Removing the separation between learning and life: Preparing students for lifelong learning

Removing the separation between learning and life: Preparing students for lifelong learning


Mason, Deanna M.






The Notebook, 14(4) [Electronic publication]


Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence, Saint Louis University: St. Louis, MO.


The Notebook: Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence

Removing the Separation between Learning and Life: Preparing Students for Lifelong Learning

Deanne Marie Mason, Ph.D. Nursing-Madrid

Lifelong learning requires resisting what Parker Palmer calls, “the violence of our knowledge” (Palmer, 1993, p. 1), a tendency to view knowledge and learning as solely a means to create order in the world via the mind. A competition emerges in which the person with the most knowledge wins; knowing is demoted to an arbitrary process constructed on the cultural norms of the community in which it is developed. A knowledgeable person is separate and distinct from those of lesser knowledge; a violence of division begins. The world becomes a realm to be manipulated; once all necessary manipulations are mastered, no further knowledge is necessary. The search and drive for learning is over because the game has been won.

Palmer proposes another type of knowledge, one that is driven by compassion and connection through an embodied knowledge incorporating the mind and heart. A dual-sided knowledge encourages the learner to enter the reality of others while simultaneously allowing others to enter the learner’s reality. Within this mixing of realities, a truth is revealed between the members. This knowledge requires an openness to change by both the learner and the other, and perhaps to sacrifice, as part of a shared experience. Through this process, knowledge is rooted in involvement, mutuality, and accountability.

In order to create lifelong learners, students must be formed to be open, receiving, and receptive to change. Educational environments must find ways to teach knowledge that is informed by both the mind and the heart. Facts are facts; immovable. However, facts that are taught in relation to their impact, projection, interaction, and culture become embodied. Learners who develop knowledge through a shared experience with educators learn to carry those facts, with their larger meaning, and apply them in future interactions. Knowledge becomes a shared experience rather than a competition. Knowledge stretches and extends into the future by living with the learner, growing and changing as new relationships are built and new realities emerge. The power to carry and share knowledge in this way launches learners towards lifelong learning.

Palmer, P. (1993) To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey. San Francisco: Harper.


23 January 2015



Contact Information

Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

Calle Téllez, 26, 28007 Madrid
T. +34 912 192 862

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