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