What is “Lifelong Learning/Teaching”?
Maybe lifelong learning can be best conceptualized as a way of engaging with people and with ideas and that naturally mediates a particular epistemic attitude; that attitude being a loving, non-attachment toward one’s appraisal of knowledge and the process of learning. In other words, learning is a good in itself, uncompromised by the irrational desire to see “oneself” in a certain way.
For example, let’s say I think the earth is flat and held up by turtles. I couple this idea to my idea of myself as a nurturing princess-maiden person who feeds these turtles, enabling them to hold the world afloat.
This, I believe, defines “who I am”.
Some deleterious things could happen due to my condition of having an anxious attachment to this “knowledge”; an attachment to which I cling in order to maintain my fundamental belief in “who I am”.
If I were to go out, test my model, and come back with data that challenges my idea about the world (flat earth on top of turtles), my idea about “myself” (princess maiden feeding those turtles) or “my place in that world” (savior/vessel of life due to my feeding of the turtles which enables the Earth to stay ‘up’), some issues could emerge if I am unable to recognize how my desire to see myself in a certain way, is influencing my mental model of reality.
Under such conditions, I might..
- Delude myself by making my new data fit my old model
- If “A”, continue to make harmful choices directly related to my refusal to update my model and I probably hurt myself or the people around me in some way.
- Have a nervous breakdown, dissociate, lash out at other people or myself, etc.
Obviously this example is a little absurd, but the mechanics still hold. My point is to show the cognitive, emotional pain point that I think the philosophy of “living curriculum” has the potential to address for any person.
If I could learn to critically and openly reason about knowledge, I would be able to test and observe the possibility of alternatives (the earth may not be flat). I would be able to appraise this observation with an epistemic attitude of non-attachment, and then update my mental map of “world-turtles-self-world” such that it was less wrong.
This would be happening in my thinking all day everyday without dysfunction. And because my “model updating” wouldn’t have dramatic implications for “my sense of self” or any background emotional montage, my ‘sense-making’ wouldn’t get so undermined.
I think this epistemic attitude makes any idea, especially those about other people and ourselves, a lot easier to identify and then solve
“Oh, wait, I’m actually being entitled, presumptuous, arrogant, sloppy, manic or [insert unproductive quality] in this situation and I own that”
I think that the attitude of loving, non-attachment to people and to ideas increases the probability that we are able to develop the skills that are necessary for clear thinking and systematic problem-solving. And that is what leads to reduced suffering within ourselves, our relationships, communities, and world.