I’m feeling like a student these days, and it might be because a couple of days ago I moved my oldest son into his freshman dorm at college. It reminded me of when I made that same journey with my Dad (Mom was too emotional to make the trip to Rowan) some almost 25 years ago. Perhaps, though it is because of something more.
My love and concern for education has, hopefully, been apparent throughout these blogs. As a father of three children and as Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, I truly believe that education is the most reliable bridge builder to a brighter future and a more astute citizenry.
While this blog centers on education, I’d like to suggest a pathway that’s outside the classroom or school hallway. I’m referring to the School of Lifelong Learning.
We generally associate an academic forum or schools with formal education, for many good and obvious reasons. I would suggest that our informal or continuing education,however, is something which we have just as much (if not more) control over, and which becomes increasing important given the information age in which we live.
I spoke about this to a friend of mine, and we agreed that being a permanent “student”provides intellectual stimulation, adds to your unofficial professional resume and simply makes you more conversant on a broader range of topics. There’s also the fun component.
If you’re interested in a topic or suddenly discover that you are, it’s an enjoyable experience. I remember my friend saying that if you read the daily newspaper (many of us on an electronic device these days) for four years, it’s the equivalent of a college education. He said that you should read the entire newspaper and not just the section that you enjoy. If you’re not a businessperson, you’ll learn the business world, and if you’re not as in the know when it comes to the arts, well, you might actually understand the difference between Picasso and Pissarro.
Have you ever met someone who is well spoken, knowledgeable and in tune with current events and, when probing a little, you discover they never went to college? I certainly have and I know immediately that they’re probably readers who have taken the time to stay in tune. Conversely, I’m appalled when I hear a 40+ year old person almost brag that they haven’t read a book since college.
My blog a few weeks ago spoke about exploring our wonderful state through a myriad of destinations and a plethora of sources to find them. Allow me to suggest the same for continuing education. Whether it’s weighty subjects or those of a lighter touch, what is really important is the practice of staying informed about our past, staying abreast of current events and maybe even attempting to peek into the future.
What I find most exciting about all of this is that so much of the information that we can access is free or costs pennies. The library is still the best value for taxpayers and a perfect example of your dollars being spent in a fashion that benefits everyone. During my tenure in the Legislature I have been a consistent and outspoken advocate for more resources to sustain our libraries. They are no longer simply places to check out books but have so much more to offer. There are frequent lectures, meetings, and other activities one can attend. The library is a virtual passport that can take you anywhere in the world one page at a time.
Your daily newspaper is still probably the best source for local news. Finally, there’s the obvious, the Internet. Just remember that all learning isn’t only from books. No matter what I do on behalf of you, my bosses, towards promoting transparency and openness, it only matters if you engage yourself and become a part of the decision-making process.
As a father, I’m convinced that if my children see that I’m engaged in the educational process —formally or informally — they will develop similar habits. If you enroll, at virtually no cost, at the School of Lifelong Learning, you will be a better person for it, as will our society. That's my take. What's yours?