Sometime around the middle of the 20th
century, people were getting the idea that "lifelong
learning" consisted of mostly cake decorating classes at the
local YMCA, pottery painting at the local "old folks homes,"
and spending the rest of your life trying to wade through
the library of Great Books. Lifelong learning was
optional, largely informal, potentially practical, but
classified as more of a hobby than a life-altering process.
That all changed very dramatically sometime
around the beginning of the new millennium. Social,
technological, political, and economic chaos totally revised
the meaning and significance of the term, "lifelong
learning." It was no longer an option or hobby. It was
no longer a something that was done to keep idle hands and
minds busy. Rather, it became a vital key for personal
survival in an unstable, unpredictable world of work.
Today it is often said that many of the
things college freshmen learn in their science and
technology courses will be obsolete when they graduate at
the end of their fourth or fifth years. That might be
stretching the point a bit, but it is nevertheless a very
Think of a few common occupations that required working
with computers, specialized tools, chemical products,
travel, organizing and servicing groups of people. That
sort of thing. Not PhD stuff. Consider ordinary working
people such as hairdressers, emergency medical
personnel, police, construction workers, and so on.
Every few months, something new comes along in these
jobs—a new product, a new
procedure, a new set of qualifications. Take some time
to think about this. If your mind is pliable and
suitable for the way things are today, you will soon
find more examples that you care to track.
If you are still unsure of the essential
truth of this matter, consider high school and college
graduates who are adequately educated for their chosen
profession or career path. Then visit them a decade or so
later. If they have not raised the standard of the
knowledge, they are either on welfare or working at an
entirely different (and less demanding) job, and probably
just "getting along," Clearly, "keeping up with the
times," is essential.
In the past, employers could keep their
people up to date by engaging them in seminars or training
sessions. And even more so today, a common "job benefit" is
full or shared tuition and time away from the job for
attending classes at at local colleges and universities or,
of course, online. But in so many occupations today, the
pace of change is so rapid and deep that employees would
have to spend a significant share of their workweek in
classes, rather than doing productive work for the company.
So obviously, there has to be a limit to the amount of time
anyone can spend taking formal courses.
The one-time major education experiences of
the past, namely public school and college, are no longer
sustainable. And neither are the up-to-date courses
available today. Your personal career security and growth,
and therefore the quality of your life, depend upon
continual learning. And it's a really big mistake to wait
around, expecting someone to pay for it.
There is one more angle that must be
considered here: Your "retirement" years. Globally, social
security systems for the elderly are inadequate at best and
generally non-existent. In the USA, the generation reaching
retirement age about the time of the Great Recession
(2007-09) found the advice of their retirement planners to
be worse than worthless. Now we are hearing nothing more
than a warmed-over version of "real estate is one really
certain investment for your future." Count on this for
your retirement: You will have no social security and can't
possibly accumulate enough wealth to play mahjong or golf
every day with your buddies, travel the world, and maintain
a reasonably healthy lifestyle for the 30-plus years of your
"retirement." I seriously doubt you will find many
help-wanted ads 80-year-olds, even in the mid-21st century.
You are going to have to fend for yourself when corporate
employment is no longer feasible or possible. You are
going to be on your own, and you have to make it work.
Enter: Learning to learn, and lifelong learning.
Learning to Learn
success of a lifelong learning program, or healthy habit,
depends on the quality of learning. Knowing how to learn is
actually more critical that the things to be learned. (This
is because if you know how to learn, you can learn anything
you need or want to know, and so on ...). The first problem
with this whole idea is that so many people, even some
"well-educated" people, don't really know how to learn.
Worse yet, many don't know that they don't know how to
No one is really to blame for an
almost-total lack of understanding about personal learning
processes. Our systems of education, worldwide, exercise a
centuries-old protocol for packaging and presenting
knowledge. It boils down to this: "We teach; You learn" One
of the natural corollaries is: "You do well, and we
give you a cookie; You do poorly, and we throw you under the
|The message shines
through quite clearly, from preschool through
undergraduate college. (The game begins to change at
the graduate school level, where academic
competence, creativity, and higher levels of
learning become the norm).
All of this to say that
Free-Ed.Net takes on the difficult task of
encouraging users how to think and learn on their
own. Like so many mysteries of life, the issue isn't
inherently complicated and difficult to understand,
but simply ... well, different from the ordinary.
Anything that is out of the ordinary might be called
extraordinary. The stuff we encourage you to
discover for yourself is, indeed, extraordinary.
Knowing how to learn, and exercising that knowledge
as though your life depended on it, is one of the
Just for the Record
I have no intention of demonizing
teachers and school systems. There are worlds of
teachers who care for their students and find ways
to illuminate standards and principles for
successful living in a complex world. All this aside
from and beyond the scope of the formal curriculum.
traditional course or study program is packaged in such a
manner as to emphasize the content and make the journey as
simple and as possible. The student's objective is to absorb
the content as effectively as possible and move along to the
next course of study. It is risky for a student to stray
from the prescribed path in pursuit of lively little bits of
knowledge and questions that aren't included in the
syllabus; regressing to the days of our infancy when we were
free to pursue any thought or notion with great
concentration and passion ... and at an incredibly high rate