Public school districts often proclaim a goal of making life-long learners, but then the schools turn around and institute practices that produce the opposite effect. There is so much focus on the drudgery of test preparation that teachers and students alike come to hate the process and associate all learning with it. This distaste for education carries with them beyond the school room because even in adult education situations, the drive is for gaining skills and increasing competence in a given area (Su, 2011).
The focus on building skills in isolation runs contrary to the theory proposed by Heidegger. As described by Su (2011), Dewey was only partially correct that experiential learning was by far the most effective. According to the article, Dewey’s error was focusing on knowledge as an entity of its own rather than Heidegger’s suggestion that all significant learning would seek to develop the entire individual so that learning through thoughts, feelings, and actions would become self-perpetuating (Su, 2011).
I do perceive myself as a lifelong learner. Even when I am not engaged in required or voluntary formal education, I am perpetually learning things either through personal study, reflection, or interaction with others. Situations are constantly changing, and I encounter new people daily. These things cause me to reconsider what I thought I understood and learning occurs.
As I approach or pass the halfway mark in the average human lifespan, I look toward the future and see myself continuing to learn and grow in regards to relationships with others and acquiring actual knowledge. In contrast to some of the theories we have studied in this course, I do think there is actual value in gaining information just for the sake of personal interest. Learning just to solve a problem or in some effort to improve upon my concept of self is fine, but that should not preclude learning because I find something interesting.
I have in the past held the common notion that elderly folk tend to be less mentally capable. This impression came from examples in my family of various grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles who became mentally and physically feeble as they aged. Interaction with people outside my immediate family, however, introduced me to elderly folk who were no less spry and more mentally alert than people half their age. The elderly are no less individuals than younger people are, and commonly held assumptions may result in treating people as invalids when they are capable of full participation.
As I go on into teaching adults, the importance of leaving behind the assumptions about age will be important to making sure all students can learn.
Su, Y. H. (2011). Lifelong learning as being: The Heideggerian perspective. Adult Education Quarterly: A Journal of Research and Theory, 61(1), 57–72. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Academic Search Complete database.