Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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The value of an education that never ends

For more than 15 years, I have presided over my university’s Arrival Day, the time when families drop off their sons and daughters about to start their college career. Every year, some parents will take me aside to say they wish they were starting college, and that they would get a lot more out of the experience now because they have become better learners.

One mother laughingly called herself a “perpetual student”. She meant she pursued learning for the sheer joy of inquiry. But the term is usually one of gentle derision: someone who keeps taking more courses as a way to avoid holding down a job. In other words, a slacker, or a loser. I think that is wrong. We should begin to see this sort of lifelong learning as a way for individuals to gain not just knowledge, but liberation. In its ideal form, being a perpetual student is not an act of avoidance but rather a path to perpetual self-determination and freedom.

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