Monday, September 14, 2015

In a previous post I mentioned "LifeLong Learning" (LLL), but only in passing. Now I will go into more detail.

In the academic literature, LLL is described as a concept with multiple definitions. I prefer to focus on 2 of the definitions: learning throughout one's life and outside of a school building. When I first read about LLL, I thought to myself "That's what we need to adopt in the USA." Learning, especially over the lifespan, is not valued in the USA.  Americans focus on just getting through school to obtain a job as adults, and try to get into "good schools" along the way for a "better" (i.e. higher paying) future job. Instead of learning, money and entertainment are valued with popular media focusing on politics (money), business (money), sports (money and entertainment), and TV/movies (entertainment). Americans indicate how much they value certain occupations via salary levels. For example: professional athletes, actors, business leaders, and medical doctors receive high salaries. On the other hand, according to the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, teachers are not even listed in the top 20 highest-paying occupations. Yet, they are responsible for formally educating each generation of children, who become the adult athletes, actors, business leaders, and medical doctors. I purposely used the word "value" in 2 ways: to suggest the level of importance Americans assign to different occupations and the monetary worth placed on these occupations.

Granted, learning is about gaining knowledge and skills to use in practical ways, such as in school and on a job. However, learning can help you take care of yourself and others. Learning may appear threatening because new or other information may counter your past learning. On the other hand, it can also free you from old assumptions and habits. It can show you an alternative way of looking at a topic and then you can choose to follow it or not. I've learned a lot from professors and books but also through listening and observing outside the classroom. Many tools exist to help students earn but I think learning itself can be seen as a tool for improving one's life and the lives of others.

About terminology, I prefer the term "learner" over "student" because the former suggests action whereas the latter suggests passivity. Actually, instead of "learner" what about "explorer"? For someone who is learning something for the first time, they really are exploring something. Also "explorer" suggests curiosity, risk, and adventure.

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