Learning is what keeps society advancing in thoughtful ways. Learning is what keeps leaders at the top of their game, activating a growth spirit in many others. Learning is what keeps individuals at the forefront of their careers. Learning is what keeps families engaged in fruitful conversations and activities.
Many seem to understand the value of learning. Learning takes effort, yet we should not necessarily reward the effort. Rewarding the learning process may bear more productive, positive learning.
Learning is important, yet what happens if learning stopped? Some may argue that the stage is being set for just this. In a Chicago Tribune column, Victor Davis Hanson, a noted historian and social critic, said:
“Students, if they even graduate (about four in 10 do not, even after six years), are not ‘universally’ educated. Instead, they are the least prepared yet most politicized graduates in memory. Arrogance and ignorance are a bad combination.”
In some ways, society seems more strident today than a few decades ago. Frustration is high, yet we are in a constant stalemate against problems and challenges that will not disappear just by ignoring them. Stalemate is a lack of learning. Arguing with no resolution turns uncivil and stunts growth.
By negotiating and solving problems, we learn about solutions, human dynamics, and impact. Being in a constant state of non-resolution is being in a rut, meaning we do not learn or advance. We need to return to learning by meeting in the collaborative middle to solve problems and advance society in a positively human way.
If we cannot return to learning, solving, and advancing, what will happen?
What if learning stopped?
The answers to this question may be real. If learning stopped, we may experience many of the following:
We would build walls for false protection instead of embracing strength of diversity.
We would be self-interested in most things instead focusing on the greater good.
We would put others down instead of lifting others up.
Our brains would stop developing instead of performing at a higher level.
We would become fearful of what we don’t know instead of exploring to understand.
We would bulldoze others who don’t fit instead of developing our empathetic capacity.
We would become enamored with the superficial rather than challenging for greater substance.
We would segregate instead of integrate.
We would give up freedom instead of ensuring freedom.
Our schools would focus more on standardization rather than inquiry and essay.
Our language may become more strident and colorful while our thinking turns grey and narrow.
Our language becomes more divisive rather than inclusive.
We would solve problems for a few rather than the most.
We move toward what incites rather than what excites the best in us.
We blame rather than build.
We may see signs today of what happens when learning stops.
An individual responsibility is to continue our learning process every day and encourage others to do the same.
We are entering a season of graduation. New faces enter new careers. New minds enter our communities. Whether a university succeeded may be determined by what the new graduates do with their learning process. Do they continue to learn and grow? Do they hold steady in what they learn?
Holding status quo in what we learn is stopping at a decline with gravity pulling us down. Status quo is really going backwards unless we continuously activate our learning minds and find better solutions to real problems.
A call to always keep learning is not focused just on Millennials or Generation Z. Learning is a call for all generations to engage their minds and explore ideas and discover solutions that lift us all up to a better level of society.
My fear is we are stereotyping and segmenting society to such a degree that we are building walls to stunt learning. We need to rise up and promote a learning society again.
If learning stops, we will all fail.
Photo: What’s Up Civilians?, Portland, Oregon, All Rights Reserved, Jon Mertz
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What If Learning Stopped
Another excellent post Jon!
I’m actually getting ready to head back over to the lab today to finish my last day learning the arteries and veins on the cadavers before my next exam on Tuesday! : ) Instructors close the lab all up to prepare for exams tomorrow and it will be under lock and key until our exam time.
I love this post and wholeheartedly agree.
You said, ‘An individual responsibility is to continue our learning process every day and encourage others to do the same.’
This is a topic near and dear to my heart and one that I’ve touched on here and there in my own blog posts and comments to blog posts in the past. Once again, a couple of scenes from a favorite movie comes to mind and can do a much better job of providing examples to some of the obstacles to learning the we face here in America. Even among the so-called ‘educated’…including myself. (since I’m now back in school)
In the movie, Good Will Hunting, there’s a scene in a Harvard bar where Matt Damon comes to the aid of his rather ‘uneducated’ but streetwise buddy when a Harvard student intentionally tries to embarrass him in front of some girls.
Although this is a movie, it dramatically reveals the heart of the problem of our current educational system as a whole. ‘Educated’ doesn’t mean we’ve learned anything, nor does it make us wise. We can have college and university degrees but if all a college or university does is turn students into sponges that soak up facts…that tell people what to think and what to say….people don’t learn anything at all. Nor have they learned how to learn.
In this case, the Harvard student is only ‘smart’ in the sense that he can recite and plagiarize what he is learning from one quarter to the next. Although Matt Damon is able to ‘school’ him, he can only do so because he has a photographic memory! In other scenes when he is with Robin Williams, this is another facet to his own personal learning problem and Robin helps expose this to him in ways that really help him and teach him so that he doesn’t use his own brilliant mind to protect himself and hide from the world.
In another scene, we can see Matt Damon once again, in his own brilliantly sarcastic way, use his gift and intelligence to outwit the NSA who is trying to recruit him.
Please excuse language in this scene. Apart from the language, it is a well thought out piece of ‘script’. Brilliant actually. Although this was just a movie, and this scene is not ‘real’, it exposes more pieces of the puzzle when it comes to education in America. Things like….
~The nature and purpose of our work. Who does it ultimately serve? A select few or the majority? Does it harm or does it benefit the majority?
~Does making a lot of money matter if you are hurting others? Are you more successful because you make more money than those who make a conscious choice to not select occupations that might bring them wealth but might be harming people? Who is really the ‘true’ success?
~Education should also help teach people how to see the end in mind from the beginning, rather than just the superficial means to end… such as money popularity as a barometer of success. What about people who put their families and children above their own careers and climbing the corporate ladder?
~Does abandoning your family in order to make a lot of money truly successful? Of is learning to live within our means so we can still be present with our families of more value?
~What do we define as true success?
Even the porn industry can be considered ‘successful’ because it’s an industry that makes a lot of money.
Educated? Learned? Successful?
That all depends on how we measure those terms. And ultimately, it measures what we value…both individually and collectively.
Thanks again for another thought-provoking post Jon.
Thank you for your insight and added perspective. The questions you outline are key ones to answer as we engage in our learning process in both career, life, and daily activities and pursuits. By answering each, we learn more about ourselves and the purpose of what we are about to do.
Grateful for your key insights,
Jon, I look at my children and their homework and I share your worry. “Read for 15 minutes.” I suggest to my child that they should read as long as they enjoy the story but they argue – the teacher said 15 minutes. Math is demonstrating memorization instead of application and I worry. I worry that until my children are inspired to learn and embrace it, they are doing what they need to do but not doing what we, as a society, need them to do – to look beyond where we are today and create a better tomorrow.
Alli, We seem to building things into our system that will not advance us later on in life and as a society. We need to begin to understand this, change the system, and, in the meantime, have individuals step up and change what they can, just like you are. Thank you! Jon
Jon, you may have just described the state of American society.
Well, it has been weighing on me, Glynn. We need to ignite a learning change in our approach. Jon