If you happen to visit my website (auldeducationalconsultants.ca), have ever received a cover letter from me, or have read my LinkedIn page, you will see that I proudly post that I am what we call a lifelong learner.
Though not a new idea, the actual phrase is somewhat recent and its origins can be traced back to the 1900s. Specifically, and this is probably a good example of my ongoing learning, it was first fully articulated in this century by Basil Yeaxlee in 1929. Another key figure in the development of the concept was Eduard Lindeman. Though I am somewhat of a geek when it comes to this stuff, I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that they essentially argued that education is a permanent necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, and should be both universal and lifelong.
As I said, I use the term often and I mean it. Peruse the internet and social media and lots of other people say it but, as is so often the case, in too many instances it is just another buzzword. So today, I thought I would give you an example from something that I learned, as is not uncommon for me, from a young client.
I spend most of my time these days, well in truth for the past 30 or so years, helping young people with their learning. That means helping them find a K-12 school, work things out with their parents, apply for university, etc. You get the picture. I am a full-service educational consultant… shameless plug fully acknowledged. But, more often than not, I have the opportunity to learn from my clients – be they parents, K-12 students, or Ph.D. candidates who are way smarter than I will ever be.
Canada’s inaugural National Day For Truth And Reconciliation took place last Thursday, September 30th. On that day, a young client asked me what I thought about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “ditching of the day” to “party in Tofino” with his family. Nuance is not always part of the teenage repertoire. Of course, I expressed my dismay and frustration. I told her that these feelings were exacerbated by the fact that though I generally vote Liberal, I had just held my nose and voted for him a few weeks earlier. To which she responded, “So, what are you going to do about it?”
Then, and here comes the learning, she started in on a rant about drinking water. She noted, off the top of her head, that in 2010 the United Nations declared water and sanitation human rights, acknowledging they are essential to the realization of all other rights. And yet, she also stated – again from memory – that in Canada almost half a million Indigenous people are without potable water and are therefore being denied a basic human right. So she said, maybe Mr. Trudeau could have spent some of the $600 million we just spent on a “useless election” or the taxpayer’s dollars spent on his getaway to Tofino to solve this ongoing problem.
Again, being somewhat of a nerd, but also wanting to make sure I have the whole story, I delved into the problem a little further. Though I would agree that it is a disgrace that anyone in Canada is without safe drinking water, I wanted to make sure I had a better understanding of the problem. In fact, between November 2015 and May 17, 2021, 106 long-term advisories affecting public systems on reserves were lifted. 53 remain in effect in 34 First Nations. And As of December 31, 2020, more than $1.82 billion of targeted funds have been allocated to support 694 water and wastewater projects in 581 First Nations communities, serving approximately 463,000 people. A total of 393 of these projects are complete (https://tinyurl.com/fxc56ys8). So, though the issue is still a national disgrace, we are at least doing something to solve the problem.
When I raised my newfound knowledge with my client, she scoffed. “Yes, but what are you going to do about it?” In so many words, she said that it’s all well and good to be a lifelong learner, but what do I actually do with what I have learned. Hard gulp. I guess that’s why I love working with kids. Nothing is ever off the table. It’s also why I hold out hope for humankind. Kids like these will do great things and hopefully, save the planet from past and current stupidity. But I digress.
In response, I said I would do two things. First, I would email my MP – @JulieDzerowicz – and raise my concern over the Prime Minister’s ducking out of his obligations on September 30th and the ongoing water crisis. Second, I would email the Prime Minister – @JustinTrudeau – and express the same concerns. I told her that I understand the realities of politics and that both emails would receive little in the way of concrete action. On the other hand, given the fact that there is another minority government in Ottawa, both may be a little more likely than usual to listen. Literally, every action on the part of the Liberals for the foreseeable future could mean the downfall of their government and the potential loss of their jobs. (Full disclosure, I know my MP personally, and trust that she will do what she can in her position because she does do a great job.) Lifelong learning is after all a two-way street. I also mentioned that this would just be the start. That I would endeavour to understand more about the water issue and what more I could do, if anything, to help. Though not completely satisfied, she did think that this was a good start. And she agreed that we both learned something from this exchange. For my part, I was reminded once again of the wisdom of the young and inexperienced and how fortunate I am to get to do what I do.
So, what’s the moral of this story? I am a lifelong learner. I am and always have been focused on learning as a pursuit that continues daily. More pointedly, I have and always will formally and informally pursue knowledge to better myself and the world around me. My work as an educational consultant both allows me to do this for myself and hopefully ensures that those that I work with will do the same. I truly believe that we must continue to learn and to use our learning to make ourselves and the world better.