Sunday, March 23, 2014

And The Greatest Of These Is Love...Of Learning

One of the objectives that was a Big Deal when I was still formally In Education was helping our students to become Lifelong Learners. At first glance, that looks sort of at odds with a more tangible goal, which is always to get them to graduate in four years. Becoming a Lifelong Learner, however, means to instill into each thriving mind that Love Of Learning--so much so that said mind wants to go on learning new things forever and forever.

I am a Lifelong Learner, but my education didn't make me that way. It's not that I didn't have excellent teachers all along the way; I did. Part of my quest for learning has to do with reading, and the other part has to do with an all-consuming Need To Know that completely commandeers my conscious mind and compels me to find out every single detail, fact, and available piece of information about whatever it is that currently interests me.

My lifelong learning has led me to, at various stages of my life, read deeply in, research the hell out of, and generally beat up the following topics, in no especial order:

1.  Jack the Ripper
2.  Cows
3.  R.M.S. Titanic
4.  Birds of North America
5.  Redwoods
6.  Oscar Wilde
7.  The Battle of Gettysburg
8.  Mary Lincoln
9.  Abraham Lincoln (1840-1865)
10. Human anatomy
11. John Keats
12. Emily Dickinson
13. The Black Donnellys
14. Daniel Day-Lewis

There are others, but I don't want to start freaking people out unnecessarily. I'm not counting the stuff I started to research because I had to teach it, either, like Walt Whitman. I was already deep into Miss Emily before she became part of my regular curriculum.

The Interwebs make this so very, very easy. If I hear about something on NPR, I can research it immediately on the Interwebs. I can then go on (my boyfriend!) and select books which my boyfriend will then send directly to my front porch in a few days or so. I can even get on Netflix and search for any documentaries on the topic. The amount of information available to me at my fingertips is almost overwhelming. There is so much that I can wallow in information: facts, details, witness accounts, photographs, recordings, testimony, you name it. For information addicts like me, it is heaven.

The problem with making Lifelong Learning an educational goal or objective is that it's impossible to achieve if you have a student with absolutely no natural curiosity. Or a student who doesn't/won't read. Or someone who doesn't care about anything but himself and his (insert trivial object here: cellphone, motorcycle, designer something).

I just this minute learned that someone from Maryland discovered what he thinks might be pictures of President Lincoln's funeral procession passing by on a New York City street. The photo, published on a Flickr site, is from the National Archives. Here's a link.  I'll be looking closely at it as soon as I hit "Publish" on this post.  Then, I'll probably click another link, then another, then another.  And pretty soon, I'll be looking at all kinds of other things and learning about them, too.

Being a Lifelong Learner is a gift.  Did you receive it?  What wonderful, interesting things have you learned about?


  1. Yes, I am a life-long learner, in fact I help run a program out here in Santa Fe. But I have been reading all my life and have become someone who knows a little about a lot of things.

  2. Yep. Your list looks a little bit like mine, although mine includes topics like orthodox Judaism, (this actually resulted from an obsession with reading everything written by Isaac Bashevis Singer,) Pietism, and The British Raj. When I was small and we lived overseas, my favorite thing to do was to read the encyclopedia (I am writing this because I trust you will understand, not laugh.) Like you, I went through a Titanic phase, spurred on by an illustration in a National Geographic volume in my parents' library entitled, "Men, Ships, and the Sea." As you say, though, it's much easier now that we have Netflix and Amazon.

  3. In spades I have this "disease". I love Wikipedia for this exact reason. Even if the article on (fill in the blank) doesn't have all the information I want, it is full if links to other things and places that will.

    Obsessively read and researched things on my list:

    -- Horses (duh...)
    -- Sherlock Holmes and his Victorian London
    -- Serial killers/murders/true crime
    -- Watergate
    -- Biographies (currently reading about J. Edgar Hoover by Curt Gentry, who co-wrote Helter Skelter)
    -- English "drawing room" murder mystery fiction
    -- Queen Elizabeth I and all things Elizbethan
    -- Ancient Egypt (pre-1500 BC)
    -- Medical reality shows (I LOVE Monsters Inside Me--how can you not?)

    In reality, there is almost no uninteresting subject if the information is well-written or told in an enthusiastic fashion. At the end of the day, you can never have too much information.

  4. Hoo boy. Residential flood vent installation. Marjoe Gortner. Flea medication dose division. Dowager empresses of China.

    'Nuff said.

  5. rockygrace--Hi there! Thanks for joining in. That's a pretty broad spectrum there, from Handyman to Chinese nobility and the stuff in between. Love it. Zipped over to your blog and saw Ponyboy sprawled out. I can't get enough of orange marmies.

    LaFF--After I read "Helter Skelter" in high school, I was really intrigued and fascinated. That was in the mid-seventies, so no Interwebs for me. I had to dig around libraries and stuff.

    Tapeworms were another fascination, very briefly. So SO gross--talk about a Monster Inside You! I'm off to Google that show, BTW. I'm not familiar. If it sounds intriguing, I hope Netflix has it.

    MsCaroline--You know, we had a set of encyclopedias my entire life at home, a fact I did not know until I was probably in junior high school. No one ever told me! They were even in a bookcase upstairs in our room (the three of us girls), but I had no idea what they were, and to me, they were just a bunch of boring, same-sized, oxblood-coloured books that I assumed belonged to my father or something. Had I known what they were, I would have read them voraciously.

    I always assumed that, if I wasn't told something, it was none of my business. In a family of four kids, with a tendency to burrow in a book, I kind of operated on a need-to-know basis much of the time.

    phoebes in sf--According to the conventional wisdom of most of my students in the past 30 years, that qualifies you to be an English teacher!

    Is your program specifically a lifelong learners program? How wonderful. I can't imagine how one would run such a program, or even how it would be structured. But I love it.

  6. Here's our website

    Unfortunately our Spring semester is almost over and a lot of our curriculum has been taken off the website.

  7. I'm convinced that being a lifelong learner is something that I was destined to be because it is just in my nature. I couldn't wait to start school so I could learn to read and "find out about stuff." My parents definitely encouraged and nourished the thirst for knowledge, so I was lucky. As kids, we went to the public library every Saturday morning. I couldn't wait to get there and bring back another stack of books. Later in life, when I could afford it, I bought a set of the Encyclopædia Britannica. That was my "google" for many years, and there were always 3 or 4 volumes piled onto the coffee table at any given time because... when you read one article, it invariably spurs you on to go and read more about something that was mentioned in the first one. When Internet came along, it was like a dream come true.

    What have I learned about? So many things that I cannot remember a lot of them in depth, lol. But the stuff I really like, I have read tons on: cooking, photography, the Spanish language. Black and white photography became a passion. A friend helped me buy a really good second-hand enlarger, and I set up my little studio apartment so it could convert into a dark room. I can still remember the first time I sat in my pitch black bathroom unwinding a roll of film and sweating buckets when I couldn't get it onto the spool properly. I still have negatives and contact prints from back then. Not much use in the digital age, although I know it is possible to convert them to digital format. Something else to investigate...

  8. phoebe--thanks for the link. what a great program!

    Ortizzle-I love the look of B&W photography. It's so much more nuanced. The shadows and lines are better, and the look of it, even now, is much more refined. I take awful pictures. I envy you.

    My mom took us to the library every week, too, and the librarian lifted the book limit for me. Like you, I hauled a ton of books out of there each week. And all of them were wonderful.

  9. Anonymous5:29 PM

    two of my latest interests are scurvy and bubonic plague. I will spare you the rest of that list.

  10. Mary G--(I am assuming)--I did some reading up on the Plague at one point. So interesting. The symptoms are pretty icky, though.


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