While “school” is what most people think of when they hear the word education, the two are not so interchangeable. Ideally school is focused on education (while this is not always the case), but education cannot by any means be summed up entirely in “school”. Learning is a continuous process and one that is innate to all humans. Not only do we want to encourage this, we also need to direct it and be intentional about what we learn. Humans will learn no matter what, even if passively, but when this education is directed and intentional, much greater things are possible.
We live in an entertainment and consumerist culture that often values these things, and imparts these values to individuals, above education. The “bread and circus” effect of living in such a society has many dangers. To combat this, we value critical thinking, action, experience, and intentional learning. Instead of watching two hours of TV at night, cut that down to just one hour and spend the other hour doing something more educational. This doesn’t have to be reading a textbook. Even just reading for entertainment will boost your vocabulary, creativity, and comprehension skills. Having conversations with people directly has great benefits over social media interactions. Limiting screen time can force us to focus more of our attention and thought on things of greater importance.
Most of us are very busy with life, family, work, etc. And the thought of adding “intentional learning” to the list may seem daunting. This doesn’t have to be the case. Most people drive alone at times, typically at a minimum to and from work each day. This is a great time to listen to a podcast or audiobook. Before bed, it is often recommended to have about an hour of time without any screens to improve your sleep. This is a great time to read or have discussions with your spouse, or something else of the sort. We all have some monotonous activities we do and these can be great times to listen to podcasts and audiobooks as well. Even when you sit down to watch a show or video online, you can choose a well-done documentary or watch a video on homesteading or permaculture, or something else beneficial and of interest to you. Joining or starting a book club, even if only with one other person, can be a great way to get the benefits of reading, engage with the topics more thoroughly through discussion, learn more that you wouldn’t have drawn out on your own, and build relationships.
A final and very important part of continuing our education indefinitely is action. Experience and trail and error are key aspects to true learning. One can read all there is to read on a subject and still struggle to apply that knowledge. That is the limitation of knowledge. Knowledge is facts and data. The next level is understanding which is important but still lacking. The final step, wisdom or application, is needed to reach true education. This is the idea of the classic Trivium method that has been used for thousands of years. Things are broken down into grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The grammar and logic are only going to get you so far without having the skills of rhetoric to apply them.
This can be done individually or collectively. Skill sharing is a way to both learn and teach. Since those who teach a subject are statistically much more likely to fully comprehend and remember it, teaching can also be a form of continued education. We all have skills and knowledge that others could benefit. There are always others who have skills and knowledge you could benefit from. Matching these two requires intentional action but it isn’t very difficult. Find a group that meets in your area that is oriented around a subject you know a lot about or want to learn more about (or both). You could also start such a group. Volunteering is a good option. There are even online platforms for skill sharing as well as the option to learn and teach skills remotely through videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. You could also join us at the Chattanooga Voluntary Society and plug in this way.
The Chattanooga Voluntary Society focuses a great deal on “doing stuff”. While we are a resource for learning in the grammar (knowledge) and logic (understanding) sense, we are heavily focused on applying these things in real life, AKA wisdom or rhetoric. Whatever you pursue in your continuous learning, be sure to interact with the subject as much as you reasonably can. Apply your learning to your life and pursuits. Don’t just learn something in the static sense. Participate in education.