Often, taking up a new hobby is on our yearly list of resolutions or an item on our “bucket lists” and takes a place among the things we want to do before we pass from this world.
Though consciously we undertake these challenges because we enjoy them, these choices may also reflect subconscious desires.
If you’re taking classes within your community, the course is probably an expression of your desire to connect with other individuals with whom you share common ground. You live in the same place and have similar interests, so you are likely to make lasting friendships. The more friendships are formed, the more close-knit a community becomes. It also combats isolation, which is particularly common for older people who, through bereavement or retirement, mix less with members of the community than they used to.
Adult learning is usually hosted by a local educational institution or publicly funded service for good reasons. First, offering adult learning demonstrates a school’s acknowledgement that learning is meant to be a life-long activity. Likewise, the supportive grants they receive from the government indicate a commitment to encouraging a sense of community and the betterment of its residents.
This makes a nice circle of altruism, because it turns out that a need for self-improvement can actually be interpreted as being quite selfless. Studies have shown that self-improvement courses lead to stronger community leadership. Adult learning fosters a sense of empowerment, which can raise confidence and breed leadership. This leadership in turn translates to taking a strong role in a community, and an ability to stand up and have a voice when it is required.
Take, for instance, the example of a large multi-national conglomerate is building a new supermarket on an abandoned site at the edge of a medium-sized town. While the building would be improving that particular empty square of land, perhaps, it would endanger smaller, locally-run establishments that have been operating for decades and passed down from generation to generation. There need to be leaders in this community, perhaps to produce flyers, spread information via the Internet, or to stand up at a town meeting and speak for the people of that community.
Adult learning makes us better neighbors and parents and, above all, happier people.
Gaining Skills for a Better Future
We learn from an early age that we need education to get us further in life. One of the most valuable gifts teachers of children can give is a love of learning. Their task is a difficult one at times, but luckily for teachers and parents, human bodies have an innate system of learning appreciation.
When we learn, i.e. gain new information or are able to perform a new skill, the please centers of our brains react. Endorphins are released by the nervous system, which we interpret as being happy or content. The release is a subtle one, perhaps as much as eating a piece of chocolate or kissing a loved one or perhaps even less than that, but it is there. Once the new information is assimilated into what we know and become old information, the mind needs new information. Education scholar K. Patricia Cross said: “Learning is not so much an additive process, with new learning simply piling up on top of existing knowledge, as it is an active, dynamic process in which the connections are constantly changing and the structure reformatted.” When our brains are not being changed and reformatted, as stated by Cross, then we need a new piece of information to stimulate our endorphins. In this respect, we are all information junkies to some extent, using learning to make us more happier bit by bit.
Learning a foreign language over years may help a person to eventually take that trip around the world that she/he has been dreaming of, and perhaps joyfully send parcels to USA friends back home. Over time learning may also encourage someone to seek out new forms of employment, leading to overall improvement in our lives. Thus, we should feel proud of ourselves for taking on a new course, no matter what period in our lives we do it. The benefits of our labor will be felt for a long time.