What has life taught you over time

Learn for life, for a lifetime

What if education never stopped?

People are constantly collecting knowledge, very little of it is limited to school and training. What do you find important? What would you have liked to have learned earlier? We asked around.

By Asal Dardan

In his fifteen-minute documentary Gadające głowy (Talking Heads) from 1980, Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski asks people between the ages of one and one hundred two questions: Who are you? What is important to you, what do you want in life?

A six-year-old girl replies, "I'm an ugly brunette and I would like not to go to school and have a beautiful child," a pensive twenty-two-year-old explains: "I'm a student, so I have a little time before I have to commit myself and one Make a decision that will last for the rest of my life, "and a seventy-four-year-old says," Not all of our wishes have come true. I want them to come true for my sons and grandchildren. " The centenarians' answer is simply, "What do I want? I want to live longer."

The statements recorded in the film are varied and yet revolve around the same topic again and again: How do I live as an individual in society, what place do I have in it and how can I relate to my environment? For a few seconds you can see individual faces, see how people give a brief insight into their innermost being and yet get a picture of the time in which these people live. A society portrait is obtained.

What have you always wanted to learn?

Asal Dardan is a cultural scientist and part of the network Tabletalk Europe. As an author, she deals, among other things, with pluralism, migration and the German culture of remembrance. She is currently working on her first volume of essays. [Photo: Sarah Berger]

We adapted Kieślowski's idea for our current topic and asked different people questions about lifelong learning. Because it is precisely in learning that we question ourselves and our world, design images of the past and present and can communicate about who we are and would like to be as people and society.

We therefore wanted to know from children and young people what they are learning that they find cool and important for their lives. Their answers show that school does not play the central role that one might have expected. One could take this as inspiration and ask whether our youngest ones should actually just sit for several hours every day in a school building in frontal lessons or whether they would not be better prepared for life in society by opening up the structures. What if it wasn't just about preparing for a job and the market, but about supporting responsible and autonomous citizens on their way?

With this in mind, we asked adults what they would like to have learned earlier in life. It is an open question that can relate to school and training, but is not mandatory. The considerations that we are allowed to share here revolve around practical skills, widening the view beyond pure knowledge and academic qualifications and maturing as a person: writing love letters, coping with everyday life, perceiving other people better, the Look at the status quo more critically, but also position yourself differently. Where there is room for education, there is the freedom to experience oneself and one's environment and to be able to rethink.

And why do seniors learn something today when they no longer have to prepare for a professional life when they have actually already proven themselves? Here, too, there is a lot about community, about thinking outside the box and the feeling of having an answer to the question: Who are you and what is important to you in life?

Gylfi, 3, Greifswald

Nothing ... the difficult song ... ABCF .... And climbing frame.

Paula, 12, Potsdam

I'm learning about new clothing styles that I think are cool because otherwise you wear things that are really old. I do not like it. I see this somewhere, so up TikTok Or I see someone walking around in the street like that. Then I think that's nice. Sometimes I see apps or tricks and techniques while painting that I try out straight away. I see that too TikTok or with friends.

Betül Torlak, 16, Berlin

Education is a lifelong process that for me will not stop after school or college.

As crazy as it sounds, I don't think school education is that bad. Even though with some subjects you sometimes really ask yourself what and especially when you can use it, I find most subjects very interesting.

I particularly like the more or less newly introduced subject of political education, which has finally become an independent subject since this school year. There we talk and learn a lot about topics such as democracy in Germany or the separation of powers within a democracy. But we are especially happy when it comes to current political issues and we can participate in the discourse.

In my opinion, this should have found a place in the timetable much earlier. After all, in a few years we will be eligible to vote. So it's not that bad if one or the other, who normally has less to do with politics, has dealt with it anyway. It also made it clear to many that politics affects us all to a certain extent.

In addition to political education, I also find subjects such as math, physics, ethics, history, economics and art very interesting. Unfortunately, the hours of the subjects art and music have been shortened enormously, so that we only get two hours per week for both subjects for half a school year. My schoolmates and I think that's a shame and also problematic.

Because a subject like art has a particularly educational and positive influence on the self-discovery and personal development of the individual and also ensures a relaxing change from everyday school life. If there is no more space in the timetable for this, we will have to spend our free time on it. But I like to do that too.

Aside from the artistic, I also enjoy acquiring knowledge about personal development, psychology and everyday communication in my private life. These are important issues that affect us every second (even unconsciously). Also something that definitely deserves a place in the timetable. As long as I can't choose school lessons, I'll pick it up in my free time.

Leo Villa, 18, Munich

I'm in 12th grade and I'm in the final year of school. We talk a lot about G8 in school, we all lack the practical aspect, with us everything is theory. The only exception is the two-week internship. It should enable us to look into a job and see whether it is really something for us.

It's the only way to do something practical outside of school. Otherwise everything is like in the seminar. Of course that is important and right, but just sitting in school is not enough for me.

We had a teacher at our school who taught a total of seven subjects. He became a teacher late. We were all excited about him. Instead of simply pushing through the curriculum, he sat down at the front and spent two full hours of conversation. We learned the material, of course, but it was a relaxed atmosphere, a discussion on equal terms. From him I learned how to deal with overarching topics, that it is worthwhile to learn and read a bit more broadly and to connect things with one another. From a purely technical point of view, that may not have helped me. But I think the very fact that it was fun and interesting is very important.

I think the age difference at school is huge anyway. We have an average of 30 to 40 years between teachers and students. Obviously, eye level is difficult to establish.

I would say that the skills and abilities I learned in school are more important to me than the knowledge itself. How do I get information, how do I go from being ignorant to being knowledgeable? I know that I don't know a lot, but I know how and where I can learn it.

Outside of school, I learn a lot as a soccer coach. For this I deal with biology, sports theory and science. I teach children and young people and don't really want to train professionals. I enjoy looking after something younger. I think it's important because it allows me to reach a different level than with adults. You spend a lot of time with the trainer, sometimes even more than with your parents. So this is a very important relationship. I learned how to understand children's body language, how to direct their movements, how to communicate with them so that they can pick up something. You can't give a ten-year-old a long point plan, he only remembers two of them anyway. So that doesn't do him any good. You'd think these were little things I've learned, but they mean a lot and are important to me.

Luisa Neubauer, 23, student and climate activist

I wish someone at school had taught me that being an adult is a myth and that there is no such thing as an adult moment. And when you have said goodbye to the fact that there is this moment because you will get a little older all your life, then many things are easier because then you stop waiting and start living in the present.

Tanemasa Rahn, 39, senior physician, Munich and Ingolstadt

Learning is often perceived as a duty and is therefore negatively affected. In my perception, this was also the case for a long time. That still makes it very difficult for me to motivate myself today. Unfortunately and at the same time fortunately, it is essential in my life today that I learn.

On the one hand, there is constant new knowledge in my profession as a doctor and so I have to stay on the ball, but even now that my children are going to school, I have to, or rather, I have to think about many things again.

Increasingly, I actually see learning as a great enrichment and wish that I had learned this sooner. The pure accumulation of knowledge or dull reproduction, as is usual in medical studies, is neither satisfying nor helpful and kills all motivation. My children are in the Bavarian school system, which works in a similar way in many parts. Knowledge has to be learned either because it has always been that way or because it serves a purpose. But learning what doesn’t obviously help you further at first is undesirable.

Just look around, maybe get lost in something. Get to know yourself, about your own identity and not just about what others see or want to see in you. Don't have a classic career and still find a way. I would have liked to have learned that earlier and I am glad that later in life I got to know people who showed me that it was possible.

Ali Dönmez, 32, speech therapist and student, Wiener Neustadt
@ alidoenmez1

We explicitly combine education with school and studies, with formal degrees at universities or with titles that adorn and complement our names or even our identities. We associate education with thick books and eloquent words. Education in the general sense rightly has an elitist reputation. In my opinion, however, it should be viewed holistically.

Those people who take care of relatives, look after a garden, repair cars, raise children and do other activities not associated with "formal" education are all more educated than me, who completed my first degree (speech therapy) 9 years ago and five years ago later started a master’s degree. My second educational path was actually my first career aspiration: I wanted to be a teacher.

Education is not an end of the line at which we can arrive, but an evolving process. In the course of our lives we go through various phases that shape and (change) us. Education is therefore a synchronous perspective on all the things that shape us. An interim résumé. A status quo.

This is of course the romanticizing view of an abstract concept through rose-colored glasses. The desire for an ideal. In reality, education can also look like this: after high school I wanted to become a teacher, but a teacher talked me out of the job. The reason was the everyday racism she observed both in the classroom and in the teachers' room. Fortunately, I was able to pursue a different educational path and, years later, realize my original dream of education. Before we talk about what if education never stopped, socially we should ask ourselves whether education is equally accessible to everyone in society.

Aminata Touré, 26, Green politician, Vice President of the State Parliament in Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel / Neumünster

In retrospect, what I find a shame is that I learned so little about the history of immigration in Germany and how diverse Germany actually is. So what I learned at school, you might think Germany is white, period. And I think that would have changed the self-image of everyone in the class. Whenever black people were the topic at school, it was slaves or farmers who grow millet, so very one-dimensional.

Christian Baden, 39, communication scientist, Jerusalem

Since my school days I have studied politics and communication, and unfortunately also economics, with the aim of not being as smart as before, like Faust, but of having understood one thing or the other. With the knowledge, however, came the certainty of being able to judge with confidence what was right and important.

Of course it is good to know how absurd the concept of the lying press is, that import duties are really borne by consumers, that the precarious situation of many people has little to do with the influx of refugees. But. There are so many insights that are also true, but which are rarely encountered in humanistic high schools, universities or the media: Are the losers of structural change not right to complain that Western, studied elites never really cared about them, that post-material Hired townspeople created a public for themselves in which their concerns are simply no longer compatible? And aren't they just as right that there is little that makes these groups sit up as effectively as right-wing slogans?

On my long educational path I have taken part in many changes of perspective, from bourgeois Bonn to the reinventing Leipzig, to London, Amsterdam, Munich. For five years now I have been teaching at the University in Jerusalem, where not only political contradictions but also different worlds of knowledge collide. Does my knowledge of the history of the Middle East conflict devalue that of my students, who experience this day in a completely different way? How can I explain that nations are ultimately inventions when at the same time nationality is the basis for discrimination and violence, solidarity and protection? I could fill books with what I learned from my students. I would like us to learn in school to understand the world from the perspective of those who are different from ourselves.

More interesting debates

What if democracy applies to everyone?

What if health care was free?

What if technology did the work for us?

What if cities were good for the climate?

What if social media belonged to the users?

What if public transport was free?

What if all of Europe listened?

What if feminism was no longer necessary?

What if there were no more prisons?

Peter Breuer, author and copywriter, Hamburg
@peterbreuer

Two large workbenches in the carpenter's course, the women standing on the left, the men on the right. The distribution is self-evident, as if in a cliché, and now I'm between guys my age who are discussing the perfect router. Mustn't scoff, I finally got the course from my friend, who watched my preference for tools with a long grin.

What I experience finger galvanizing wood is a lesson in humility, patience and slowness. When I mark the recesses, I remember the rule of three, as soon as I hit the chisel the second time, my body tension adapts to the direction of the material and I feel my thinking becoming three-dimensional.

"When was the last time I developed so much ambition?" I ask myself about my first successes. The answer is impressively simple: I have started something completely new and I can celebrate every single move for myself because I feel the feeling that I thought was lost, that I have mastered a thing step by step.

I haven't applied for a carpenter apprenticeship since taking this course, but I've finally actually used a large part of the tools I bought. In addition, before it is too late, I finally learned how important it is to approach a goal slowly and very systematically. After all, you can always use that.

Nina Jaros, works with books and people, East Westphalia
@Ninchen_ohne_Ka

The day on which I received my high school diploma - yes, I am Austrian - was a real turning point in my life. For me it was a break. Suddenly the learning came to an end. It wasn't about grades, it was about the opportunity to gain knowledge. At the time, I thought that would end when I went to school. Fortunately, I was wrong.

My favorite books were encyclopedias. I especially like the animal world. But to this day I find myself immersed in scientific topics again and again. What I would have liked, however, I can say very precisely: I would have liked to find out more about diversity. Instead, there were biology classes, in which a binary gender model and education classes, which were designed for procreation and thus for heterosexuals. I never really fit into this world.

I would have loved to learn how to write love letters. Instead, I learned to write discussions and other factual, dry texts. That almost broke my desire to write. The richness of emotional language, the variety of feelings that can be expressed with words, I've never learned any of this. At least not in any school.

I would have liked to learn how other cultures view the world, what images of God they have, how they view the rights of women and minorities. Instead, I learned to memorize the boundaries between colored areas on maps. Boundaries that shift, disappear, redrawn every few years.

Michel Haebler, actor, Berlin

I have often asked myself what I would have learned or how I would have learned at school with today's possibilities of a permanently accessible Internet. It has become so much easier to gain access to knowledge. Of course, everything is subject to correctness.

I use the opportunity to learn and further my education with various programs and apps and can find out everything on the Internet immediately, when and where I want. It was different when I was at school in '74 and I was dependent on the curriculum and had to struggle through the masses of books. That means picking out a book, ordering it, then waiting for it, then reading it.

Now I just take a quick look at my cell phone and I can easily find out how to prepare a certain meal, what root vole in German means and how I can best fill a drywall. I can also attend a webinar at a stock broker or use an app for the ten-finger typewriter system and click on Youtube can I take part in an original Heidegger lecture or edit a video film with a tutorial.

I got the feeling that I could know and do everything. I perceive this as an enormous freedom, because in my mind, education is no longer a school-bound package of predetermined teaching material in a certain time, but should rather be an education of one's skills to deal with all knowledge.

My niece is just starting school and can use the internet a long time beforehand. I am curious to see how she perceives and implements this opportunity in school.

Verena Reygers, journalist and author, Hamburg
@Textartistin

What if ... I learned something decent about sexuality in school? Not just that women menstruate monthly, how the pill works and how a condom can be pulled over a banana. How great it would have been to learn more about female pleasure and desire as an adolescent.

About how people can communicate with one another in order to satisfy one another. And that satisfaction doesn't necessarily mean orgasm - especially not with a woman. Because sex is more than penetration. But nobody said a word about it. Just as little as about consensus. Or the clitoris. Ok, I graduated from high school in 1996, it wasn't until two years later that Australian urologist Helen O'Connell found out what the real meaning of the clitoris was.

That it is not just this little bud somewhere between the labia, but that it extends into the woman's body with two legs and can even swell more than the erectile tissue in the penis. A superlative that female sexuality can really use. Then sex education would not necessarily have to warn and admonish, but could emphasize the positive aspects of intimacy. Masturbation, for example. If I had learned in school how important it is for women in particular to explore their own bodies through masturbation, I would not have had to jerk a pillow ashamedly for years. You can't start early enough to develop a relaxed relationship with your body and your sexuality.

Wolf Adami, writer, 41, from the Lower Rhine in Havelland

School was my home, I couldn't get enough of studying. Nevertheless, I would have liked to have learned other things than a whole bunch of things that should prepare me for a degree.

I would have loved to learn how to get by in life at high school: How do I cook? How do I make sure I get by with the money I have to live on?

I would have liked to have learned that I am just as valuable a person if I do not go to university, if I do not get a doctorate, if I am sick and unable to work and if I do not function as is expected in this competitive society.

I would have liked to have been lucky in the subject the way it is taught in Finland. It would have been good for us children if we had not only learned through words that we should think for ourselves, question authorities, that we should show backbone and tolerance towards others.

We would have done well to go out into life with the support of the teachers and to try out in a practical way and together with other people to become independent, confident and committed personalities who, despite their desire for personal happiness and success, do not forget or suppress, first of all To act for the global community of people and therefore in particular to take care of our environment and the animal world.

I would have liked to have learned that it is not just a question of wanting to learn for a lifetime, but also of what we learn and how I unlearn assumptions and prejudices, how I break out of thought patterns.

Much of what we believe to be needs are not real, and all accumulated knowledge often just means consciously or unconsciously bragging about how smart, financially and professionally successful we are. I would have liked to have learned at school that it is much more important to be kind and loving to one another.

Arua Elabd, 26, teacher for German and Spanish, Vienna
@ arya_kaware3

I wish I had learned practical knowledge in school. Basically, as a teacher, I am firmly convinced that you don't learn for life in school. Sometimes you sit in high school for up to eight years just to learn general knowledge that is hardly used in "real life".

Of course, a basic knowledge is important, of course everyone should learn something about the economy, about the basic knowledge of mathematics, useful Latin terms, but this knowledge should not influence my future and determine my entire life.

At school I never learned anything about the Austrian university system. I didn't even know there was a college. I never learned how to enroll or how to make a reasonably acceptable PowerPoint presentation. We were never asked what we actually want to do with our lives, but were left alone with this question. I didn't have the opportunity to discover my strengths; only my weaknesses were constantly highlighted.

The school didn't give me enough information about applications, just mentioned that it was important to do them well. I was only able to imagine anything concrete under taxes after my first job, and to this day I have not been able to compensate for taxes; for this I remember the Pythagorean theorem and know how to write a discussion. The practical application took place nine years ago during the written Matura, but apparently this knowledge is still of great relevance today.

On behalf of democratic education, it is very important to me that the students are brought up to be cosmopolitan, critical adults. It is all well and good when they know Spanish vocabulary by heart, but neither of us does anything if we lack knowledge of the upcoming elections in Austria. Of course I am happy when I get an error-free essay, but how do I deal with it if the child does not question anything and accepts everything as it is? Every teacher wants to see performance, but please make it clear to students that the process is just as important! If we want to change the world, we have to teach students one thing: It's okay not to be able to or not to know something. It's okay to fail and give up. It's okay to find something new and start. It's okay to live

Gerda and Hellmut Hartmann, 76 and 82, Lünow

We are a married couple who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary two years ago. My wife Gerda, a physiotherapist, is 76 and I, Hellmut, 82, am a doctor for child and adolescent psychiatry. 22 years ago we started brushing up our English at the adult education center - my wife Gerda out of solidarity with me. And me?

I started at the age of 35 Berlitz School to learn English for my doctoral thesis - my GDR school only offered Russian and Latin - and now wanted to attend English courses in England ("You wanted to go to England!"). After completing my doctorate, I published a model for controlling brain processes. Now I'm working on an extension.

In addition to the adult education center, we have inexpensive practice lessons in London and Bristol International House visited. We were in London for three months. We have learned to have a conversation in English when our partners speak slowly and clearly (and I have properly adjusted my hearing aids). Reading scientific texts is not a problem. A big win was the opportunity to get to know a bit of English life (like thanking the driver after every bus trip) ... After finishing her job, Gerda started training and worked as a school mediator. She can now guide other "newcomers to retirees" in this.

She also always wanted to learn to sing and I love to improvise on the piano. So two years ago we became members of a gospel choir. Singing with the others is usually a great thing. However, gospel music and polyphonic choral singing are often challenging. In order to be able to keep up with the "older" choir members, we started with singing lessons six months ago. Gerda particularly enjoys these 45 minutes a week with our singer (and composer) - and if I can join in, I too ... In my experience, learning is a basic need that is often neglected because of work and childcare. In old age, if you pay attention to your strength and the diminishing memory, it is a good and exciting story.

To stay updated

Order the newsletter now to receive the latest contributions to the debates on a regular basis.

Ursula Bub-Hielscher, 67, filmmaker and alternative practitioner Psych., Berlin
@alusruh

The last time I thought, "Why didn't I know before?" Was exactly a year ago. I went to the pain clinic because I've had cramp-like pain every day for twelve years and during the admission interview I heard: "You probably also have ADHD." It was confirmed. The dimension of this only occurred to me in the course of time.

My mother called me Maria as a child and for 66 years I tried to hide and defeat my rottenness. There was always, always this effort to come to terms with the rules in the world to some extent, the constant guilty conscience to be too late, too intense, too sloppy, too aggressive. At the same time, as a rebel, I was constantly running against borders that were too narrow.

Since my father said I don't need a high school, I left home early, at 16. After an apprenticeship in the hotel business, I went to evening grammar school, final grade: 0.8. Before that I stayed seated. I learned because when I am really interested in something, I can concentrate very well and achieve top performances.

So what if? If I had known about ADHD as a teenager and had been given medication, I would have made it to high school more smoothly. But would I also have developed this self-confidence, this strength that arises when you look for your own path and also find it?

I wanted to study psychology and failed. I was unable to cram this statistic stuff. I was also politically involved in the first female-only ASTA, as a press officer. It turned out that my curiosity to research things could find its place not only in psychology, but also in journalism. I founded the first national student newspaper and, together with others, collected the news from the universities of the republic, edited it a little and distributed it.

About founding the TAZ and my desire to learn something from the established media, I ended up in television and ultimately worked for almost 30 years as a reporter, editor and filmmaker for ARD.

Because I was so interested in the stories of people in crisis and the question of which solutions and development paths there are, for ten years I mainly produced films with people in crisis and their ways back to life. That finally brought me back to my original wish to become a psychotherapist. In addition to filmmaking, I learned to accompany people in three years of psychotherapy and body therapy training. Above all, however, I got to know myself, to dissolve my blockages and trauma, but I just didn't know that a neurological difference, ADHD, makes some things difficult for me. So I practiced meditation and yoga to balance this out.

When I was 50+ I studied for the psychological alternative practitioner exam and passed it with flying colors. For over ten years I accompanied people in individual and group work and produced documentaries at the same time. What if ... Some things would have gone smoother with an early diagnosis of my ADHD, but would I have learned all of these? I do not think so. The joy of learning and the enthusiasm have also led to the fact that today I can participate in the life of my younger friends and that I can give them something from my wealth of experience.

Maria J. Trucker, 63, Vienna

During my school career, there was no preparation on how to accompany children into adulthood; there was also no PC, mobile phone, digital photography or a 3D printer. I already had a lot of unanswered questions and new ones were added to these.

Often I got the answer: "You shouldn't question everything." But I needed the answers and I found them in books. My professional education wasn't my first choice, but it brought me to digital computing. At that time I was in the Austrian national team and skibob, wanted to finance my life as a designer and I was interested in further digital development. I graduated from high school, worked as a designer and stucco sculptor, attended programming courses and bought my first PC. Again and again I was able to use my knowledge professionally. My two boys were also amazed: "Mom, why do you know your way around the PC so well?" They dragged their schoolmates and I enjoyed passing on my knowledge.

Since the winter semester 2018 I have been studying sociology at the University of Vienna in order to have easier access to libraries and online books at the age of 63. It is also important to me to have contact with young people who are only just beginning their careers. In about 20 years, many will reach the zenith of their professional lives and I think that this should also be possible after their 60th birthday. Many of the retirees could go this way in these 20 years. Older people's self-esteem is strengthened, they are an active member of society, and they are not filed like valuable books. This thought always comes to mind when I visit a home for the elderly.