Lifelong learning means learning for everyone – not just learning for people under 18, or under 22. When I was a grad student at Princeton, some of the local Princeton Township elders used to sit in on the classes I was teaching, and my undergraduate students used to grumble good-naturedly about the oldsters taking all the good seats up front. But inherent in their ribbing was the idea that they didn’t quite believe that someone in their 60s, 70s, or 80s could really benefit from learning something about molecular and cell biology, or immunology, or biochemistry. What are they doing here! their sidelong glances all seemed to say.
We want our work at Socratica to truly be for everyone – not just the small segment of the population in their full flush of youth. Socratica is for everyone who wants to learn, and that means everyone.
My sweet mum used to tell me (when she was in her 50s, 60s, and 70s), “I still feel like I’m 18. I still feel like exactly the same person.” But then she would remember that she used to catch herself looking at her own elderly mum, and find herself wondering “What is she thinking? What can she be feeling? Does she still have dreams?” Her own mother seemed hidden behind the mask of old age, even though my mum knew my grandmother must still be the same person inside, just like she was.
How many times are elders dismissed as being “the other” and not having the same powers of thought and sensitivity as younger people? It’s particularly a problem in the United States, I think. We are so in love with youth that we forget that most people are not young. But if we can’t get over this prejudice that makes us think that only the young deserve our respect and attention, maybe we can start to remedy the inequity by reminding ourselves that we never lose that young person we were once. We are still that person inside, no matter what happens to our hair and our skin.
There’s a stunning series of photos by Tom Hussey, called Reflections, that illustrates just what I’m thinking.
More beautiful images on Tom Hussey’s webpage
- Alain de Botton: Education is what makes us fully human (newstatesman.com)
- America’s education system has a great recipe for creating low-skill workers (mlive.com)
- Welcome to Socratica (The Socratica Method)