shows us “why a toddler is more creative than a computer” and the unique ability of human potential for creativity. “Computers don’t know it only rains outside” he points out, again adding to the differentiation between simple knowledge and supple thinking.

“To be safe from robot replacement, your child should consider a career that requires a lot of either creativity or manual dexterity.” Jonathan Mugan leads parents, teachers and anyone interested in the nature of learning through the internal dialogue of the mind of a human and gives concrete examples, games and anecdotes to help parents and teachers nurture these qualities in their children.

Jonathan Mugan’s fresh perspective, accessible writing style and natural sense of wonder immediately capture the reader. His funny matter-of-fact manner delightfully captivates and draws you into a new view of the world. This book is essential not only to parents, but to teachers who are looking for what qualities are needed in working with young children who face a world in rapid change. The Curiosity Cycle is an essential bridge of dialogue between parenting, learning and teaching in today’s world.

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