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
3. R.M.S. Titanic
4. Birds of North America
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 Amazon.com (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?