Normally we tend to think of education as something that happens to the young. People opine about the school-prison industrial complex where failures to socialize in school lead people to engage in behavior that leads to a far less educational sort of confinement. Others discuss the political aspects of education and the utter failure of our schools as a whole to educate children to the level of other similar countries, for which various excuses are made for the failure to use tax money in an effective fashion while simultaneously engaging in dubious social experiments on a largely captive population of people. It should be noted that there are in fact multiple words in the Greek that describe education, as the education of children is conceived in that tradition to be different from the education of adults. Yet many adults, around a quarter from estimates I have read, have never read a single book for fun, and so the education of adults is something that many people do not even consider to be something they are engaged in.
It is important to realize, though, that education is at its most vital when it is not something that is foisted upon us but rather something that we seek after for ourselves. One of the reasons that we tend to associate education with coercion is that education is viewed as being so vital to the youth that we do not believe that they should choose it for themselves. Yet it is not years spent in a classroom that gives one an education. If one has the desire to be educated, one needs only worthwhile books to read, worthwhile people to communicate with and converse with, and worthwhile examples to follow. It must be admitted that these things are not always easy to find, but they are the elements of any worthwhile and successful education at any age in any subject. To be sure, an education can be found in a classroom, but it need not be so. The chief issue of an education is our desire to learn, and it is this that is often lacking. To the extent that we ask how our way is to be directed, we are already well on our way to learning.
It is a great shame that we often rely on force to encourage learning and seldom pause to explain what it is and why it is that we want others to learn. It is lamentably true that a great many people have no great longing to learn and grow, are not curious to direct their way in the proper forms, or to expand their mind with reading and musing and intelligent conversation. Yet most of us want to educate ourselves in some things. If we have an interest, we delight in reading and practicing that interest so as to become skilled at it, not realizing that this is in fact education. If we are interested in enough things, we will find ourselves to be well-educated without realizing it. It is lamentable that so many people are interested in so few things, such that we are not able to enjoy the learning that could elevate us without our being conscious of what is going on. As is often the case, it is our deliberate attention to things that often leads them not to work out very well.