At the BSP we promote life-long learning. We want our learners to leave the school inspired to maintain their natural curiosity about the world around them and equipped for life’s challenges. We want to provide the skills and inspiration for a life-long journey of learning, fulfilment and flourishing. But how long is life-long? I’m always inspired reading about people who take up new skills in their retirement, of the octogenarian who decides to do the degree that they always wanted to. Why? I suppose that it is something to do with the purity of motivation, of learning for learning’s sake. This is study not for career advancement, but for fulfilment and flourishing, because the subject is fascinating.
If we were to look at someone who has, perhaps as a force of circumstance, engaged in a process of life-long learning we should consider King Charles III. Tomorrow he will be crowned King amid the customary ceremony and pageantry associated with a royal event. Behind the ritual is an individual who has spent his life learning from others, most notably his mother who provided a lesson in service and quiet dignity. His has been a long apprenticeship and now he takes his place. Along the way he has demonstrated a curiosity about the world around him. He began to champion organic farming and environmental causes long before they were fashionable. He established the Prince’s Trust to support the learning and development of young people, he paints, plays the ‘cello, trumpet and piano and has a developed interest in hedge laying. He is the only British monarch to have a degree (in history) and was the first to attend a school (all previous monarchs had been tutored privately). He has learned Welsh, has qualified as a pilot and a diver and has appeared in both stage plays and TV shows (and not only as himself). And he’s authored a children’s book. His school report as Prince of Wales would be glowing in its “all roundedness”.
Education, learning and curiosity have been at the heart of King Charles’ endeavours. He has been unafraid to promote ideas that have yet to receive wider acceptance. He pointed out the dangers of pollution and plastics as early as 1970 and he has supported many others in their education. He is crowned at a time when attitudes around the Commonwealth are changing to monarchy, but he provides, if nothing else, a consistent thread of thought, behaviour and wise counsel as a national figurehead that seems less likely than one who has not “studied for the job”. As he said himself: “As you may possibly have noticed from time to time, I have tended to make a habit of sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me.”
Above all King Charles seems to have a reassuringly clear-sighted view of both our limitations and our potential. Having had the immense privilege of seeing extraordinary things and witnessing remarkable technological developments he is realistic about our human failings: “As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions; to judge people too quickly, and to pronounce them failures or heroes without due consideration of the actual facts and ideals of the period.”
Perhaps King Charles is also a rarity among monarchs as one who has the courage to admit that things go wrong and we are all, all too human.
So, it seems we are in good hands. Three cheers for that.