The case for lifelong learning
My grandfather, the late Captain Julius Symonette, was a sea captain all his life. He operated the mail boat between Nassau and North Eleuthera for decades; his name was synonymous with integrity and service. When he retired, in his early 80’s, his life was dominated by reading. He read as many books as the local library could provide. My love for reading came through him. Some years ago, a good friend of mine asked me a personal question, with a certain amount of attitude attached, “Are you going to ever stop taking courses and spending money on more and more books?” He followed that up with another question, “Will you still be taking courses and classes when you reach 90?” My answer was a simple three words, “I hope so!” We cannot grow and mature in our inward lives without a corresponding outward growth and development as well.
“Lifelong learning” means simply that! At every phase of our lives, we continue to learn. A simple and amusing example of this is when parents and grandparents call their five-year-olds to help them sort out their cell phones. I fall into this category, and can often be observed handing my Samsung over to a younger person to get a particular app reinstalled on my phone after I uninstalled it without knowing what I had done. We cannot depend on what we were taught 20 years ago to properly equip us for the 21st century Bahamas or the 21st century world.
Sadly, I know of many people, all of them smart individuals, who leave high school, college or university, pack up their books and begin their careers without ever taking another course, reading other books, carrying out any significant research or doing anything tangible to aid in their growth and development. Even people who work out daily at the gym sometimes forget to attach the same importance to intellectual growth and personal development. We may have a good body, financial wealth or positional power, but many times the deficits of emotional and intellectual intelligence leave a lot to be desired.
I have observed that, in our country – especially in our churches and religious establishments, and in some private enterprises – there seems to be an unhealthy stance about change and rethinking systems that may have served us in the past but have now lost traction for effectiveness in 2018. We continue to do things the same way we have for decades without looking at what we are doing or researching more efficient applications that will produce better results. It is sad that sometimes institutions are more willing to remain ineffective and become irrelevant than learn new methodologies that hold possibilities for radical change in their culture. This is also true for our personal lives.
Why then, should you commit to lifelong learning?
It is never too late to start! One of my most loved experiences in my teaching career was having an 86-year-old gentleman in my theology class. He read his textbook and class notes with a magnifying glass, and he used all the pages in an exercise book just to write his exam, but he did it! And, he passed the course. Everyone in the class loved him and offered help whenever he needed it. You are never too old, and it’s never too late.
The benefits are personal. You have to be motivated to learn and develop, because you want to; it is a deliberate and voluntary act. Learning can improve the quality of our lives and can boost our confidence and self-esteem. Many adults who have taken courses have found that the new information and growth for them had positive benefits. One student shared that her life had changed, especially in her adaptability to change. Others testify that they have a more satisfying personal life.
Growth is virtually guaranteed. I believe that one of the most important benefits of lifelong learning is that we need our personal ideas and beliefs to be challenged in safe environments where we can risk letting go of a long-held belief that no longer serves us well. We may be repeating behaviors that no longer make sense to us, and until we can grow a little bit, explore who we are becoming and place ourselves in an emotionally safe place where we can challenge the many practices that sabotage our lives, we will continue to live defeated lives.
I am certainly a lifelong learner, and I hope if you did not identify yourself as a lifelong learner when you began to read this column, you will now join me in my pursuit of lifelong learning by becoming one now.
Find out more about the Queen’s College Centre for Further Education on Facebook or at www.qchenceforth.com.
• Dr. Reginald W. Eldon is the dean for the Queen’s College Centre for Further Education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.