By Cathy Johnson
So the kids are back to school. With new backpacks, pencils, pens, markers and calculators, extra boxes of tissues for the classroom and bottles of hand sanitizer for all. The wardrobes have been enhanced with the latest fashions, feet now wear shoes of the correct size, and all is hopefully ready for the start of the school year.
The back-to-school ritual is firmly cemented in the American psyche.
Why is it just the kids? Why is not everyone ready to engage again, ready to grow, ready to learn something new?
Back to school should be for everyone. I’m not saying that we all need new “stuff” to begin the fall, but maybe we do need a new attitude about it. Sure, parents are relieved that the kids are back in school and school staffs are hopefully excited and ready to fulfill the promise of a new school year. There is something about a new beginning each year that is tantalizing and exhilarating. But why shouldn’t it be for everyone?
“Learning is lifelong.” That was the motto of Big Rapids Public Schools for a number of years. And if that is a true and noble goal to have, then we should all set about learning something new, because isn’t learning what keeps us going, what keeps us alive?
It doesn’t have to be nuclear physics or quantum theory. We don’t have to know everything about the Punic Wars. But there must be something that each and every one of us have wondered about, and wanted to know more about. And taking the time for look it up and learn more about it is, after all, risk free. There will be no tests, papers, or even due dates….unless we want them.
Detroit Free Press columnist Josh Linkner proposes that we all have “a learning topic of the month.” Or even “a 90-day sprint on a specific area of learning” where we “read, watch and listen to as much subject matter as we can to elevate our understanding.”
And, for the most part, this kind of learning is free. Think TED-talks, blogs, podcasts, articles – all easily available with the click of a mouse. Imagine the freedom to “craft your own learning” away from the rigidity of a pre-printed curriculum. It’s a teenager’s dream: learn what YOU want to learn, not what someone has proscribed for you.
What a concept: design your own learning. And if, along the way, you find you have learned enough about honey bees, and suddenly find yourself curious about the civilization of the Incas, then change the channel and go there. Indulge your curiosity.
The world needs open minds, ones ready for new ideas, experiences and education. Why not use the start of this school year to join the kids in the joy of learning, and make it a lifelong curriculum?