Friday, June 3, 2011


A while ago, somebody asked whether education is a right or a privilege. (I can't remember who it was: I can't find the piece among the blogs of the "usual suspects"; perhaps someone could remind me.)

Education may be a privilege, but learning is essential. It happens without formal education. It happens all the time. The trick (so to speak) is to pay attention while it's happening. Otherwise, all the formal education in the world won't help us.

Robert Fulghum understands that, and made it plain in in the first essay of his book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. We learn from the world around us, other people around us, about sharing and caring, and other important stuff. And, in a very real sense, we learn how to learn, if we pay attention. 

One of the major problems is that we can become so insulated from the world that we quit learning, and don't adjust to the new life lessons which we meet. The result is our being obviously out of touch with the world. We get so focused on one thing, we miss the messages in the rest of life. Politicians, with some justification, are often accused of being out of touch. They get so wrapped up in their careers, and what the party says, that they start missing real contact, and real wisdom, offered to them by ordinary people.

I say this because our grandchildren are coming for a sleep-over tomorrow night. They teach me lots of important things, which I would never learn in a classroom (unless by chance).

I believe formal education is important. That's why I have two and a half university degrees. But the most important lessons usually come while we're doing something else. 

Learning happens; education is optional.


Also brought to you by the letter L:
• lively
• likely
• lucid
• lugubrious
• left

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: L for leather.


Natalie said...

So true, Rob! I loved that book.
Life is ALL about learning.I suspect that each generation is a little smarter than the one before, so that we always learn from the younguns.xx

Sylvia Ney said...

Great post - very well put!

Helen said...

A brand new world of learning opened when my grandchildren appeared on the scene. They are now 14 and 18 .... my education continues, the best kind of continuing education!!!

Rosaria Williams said...

Well put, Bear!
And yes, the youngsters continue to teach us about the world, the one we miss because in our later years we become insulated, guarded.

potsoc said...

L must also stand for women (elles), forgive my bilingual pun.

Frances said...

Bear, I know that lots of education will be in the air around your place this weekend.

Some folks think that they reach a point when they "know about that." Danger, danger. It might offer them a comfort zone, but perhaps not, because comfort zones can be challenged. If that person ventures out of said comfort zone.

So much of our lifetimes are given to weaving in and out of comfort zones, and dangerous, perhaps rewarding zones of the unknown. We don't need a passport or visa to travel beyond our comfort zones. Some of us travel there without volunteering for the journey.

It's great to read you posts and see the comments that arrive here.


The Blog Fodder said...

I know a little bit about everything and not much about anything. Learning about everything has been my life's hobby and I will have to outlive Methuselah to even touch the edges of learning.
Mark Twain said I never let schooling interfere with my education. Schooling ought to be about learning to learn. Establishing a foundation of knowledge and learning how to build on it. Too many think that schooling is just to learn how to make a living instead of how to live. Took me too many years to learn that.

ain't for city gals said...

Great post! So much out there to learn if we keep our eyes open

About Last Weekend said...

Interesting. I think in New Zealand education is a right and here in the US sometimes its viewed as a privilege available only to the more monied. I have two degrees and a journalism diploma but can't remember a jolly thing about my "education" but it was the best time of my life. Learning started once I got a job and then had kids and mixed with all sorts of people. Funnily enough I could never go back to university, but love reading others' thoughts.

Rob-bear said...

Sorry, friends, to be a little slow in replying.

® Natalie: Life IS about learning. But I'm not sure that every generation gets smarter. We can learn from the younguns, but they may not be prepared to listen to us, and thus avoid some real pain. I think the process is a two-way street.

® Thanks for the visit, Sylvia, and the supportive comment.

® Helen: Great education, indeed. Especially with your brand new high school grad!

® rosaria: We are working hard to stay involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. Being isolated is not a good thing!

® potsoc: J'aime votre calembour. Good puns are always fun! In any language.

Rob-bear said...

® Frances: "If you have all the answers, you haven't asked all the questions." And sometimes our comfort zone is, indeed, challenged, as we weave through our lives. Thanks.

® Better is Possible: Thanks for visiting, and sharing a thought. I like having additional Canadian presence.

® Blog Fodder: Learning how to learn is essential. The arts of observation, comparison, and independent thinking (for example) are really important. Likewise knowing how to do research.

® ain't for city girls: Thanks. Keeping our eyes and ears open is essential. So, too, keeping our mouths closed, at least sometimes.

® ALW: Your "real" education began when you got a job, and had kids, and started meeting new people. Sounds right to me. Two degrees and a journalism diploma — same route as the Bear. Only, I did go back to university, for a while.