Tag Archives: Lifelong Learning

Most Americans considered Lifelong Learners

73% of adults consider themselves “lifelong learners” according to a recent Pew Research Center report on Lifelong Learning and Technology (March, 2016).

In America according to Pew, there are two types of lifelong learners: personal learners and professional learners.

Personal lifelong learners participate in activities that interest themselves including attending courses, workshops, and seminars for personal development.

Professional lifelong learners connect to opportunities for career advancement by taking courses for improving job skills and expertise.

This report also highlights a new and exciting trend in learning that will continue across generations. However, barriers to participating still persist related to educational level, household income, and technology access.

A looming question surrounding the emerging field of lifelong learning, is how can all people, despite academic, economic, or social status, actively learn at every stage of life?

Providers of learning must be prepared to offer courses and activities for more than personal and professional learners, and begin to shift Americans’ interests toward the lifelong betterment of communities, cities, and a larger “learnlong” society.


Lifelong learning as a family affair

Talking to people about “lifelong learning,” without ever providing real-life examples, has been something I’m often guilty of. Sure, lifelong learning describes how individuals continue developing personally and socially, but what actions would specifically count as lifelong learning?

Even better, how would others recognize you are involved in lifelong learning and participate with you?

A promising response and real example on behalf of lifelong learning come from Northeastern University’s president, Joseph E. Aoun, when he announced that through their “Lifetime Learning Membership,” parents and siblings can also go to college at a 25% discount (John O’Neill; news@Northeastern).

What is so inspiring for other colleges to consider is that President Aoun announced this at their university’s parent-and-family weekend, stated that “learning is a lifelong endeavor,” and matched his words-with-deeds by introducing this innovative, “first-of-its-kind,” lifelong learning program.

Lifelong learning-in-action may naturally exist outside the campuses of colleges and universities, yet this ground-breaking effort may provide another real way to do lifelong learning, not simply as an individual matter, but as a family affair.

Learning without end: So where are we going?

Let’s take a road trip: Imagine a group of your closest friends are traveling together, passing mile-after-mile, wandering for countless hours until one of your friends asks: “Where the hell are we going?”

Everyone nervously laughs, but no one has an answer, not even you.

Notice that in this story the name of the driver of this road trip is not yet mentioned (mainly because it was not written in the script). But you can probably assume it’s you or one of your friends, but the fact remains, there is no destination with no end in sight.

(My advanced apologies), since the intent of such a story is not to set the stage for some kind of twisted horror flick; although I admit there is a scariness about going to who knows where, without any destination.

Likewise, it may appear just as uneasy about saying learning without an end, where an activity would go on aimlessly without any clear purpose or stated objective.

Anyway, let’s get back to the story. This time, all of you actually know where you’re headed, and who’s the driver! In fact, you are going to the “big city,” driven and ushered by an experienced and exceptional tour guide who knows all the sites: the best restaurants, the coolest music, and the most popular attractions.

Suddenly, the road trip is not scary at all; it’s rather exciting, inspiring, passing place after place wondering about pointing at new things at every turn that your friend smartly asks: “Where on earth are we going?”

Everyone joyfully laughs, not knowing how to answer, still somehow not caring just the same.

So the point is, what if “Learning without end” was just like that?

Going to a “Learning City” that welcomes you with all it has to offer, accompanied by a tour guide (called facilitators in the adult learning practice) seeing together the endless trip as an intellectual journey throughout a lifetime, enjoying each attraction every stage along the way.

What is Higher Education? A Degree or Something Else

In public discourse, “higher education” is a term that differs from traditional schooling such as elementary, secondary, K-12 education. In America, higher education is often believed to be above and beyond traditional schooling into the academic domain of colleges and universities. Similar terms such as adult & continuing education, vocational training, and lifelong learning are often mentioned among educators, but most people don’t bother to define their differences. In the UK, other terms such as tertiary, permanent, further, and recurrent education add to its complexity.

The trouble in these discussions has less to do with the multiple terms of higher education, and more with the public sentiment. In other words, the way that multiple societies view higher education reveal some deep-seated opinions about the purposes of education and learning.  Opinions bounded by distinctions between required schooling versus optional education.

This leads to the question of whether the sole purpose of higher education is to acquire a college degree? A degree supposedly considered not required nor essential, but only an advancement or enhancement to a high-school diploma and required equivalents.  Also this degree is a form of credential that not only gets you a job, but also provides more opportunities to better careers.

However, current times challenge this typical mindset.  Examples show that a degree does not always transfer to getting a job, and additional credentials are no longer optional, but are seen as paramount to maintaining a career.

Lagging behind the times is the misrepresentation of the term higher education.  Given current circumstances, higher education is an outdated word alluding to a time when more education was an option of leisure. “Higher” still suggests a “lower,” just as “required schooling” implies “optional learning,” which colleges and universities used to originally represent.

In the next phase of this public discourse, education is no longer higher and learning is no longer optional.  Such a discussion invites a new mindset willing to remove linkages of trading credentials for better employment.  Instead, there is an acceptance that education and learning is a lifelong public pursuit where talents are discovered, ideas are supported, and vocations are created.

Transforming Passion into Profession

If you have read any of my blog postings before, I mention how pursuing one’s passions are mostly a good thing. Although passions endure with a healthy dose of sacrifice in pursuit of their ultimate end.

One of my passions has been writing to you about how I think lifelong learning and continuing education is not just a luxury but an essential component to growth regardless of age or year in school.

But I realize that my passion is limited and must continue to grow as well. It must change from just being convenient expressions into a disciplined position coupled with dedication. In other words, my passions must be taken seriously. They must transform into an enduring profession.

What do I mean? Take for example a professional singer. What is the difference between a professional singer and one who sings occasionally at parties and get-togethers? Both are likely to receive applause from their audiences, but an obvious difference would be that the professional receives money, while the occasional singer may not. But this kind of answer is too simple and short-sighted. Since both singers are passionate about singing, it would be very likely that in most cases both would sing for free.

What I think the larger difference is that the professional singer will sing even when she doesn’t feel like it. She’ll sing when she has a sore throat, haven’t slept, or experience life changes, such as death of a love one or fight with a close friend. The occasional singer would find these changes as legitimate reasons for not entertaining this time; the professional singer continues on.

This must be the same case concerning my passions for lifelong learning and education. Whatever form I may use to express them, either writing books, articles, or still blog postings; conducting speeches, workshops, or sessions, all must be carried out with an unwavering focus. Because I realize something else about the professional singer: She sings as a treat for us, but therapy for herself. Singing can make all that befalls her seem bearable, can make her gray day become a yellow one, and her saddened heart a source of energy underneath her songs.

Perhaps the real reason why I give the analogy of learning to singing, is because I can’t sing though I wish I could. Yet more important, the analogy provides me a score to keep writing, keep learning and of course, continue on.