2 February 2024

This column appears in “Le Monde de l’éducation”. If you are subscribed to Worldyou can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

Wanting to know does not mean wanting to learn. This necessary distance between knowing and learning is today called into question by social networks which celebrate complicity instead of explaining differences and which no longer invite dialogue, but confine themselves to imbecilic self-segregation. It is in this deleterious logic that ChatGPT fits.

The danger it poses to our school is not limited to the fraud it would authorize, because we will always find the technical means to denounce it. It is rather in a perverted relationship to knowledge that the threat lies.. As the researcher Philippe Meirieu so rightly says, “This chatbot, with its ability to provide answers in record time, satisfies the desire to know and kills the desire to learn.”

Read also: Geoffrey Hinton, pioneer of AI, leaves Google and says he “regrets” his invention

Because, after all, what’s the point of questioning, what’s the point of trying to laboriously construct answers if, with a single click, we can mobilize all the intelligences in the world to bring them to us on a gleaming platter? Asking a chatbot to write a declaration of love, using the same tool to tell your dearest friend how much your mom’s death hurt you, will soon become commonplace; and we will no longer realize how much this cowardice debases our intention, how much it weakens our involvement.

We often think that if some children, some students don’t read, it’s because they have no curiosity, no desire to know. This is often wrong! It is on the contrary the frenzy, the eagerness, the precipitation which creates their panic and their blockage. To know before having learned, to know without taking the time to learn, that is what these children want. Any expectation, any delay imposed by a necessarily laborious apprenticeship paralyzes them and can put them in an often restrained and paralyzing anger. For the most part, these students, these children, are burning with the desire to know. They are willing to do a lot to get there, except one thing: make the effort to construct their own meaning from the choices made by another.

terrible frustration

Know, yes! Learn to build with precision, no! What annoys them to the point of exasperating them is being confronted with an activity in which information is no longer governed by the bonds of immediate evidence. An activity which, as the educational psychologist Serge Boimare so aptly puts it, imposes on them “a time of suspension, a time of stopping for even a minimal elaboration, because what there is to understand is not given immediately”.

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