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Scholar encourages life-long learning

Addressing a crowd gathered in honor of the Continuing Education Program's 30-year anniversary, noted anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson relayed her personal dogma: "When you learn, you change; [if] you keep on learning, you keep on evolving as a person."

Bateson, the daughter of acclaimed anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, stressed that the family unit serves as the basis for the understanding of others and the ability to continue learning.

"By committing to continuing education... you are committing to looking a different way at human life... that is fluid and revolving rather than fixed," she said. Just as the world does not remain static, she said, minds should not remain forever the same.

Bateson instructed audience members to begin their continual learning with the family, a group that looks remarkably dissimilar from the families of years past.

Families today are not made up of the typical stay-at-home, baby-sitting grandparents or the standard father-mother family unit, she said. Because women and grandparents are now pursuing more career and personal goals, no two people, even if members of the same family, will maintain the same set of values and understandings throughout life.

Therefore, in order to evolve through the differing beliefs of those who surround us, we must first be open to the differences in our own families.

"I believe that if we look very seriously at the amount of change, social change, technological change, change in roles... at the task of actually understanding people of different ages and genders, then we would stop finding it so difficult to understand people of different backgrounds," said Bateson.

College campuses seem particularly unaware of the value of continued learning, she said. The audience chuckled at her suggestion that students are falsely considered "cooked," or done learning, upon graduation.

"We don't think people are educated these days just because they have a B.A.," she said. Because the world is constantly evolving, it remains important that individuals continue to change and grow.

Bateson concluded her speech by twisting the popular phrase, "You are what you know," into, "You are not what you know, you are what you're willing to learn."

After the lecture, Paula Gilbert, assistant dean and director of the Continuing Education Program said Bateson was a perfect match for this event.

"This is a person whose breadth of life and learning represents what continued education at its best can be," she said. "Her modes of expression represent our office as a whole."

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