The history of mankind is that we started out as hunter gatherers, then moved on to a more stable life as agriculturists. Industry was the main contributor to us creating towns and then cities. One of the common elements of each type of lifestyle is that we passed on knowledge to each other. The extent to which this happened depended on the size of the group we were part of, with education taking on a more formal approach as our numbers grew and we learned to communicate through writing as well as speech.

Today’s huge cities and the new ways of communicating not only makes knowledge more accessible but it is leading to an astronomical growth in the amount of that knowledge. As our groups increased in size only the elite had access to it and were educated, but gradually we are realising that we can all benefit from universal access. To enable this societies have set up schools, firstly primary, then secondary with universities as the third stage. The extent to which it is available to the whole community is a gradual evolution, with most country’s realising that the more educated the population is, the more prosperous the country is likely to be.

I feel that many countries now accept this and are enabling all education to be available to the whole population as they want it. This raises the question of ‘where to from here’? I suspect that we will come to a realisation that as we progress through the knowledge chain much of our early learning becomes out-dated. Does the information we learned at high school or university 20, 30 or more years ago still apply today and is it still relevant? What has happened to our brains in the meantime? Are they still operating at the high standard we forced them to reach when we reached the end of our formal education?

I often consider this when I hear our leaders, particularly our politicians, expressing their views on topics. Many of them seem to be relying on what they learned during the final years of education and their brains have had a nice sleep since! Not only do they appear out of date and foolish but as some of them are senior policy makers this can be quite dangerous. The statement made this week that the new rules to make it harder for ordinary citizens in Australia to stand for Parliament unless they are aligned to one of the major parties give us a more democratic society is nonsense. I believe that restricting candidates to 1 of 3 major parties is in itself undemocratic. It disallows other views, which can never be an intelligent move.

I suspect that the next move in society’s attitude to acquiring knowledge and learning will lead us to recognise the importance of, and necessity for, lifelong learning. No longer would a high school certificate or university degree be accepted as the end of an individual’s learning. Knowledge is expanding too rapidly, and becoming out-of-date to soon for that. We will need to insert a next step later in life. How we will do it, and who will pay for it, is a problem we aren’t even aware of yet.