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Lifelong Learning and the Potent Challenge of Citizenship

April 20, 2020

Lord Dr. Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Regent’s University London, UK
Hayden Hubbard, Student Government Association, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS Europe

Wearing a noteworthy Nelson Mandela shirt, Lord Dr Michael Hastings joined Johns Hopkins SAIS students and guests, from across the world, in the third of the BIPR’s online speaker series under the coronavirus lockdown. As Lord Hastings reminded us, Mandela viewed education as the most powerful tool to change the world, and the current situation is a unique time to reconsider what is important and what we can learn from this crisis.
He noted the importance of active learning in this process, drawing on the story of the 10th apple effect. In an example of what economists term the ‘law of marginal returns,’ irrespective of how appreciative we are of the first apple we eat in hunger, when we have 10 apples to eat, by the 10th apple we are noticeably less grateful for this apple compared to the first. For many, it has been during this time of crisis that we have noticed many of the things we have taken for granted and re-ignited a feeling of gratitude. It is through this process that we are living through an era of active learning, re-analysing our priorities as a society.
Herman Van Rompuy, first President of the European Council, highlighted in an article this month that we have seen incredible innovation and creativity in how digitalisation has spread across the world under various states of lockdown, emphasizing how we have learnt to coordinate and collaborate remotely. We have also seen the tendency to turn to others in suspicion during this time, with that suspicion moving as the epicentre of the virus travels. However, ultimately it seems the scientists, the experts and the doctors and nurses are again being recognised as our heroes, while the populists we’ve seen rise to power are fighting for relevance. These lessons of global collaboration, of listening to experts, are also the lessons from earlier pandemics, particularly the pandemic in 1912 where leaders and experts from the US, Japan, Russia, the UK and France travelled miles to coordinate and combat the virus which started in China, but spread through the Japanese and Russian ports across to Europe.
We have still needed to re-learn the lessons of the 1912 pandemic, however, Lord Hastings quoted businessman Paul Lindley in highlighting despite challenges, governments, businesses and societies have moved at remarkable speed to face this situation together. Active learning has been important in every step, and through this we have seen a change and a cooperation in the relationship between businesses and societies and gained a new sense of gratitude for what we have. He concluded, capitalism as we know it is unlikely to emerge unchanged from this crisis, new regulation to control the excesses of globalisation that damaged society will bring this era of globalisation to an end. Government will take an increasingly positive role as we leave this time under lockdown, however we must, as citizens, become even more active democratic participants in this process to build the world we want to live in.