Remember sitting at school thinking that you couldn’t wait to properly start your life? You wanted to work and earn money, not do this learning business.

We have a narrow perspective of learning from being at school. We perceive learning as something we do when we are in a classroom. There is a teacher or tutor at the front delivering material that we soak up. This learning might not feel relevant to real life, and we do it to get the qualifications we need. Education becomes like a mystical portal through which you can enter reality once you have unlocked the door. For some, this portal is a lovely, comfortable place where it is easy to find the key. For others, it is a nightmare of dead ends, a maze in which they feel lost.

Is this what learning is meant to be? Should it be a period of our life we endure before we start working and earning money?

No baby and bathwater here

There is a lot of value in academic pursuit. I am not arguing to deschool society. If done well, academic teachings can shape an outstanding mind. Through the acquisition of language and critical and creative thinking skills, a person can write their life story. This learning gives people power that comes from control over thoughts.

However, learning in schools is more about acquiring skills and knowledge for the passing of examinations. There is a desire for learning it to be more in schools, but there is little funding and even less time.

For the maths teacher to hear, “when will I ever use algebra?” is heart breaking. The practical answer is “when you need to pass the exam.” The ideological answer is “when you need to think through a scheme and envision different possibilities, and your mind is shaped with the concept of unknown variables.”

For the English teacher to hear, “when will I ever use poetry?” is equally devastating. The practical answer is “when you need to pass the exam.” The ideological answer is “when you need to find the words to express that feeling you had the moment you first saw the person you love; the language for the black hole of grief, or a vocabulary that helps you dream of a future that might come into being because you had the words to say it.”

The learning undertaken at school, college, and university does have value; if only we could voice this value to the people being taught more effectively.

So, I am not arguing for deschooling.

Why is learning the new working?

Instead of narrowing the definition of learning, I am instead arguing to broaden it.

Instead of learning coming to a halt at the end of school, I want this learning to continue throughout life. And I want all this learning we continue to do to matter as much as academia. You see, it is not that academia is without worth; it is that it has been elevated to the highest tower, and it seeks to exclude rather than include. Its worth is over-valued.

Learning and working together needs to be given a similar value. If I go to work with the intention of being better every day, then I should be credited with the same degree of recognition as the professor who writes academic papers. In my daily reflection and pursuit of best practice, I bring as much value to my life, others, and profession.

If we can create the right culture and mindset, we can continue our learning every time we work. Let’s do better with work than we are doing with schooling. Let’s help people understand how to commit to improving each day while working. Let’s make working the new learning.