Lifelong Learning

A central thread throughout my twenty-year-old life thus far has been education. I consider myself a lifelong learner, while I plan to enter the professional field of teaching someday soon. Upon reading our three course epigraphs, it is difficult for me not to consider these quotations within the realm of education. More specifically, our course epigraphs get me to thinkING about education as a fluid, ongoing process. There is potential to learn from virtually every experience in our everyday lives, no matter your amount of knowledge. A goal I believe is important for myself is considering new things I learn in this class—as well as in my everyday life—as continuous and ever changing. I seek to have a fluid and ongoing education, even when I am not a “student.”

A course epigraph that especially speaks to me is the quotation by Octavia Butler, from her novel Imago. Butler writes “I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” While it may be obvious how I could relate this to the concept of lifelong learning—seeing the seed as a small nugget of knowledge implanted in a student which they must nourish to grow—there are many other ways in which this quotation can relate to the fluidity and continuity of education. One piece of this quote that strikes me in particular is the phrase, “I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” The concept that a seed that was once possessed by its “owner” (the narrator) and is now creating its own independent existence relates to a teacher-student relationship that is so important to me. While some may see a teacher’s sole purpose as imparting knowledge on their students in order to fulfill a requirement (test, degree, etc.), I believe that a teacher’s true purpose is to give a student the craving to learn and obtain even more knowledge. Therefore, a teacher strives to make their student independent beings with their own desire to learn and grow as a person and learner. 

In Butler’s Dawn, Lilith is “awakened” into a very unfamiliar situation in which she is forced to navigate. Something about this novel that strikes me in particular—especially in accordance with lifelong learning—is the theme of both an ending and a beginning simultaneously. Lilith is awakened for a longer period of time in the beginning of the novel and is presented with the knowledge that the world as she once knew it has been destroyed. Although Lilith is scared when she obtains this knowledge of where she is and why, she seems more curious to understand this new world she has entered than afraid of it. Upon her first encounter with the extraterrestrial beings on the “ship” where she finds herself, Lilith asks a multitude of questions. She asks, “Who are you”, “and what am I?”, “are you male or female?”, among many other questions to get a better understanding of her surroundings and the creatures within them (Butler 12-13). However, Lilith never really seems to display a distinct fear. While being afraid in this situation would be entirely understandable, Lilith seeks to understand the Oankali more than anything. In fact, Lilith even tries to learn the Oankali language to better communicate with them. She asks the Ooloi Nikanj if she could have writing materials to “make [her] own records to help [her] learn [their] language” (Butler 62). Lilith’s desire to learn is stronger than her fear; this is intriguing because while it would have been easy—and understandable—for Lilith to have shut down and be overwhelmed by panic and anxiety upon finding herself in this post-apocalyptic world, she accepts that this is her position and tries to make the best of it through education. I think that this acceptance and willingness to learn is crucial to the concept of continuous learning because people must understand that it is impossible to anticipate every event in life. However, to overcome these unanticipated obstacles and events, it is necessary to have a willingness and desire to learn. 

However, there is a course epigraph that seems to work against this idea of continuity of education. Derived from Butler’s Dawn, the quotation “Learn and run!” seems to discourage a continuous learning process. Instead, it seems as though Butler is suggesting that readers obtain some knowledge quickly and get out immediately. Alternatively, we can think about this quotation as considering “running” as taking the information and knowledge further and elsewhere. Once a student is given an education, what they do with that knowledge is up to them. They can decide to absorb that information and use it for their own benefit, or they can “run” with it so to speak and apply it to other areas of their life and share it with others. This concept relates to the idea of the continuity of education because while one may consider themselves the “teacher”, no one truly ever stops learning. One of my favorite “teacher” quotes is, “never stop learning, because the world never stops teaching” (in fact, I have this quote printed on a tote bag!). I think this quote is especially important when considering the concept of fluid and ongoing learning. Once one has left the period of life when they are no longer formally a “student”, everyone is technically a student of the world and the things and events that occur around them. 

This concept of the continual dispersion of knowledge can also be incredibly important in becoming a more actively engaged student and citizen. In William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen’s From Here to Equality, readers learn about the disenfranchisment and discrimination that Black Americans have faced since the end of slavery. While Darity and Mullen explain how systemic racism affects the opportunities of Black Americans, they also suggest the idea of reparations and how they could not entirely fix, but certainly improve this problem. In accordance with the idea of continuous learning, it is easy to see the Black American experience as tragic and unfortunate, but not fixable. It is easy to see the situation and “too far gone” to fully improve. Likewise, some Americans agree that historic systems like slavery and Jim Crowe laws were certainly horrific but “do not believe that racial inequality and discrimination continue to exist” (Darity & Mullen 28). Believing that notions like these are true and not improvable is a static and dangerous form of education; the student sees a fact and nothing else. However, if a student is committed to continuous and lifelong learning, they are able to see facts like these and suggest how the situation could improve and change in the future. In this example, the suggested improvement is reparations for Black Americans. Additionally, taking the history of the horrific events Black Americans have endured and “running” with it—informing others of its true depth and impact on Black Americans still today—displays good faith and willful education. I touched on the concept of willful education and its importance in practicing good faith in my second To the Forums! Blog Post. A crucial aspect of continuous education is accepting that one will never know everything and that we will always be students in some form. A distinction between continuous and static learning is also the student’s willingness and openness to learning and absorbing new information when it is presented to them.  Accordingly, these examples present an important goal for me in the continuation of this course. Throughout the rest of our assignments, I would like to pay attention to how Lilith (and any other future characters) receive and disburse the education they receive. I plan to observe carefully when and why characters in assigned readings receive new information and what they do with it. I will ask questions like, “How did this character impart new knowledge on another character or situation? Do they outrightly tell them this new information or do they infuse it into their behavior to ‘learn from experiencing’?” The way one “runs” with knowledge is very interesting to me as a future educator and lifelong learner, especially when considering the most effective ways of teaching and learning.

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