On The Learning Game, By Ana Lorena Fábrega


When Amazon was still taking pre-orders for the book, we published a preview. We think it useful to restate some of the points we made.


The author is a former teacher who had become disillusioned with the school system and committed herself to work on a better way “to prepare younger generations for the game of life…”

In this book Fábrega sets out to answer questions about:

How the ‘game of school’ can be transformed into the ‘game of learning’.

How life-long learning can be made sustainable.

How to get back to what makes children excited about learning.

How to prepare children with the tools for success in learning as well as in ‘the game of life’.

In The Learning Game, the author provides a collection of her ‘work, lessons, and findings’.  “It’s about how to challenge things we’ve all taken for granted, from the roots of our education system to the modern school curriculum.”

One key aim of the book is to arm the readers with ‘practical tools to design a new approach to learning’.

Fábrega is a key player in the future-focused education movement that Elon Musk inspired, being the Chief Evangelist for Synthesis School, one of the most exciting components of this movement. Our website has published numerous articles on the different components of this movement, many of which have become the most popular attractions on our website.

Elon Musk

Part 1: An Insightful Account of the Problems with the Traditional Education System


Ana starts her book by looking at the failings of traditional education. Many people have done this before, but she brings a unique personal touch to the discussion. We follow her as a teacher, get an insider peek into how she tried to make a difference but came to the realization that school is not really about education but a game that students learn to play in order to survive it. She called it an ‘imitation’ of learning (p.2), and we cannot agree with her more. She, as her book informs us, was a master at playing this game when she was a student! In addition, she shares with the reader the enlightening critique of the education system by John Taylor Gatto, former New York Teacher of the Year. In this post we look at how she and Gatto go to the heart of the matter. 


“...you succeed by pleasing your teachers, getting good grades, and advancing to the next grade. You win if you follow the rules of order, obedience and compliance. Sit up. Be quiet. Pretend to pay attention. Raise your hand to speak. Do as you are told. Don’t question things. Follow a bell schedule. Fill out worksheets.” (p.2).

She had her own ‘learning game’ which happened outside the classroom.

She didn’t like school, but decided to become a teacher.

As a teacher Ana realized that all students were playing the game of school - that it was universal.

She added more points about the game of school: “imitating their teachers instead of thinking for themselves, losing points for mistakes instead of learning from them,...and waiting for instructions instead of figuring things out.” (p.3) 

She tried a different approach as a teacher. It did not work for long. Her students played the game of learning, but after moving to the next grade, they fell back into the game of school.


Her critique of the system is incisive: “How can teachers cultivate in students a love for learning that lasts forever, when they are forced to teach a one-size-fits -all curriculum that rewards grades and standards over creativity and choice?” (p.5)


In her second chapter she digs into the origins and evolution of the traditional education system. She traces traditional schooling to its Prussian origins. Education was first used as a mask for government indoctrination. Its goal was to raise a loyal army that would win wars. After WWII, the focus shifted to educating managers for corporations and factories. School became an assembly line. After that, the US led the next phase in the development of education, essentially standardization. She points out how the system failed in the US, with a bunch of statistics that bear out her argument. “ As we’ve seen, the history of education has led to a system of learning that prioritizes state and government needs instead of individual learning.” (p.30). The problem is systemic, “Teachers … aren’t to blame. But the incentives of school nudge them in the wrong direction. No matter how hard they resist, the system takes its toll and leads them toward counterproductive habits.” (p.23).


Through her book she is attempting to answer 4 questions:

1. How can we transform the game of school into the game of learning?

2. How do we make learning sustainable through childhood and into adulthood?

3. How can we go back to the root of what makes kids excited to learn?

4. How can we arm kids with the tools they need to succeed in the game of learning - and the game of life? (p.6)


The Learning Game, is a treatise against traditional schooling as it no longer meets the needs of our kids today (p.6). What does she propose? We will get to that in a later post.



Here is the link to The Learning Game on Amazon.