Sunday, April 17, 2016

Purposes and Benefits of Continuing Lifelong Education©

Introduction: The past two days I’ve been thinking about lifelong learning–what we used to call “continuing education.”  This interest was stimulated by reading an article from a favorite source of mine–the old Royal Bank of Canada Newsletter.  It isn’t being written any more, but back in the day I found its essays on many subjects interesting, insightful and even eloquent.  They were eminently quotable.  The one I read was a seven-page essay titled simply, “Lifelong Learning.”(1)  Interested in the subject, I Googled for more and found an article by one characterized as a “guru” of lifelong learning, entitled “Top Ten Benefits of Lifelong Learning."(2)  Typical of today’s “sound bite” generation Nancy Nordstrom gave us ten bullet points out of a longer book-length study.  Though there were some similarities between the two, overlap if you will, frankly, I preferred the more thoughtful and insightful work of the Royal Bank’s essayist.  So I have culled out the essence here for you. Happy learning.


[Lifelong learning’s purpose] is to help us to make the most of our good points and to turn our deficits into assets. It keeps our perceptions sharp. It gives us the capacity for self-renewal. (p. 1)

It enables one to grow and to live significantly as youth, parent and worker, and as a citizen of the world.  (p. 1)

Continuing education enables us to re-evaluate our habits of thought, concepts and ideals in the light of these changing times. It prepares us to face any change or chance, so that we are not easily thrown into a panic. It assures us of where we are, indicates where we are going, and tells us what we had better be doing under these circumstances. (p. 2)

Continuing education does not provide a tourist's guide to life, but a scale of values by which to regulate living. It offers these benefits: it enables us to learn what thoughts and acts we should avoid and what we should pursue if we are to be happy; it shows us how to inquire into the reality of things so as not to be deluded by surface appearances; it helps to free us, on the one hand from the ghostly drag of superstition, and on the other hand from the arrogant assertion of dogmatic opinion.  (p. 2)

Freedom is one of the great benefits conferred by education. It enlarges the scope of a person to enjoy the good things of life. (p. 2)

Continuing education should be a progress from lower to higher stages of understanding.  (p. 2)

It helps, too, in understanding and communicating ideas. ...   Continuing education will enable them to turn their collection of random and disconnected ideas into an integrated and understandable communication. (p. 3)

Continuing education enables one to meet and converse with all sorts of people. (p. 3)

Continuing education means ... knowing the validity of the great things we treasure: justice, liberty, loyalty, truth and duty. It stimulates your imagination, creates perspective and breadth of outlook, and presents the challenge of judging between this and that.  (p. 3)

Education continued into maturity keeps us supplied with many points of view from which to survey and appraise events and movements. One mark of the educated person is the degree of his openmindedness. He is opposed to dogmatism, intolerance and smugness. No one can pursue education without widening his views and changing his mind. (p. 3)

Consciously or subconsciously everyone knows that he needs a comprehensive view of existence if he is to integrate his values, choose his goals, plan his future, and maintain the coherence of his life. Therefore he is constantly pushing back the boundaries of his knowledge, not seeking to prove some notions he has, but searching for the truth about them. p. 3)

At every turn in the journey of life the need for knowledge urges itself upon us. Whatever advance we make in our working or private life is due to the increase of our knowledge and our urge to push upward to superiority. p. 3-4)

Knowledge is the ... only safe foundation upon which to build dream castles. It opens the door to valuable states of mind. (p. 4)

To be educated you must keep your knowledge up to date.  (p. 4)

Much knowledge comes from observation. Literacy does not consist in having the ability to read .... It is the power to absorb observations, make analyses and reach decisions. It is the capability to know how to find out the answer to questions.  (p.4)

From acquiring knowledge we proceed to reasoning.   ...  To think is to compare things with one another, to notice wherein they agree and differ, and to classify them according to their agreements and differences.  (p.4)

In doing this you will benefit by the academic habit of disciplined and objective thought. There is an austere beauty in precise thinking, and great satisfaction in seeking and finding answers.  (p.4)

Close upon the heels of educated reasoning comes wisdom. When you gain and practice scholarship, that gives you a fierce resentment against pretense and bluff, against shoddy thinking and jerry-building. Wisdom sees the fitness of things and grasps the logic of events.  (p. 5)

Continued learning assures that the accumulated wisdom of advancing years will be strengthened by a growth in attitudes and concepts suited to changing social, economic and political conditions. It enables a person to adjust constantly to changes in his individual situation and to the demands and expectations of society. (p. 5)

Learning throughout life fits one to rise above average. Enthronement of the average is one of the pitfalls facing a democracy, and the one way to avoid this pitfall is a lively recognition of excellence wherever it appears, and cultivation of the urge to reach it.  (p. 5)

Mental stagnation is the most greatly-to-be-feared fate of encroaching age....  Continuing education enables a person to keep busy at his highest natural level, and sometimes to rise above it.  (p. 5)

Upon retirement, many men and women return to education as something that holds the assurance of a better way of life and a path toward self-fulfilment. How different is that effort to adjust so as to get the best out of life from the attitude of those who are content upon retirement to idly repose, like emancipated slaves content with their freedom.  (p. 5)

The fruits of continuing education include the development of ideals, the setting up of a sense of values, the acquisition of a feeling for beauty, and the experience of adventure.  (p. 6)

The ideal life would be the fullest development of your highest powers in education and art, and growth in religious, moral and intellectual awareness. There is an innate satisfaction in looking for the true and the noble, whether the search be among ideas or men and women. As your education progresses, you develop a philosophy that demands the first-rate.  (p. 6)

Find out what things are worth bothering about. It is a great advance toward happiness when we learn what things are in our power and can be changed, and what things are not in our power and therefore must be adjusted to.  (p. 6)

...when a person has leisure to think about things, often reveals that the working days have been lacking in the perception of beauty. To cultivate appreciation of beauty is an essential part of continuing education. (p. 7)

Last but not least is the excitement of discovery. When you see an analogy, a connection between events or thoughts, which no one has seen before, you experience the thrill of discovery. (p. 7)

... When we find something in a book that causes surprise or admiration, or that adds to our knowledge of the universe, we are released, for the time being, from the choking grip of sophistication and the dead hand of cynicism.  (p. 7)

Only through lifelong education can a man or a woman continue to live significantly.  (p. 7)

There is much talk about "rights". Every person has the right to become all that he is capable of becoming. To him, education is attractive and worth while, and it is attainable at any age. It is a continuous growth of the mind and a continuous illumination of life; an eternal becoming something better. (p. 7)


Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  “Lifelong Learning,” Royal Bank of Canada Letter 55, no. 12 (December 1974).  Available online at:

2.  Life-long learning has been a theme in LDS doctrine since the beginning.  For a good contemporary example see:  Henry B. Eyring, “Learning Forever,” commencement address of 13 December 2008 at BYU-Hawaii, available online.


  1. Dan, I appreciate your thoughts on Life Long Learning. The field of study and practice embraces many sub-areas. LLL is a term coined by Cyril Houle and helps us see the ennobling purpose of learning through the lifespan. The cool thing about it is that it does not require a teacher or a school. But it does require in inquiring mind. Byron

  2. Thank you for pulling out all of these great highlights. This line really jumped at me:
    "Continuing education enables one to meet and converse with all sorts of people" (pg. 3). I find that I enjoy conversing with people--especially with those that think differently than I do. An effective learner really can overcome both extremes of superstition and dogmatic thinking that, I feel, plague our current society.