Nevertheless, those who lobby for lifelong learning usually handle the concept as one of unfathomable profundity that seems to supercede the understanding of most average people who simply assume lifelong learning refers to acquiring new workplace related skills such as mastering a new computer program or obtaining some other concrete form professional development. New skills can be positive since many industries require the consistent updating of acquired skills. Formal training of this kind truly can help one maintain some sense of security or possibility at promotion. To be clear, gaining new hard skills to earn a promotion or embark on a new job is positive and good, which is why most people do not find the idea of lifelong learning objectionable. Nevertheless, they fail to notice that this type of skill or knowledge acquisition is merely the surface that hides the murky depths of what lifelong learning truly is or is in the process of becoming.
A broader overall definition of lifelong learning is required before we proceed further. A quick look on Wikipedia yields the following definition:
Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability.
Even after reading something like this, many people will continue to comprehend lifelong learning as a means to validate the necessity of never-ending formal or self-education, especially for working adults who wish maintain some sense of security in a fast-moving, ever-changing, and increasingly complex labor market. Yet is this all that lifelong learning is? Take another look at the definition Wikipedia provides. What is implied by social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development? How will being an active citizen make you a better sales manager? Truth is, it probably won't, and that's the crux of the matter. In my experience, lifelong learning has proven to be less about the acquisition or improvement of hard skills, and more about the inculcation of cultural and ideological doctrines or, for lack of a better expression essential soft skills.
Hence, the bulk of what can be classified as lifelong learning comprises diversity training, implicit bias training, sexual conduct training, sensitivity training, human rights training, anti-racism training, and a slew of other training programs created to ensure you completely comply with contemporary social, cultural, and corporate values. Put another way, lifelong learning is a way of guaranteeing people "get with the program." Once again, on the surface most people do not find this objectionable. We all want to get along at the workplace, right? Sure, but what if this kind of lifelong learning were presented in a more sincere and transparent way? What if people were told lifelong learning meant they were guilty before being tried, and that the true objective of the training sessions was to force them compromise and reject nearly everything they had once considered true, beautiful, and good?
Of course, the successful acquisition of the soft skills learned at these trainings are now of far greater importance than the acquisition or improvement of any concrete skills could ever be. That is where the "self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability" aspect of the definition above come into play. The equation boils down to something exceptionally simple - if people want to work, they must prove they are completely compliant at all times, which is why they must learn these soft skills for as long as they live. Job security and promotion possibilities will hinge almost exclusively on the successful implementation and acceptance of the concepts learned in these trainings.
If you think I am exaggerating, pause for a moment and consider how many competent, highly-skilled individuals have lost their situations because they outright refused or were merely suspected of refusing to comply to some cultural tenent pegged to the sacred trinity of diversity, inclusivity, and equality. Go to an interview for a job for which you are perfectly qualified and skilled and frankly tell the interviewer you do not agree with the whole implicit bias training thing, or that you do not honestly believe that all people are inherently equal. Then go home and wait for the job offer. I can guarantee you it will never come because you have essentially expressed contempt for lifelong learning, and this has instantly rendered you unemployable.
Now despite what I have written, I am actually a hardcore advocate for lifelong learning. Lifelong learning truly is necessary and crucial, but not the kind described above. No, the lifelong learning I recommend is figuring out means through which you may be able to survive and perhaps even prosper outside the confines of this repressive, totalitarian lifelong learning framework.
If you can figure out a way to do that, you not only win the philosopher's stone, but you may even retain possession of your soul.