I've really come to hate that phrase 'life-long learners'. It oozes political bullshit, another hegemonic whitewash that covers up the reality of neoliberalism, globalisation and the Global Knowledge Economy, or 'GKE' to the academics. It's the education buzz-word of the decade...
Life-long learners are the drones of the GKE; those whose jobs are constantly being disestablished as we (as a nation) move further and further away from producing tangible products to play the game of hyper-capitalism - ideas, knowledge, data, information - all that shit that poorer countries can't under-cut us on... “Designed in New Zealand, Made in fucking China.”
Jane Gilbert's 'Catching the Knowledge Wave' (2003) dives into the festering sore of neoliberalism to explain that 'knowledge' in the neo-liberal context does not mean old knowledge, but innovation, as in a process.
“Minds, instead of being like containers – databases of stored knowledge, will need to be thought of as being like processors and/or resources that are connectible to other minds – to generate new knowledge.”
So knowledge is no longer “matter”, but an “energy” that “causes things to happen”, the knowledge we gain is not to be used as intended, but rather as a catalyst to modify and improve; ie, to generate new knowledge.
Thus we are 'life-long learners' who do not dilly-dally with content, but put that knowledge to use to generate new knowledge, new ways of making and selling shit to the plebs. Knowledge is the product of societies that don't actually do much any more. We don't produce tangible goods, we just design the packaging. The actual hard work is left to third world countries where costs are cheapest. The knowledge wave is essentially hyper-capitalism and by aligning with it as a country we are aligning with the exploitation and oppression of the world's poor.
In early childhood education this way of learning if fundamental. Children are building upon prior learning as they meet new challenges and assimilate or accomodate this new knowledge. We ain't too worried about content, it's dispositions to learn that matter: motivation, perseverance, collaboration, reflection...
It's a catch-22 situation countered by a critical analysis of power that is rooted in social justice, equity, and the freedom to live ones life as they want. It's a tough job but someones gotta do it eh?
Life-long learners don't have to be mindless sheep. My new mantra.