Attention Young Dogs: Learning New Tricks Is Not New

Remember college…? How far back depends upon how old you are and how good those years were to you. Still, there is this common recollection: There were those little bursts of personal discovery when your young mind kept bumping into something so new you had never thought about it before. [This is why all learning can be best defined as an individual act of self-discovery].

As a college teacher I always liked to think most of these discoveries — epiphanies really — had something to do with what I was enthusing about in my history class. You know, the genius of the ancient Greeks, the lasting effects of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, or maybe some of the little known back-stories to Napoleon, Lincoln & FDR.

Whatever grade I may have actually earned on their discovery-list, I was always sure that in these four years my students would discover all sorts of the very same surprises I did in my four years. The reason is these years are inevitably our Eureka! years. Looking at today’s campuses, kids are predictably having many of the very same discoveries [outside as well as inside their classes]. Say the mathematical genius of Bach & Mozart…the intoxicating exuberance of Dixieland & Jazz….the film-noir movies of Bogart & Mitchum…possibly the remarkable impact of French Impressionism & Picasso.

Please, no cynical been-there-done-that shrug. That shrug immediately disqualifies you. Youth has to discover discoveries when and how they’re ready, not when and how you’re ready.

But here’s the thing we should all discover. The ‘status quo’ is actually a moving target. No snapshot of our collective lives at any point in time can be fairly called the-way-it-is as if this moment in time is the way it’s always been and will always be. In other words, fellow graduates, the status quo is being continually re-discovered and re-defined by the young people in your life. Be they your children, your students, or your competition. Think of it this way. Young dogs are forever learning new tricks, and if you’re one of the old dogs, try to realize they’re catching up with you.

However, just about the time you both meet, Eureka! there’s a whole new batch of young dogs. And so it goes….

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