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One Kid’s Story of Learning Through Motorcycle Maintenance

Image from The New York Times

Learning Through Doing

The quarantine that has impacted all of us is perhaps hardest on children. Gone is the tired monotony of school classes and in their place are zoom calls and disengaged learning environments. David McGlynn, a professor of English at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, learned a valuable lesson: middle schoolers are pretty awesome, and so are motorcycles. 

McGlynn’s son (Hayden) watched the Marvel movies early in quarantine and identified with Tony Stark. “The way he saw it, the only substantive difference between his life and that of Tony Stark — Robert Downey Jr.’s character in “Iron Man” — was an access to resources,” McGlynn wrote in a New York Times article.

This didn’t deter his son who wanted to work on things and build things so he could “unlock his own genius.” He started out with the idea of restoring a car, but it didn’t sound like there was a good place to the car to sit, and the McGlynn’s wife didn’t want a junker car sitting outside the house.

So, McGlynn and Hyden found an old beater scooter he could rebuild. Hayden took to YouTube to learn everything he could to get the bike going. 

After weeks of hard work on the bike, he still couldn’t get it running, but a friend of McGlynn’s had another non-running scooter he gifted to Hayden (he wanted it out of his home), and through more hard work and some swapping of parts between the two bikes, Hayden got the little scooter to run. 

This story is an inspiring one, and it makes me want to re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. McGlynn makes that connection well in his article, and notes, that just as Pirsig said in his book, the bike unleashed his son’s “ferocious force” for learning.

I’ll call this a win for two wheels, a win for learning, and a win for Hayden. Enjoy life on two, wheels, bud.