René Descartes.

A recent request, received from a journalist, ran: ‘Here at Staffordshire Living magazine we are currently working on our Sept/Oct edition which includes a feature on the options available if you would like to become a MATURE STUDENT…’


Some people would argue that being a ‘mature student’ is an oxymoron.


After all, as the well-known author, Bill Bryson, has written: ‘In my day, the principal concerns of university students were sex, smoking dope, rioting and learning. Learning was something you did when the other three weren’t available.’


Being a student is a sign of acknowledged immaturity. Learning, which is what students are supposed to do, is a process which aims to make the learner more knowledgeable and/or skilful – and, thus, more mature in thought, word and deed. Thus, by definition, a student can’t have attained the status of ‘mature’. To be ‘mature’ and then continue to study is either unnecessary or oxymoronic.


That’s not to say that it won’t broaden the mind and be fun – and we all need some fun in our lives, hence Bill Bryson’s comments about the activities involved in being a student. Moreover, there’s an argument – which has some validity – that says that no one ever attains the (objective) status of being ‘mature’. So, everyone should always be studying – maybe not being a ‘student’ in terms of Bill Bryson’s definition but always seeking to learn more about something, striving subjectively for that elusive, objective state of ‘maturity’.
There’s time for a final word or two on the subject – from Douglas Adams, the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He wrote: ‘Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent reluctance to do so.’


And, as W Edwards Deming once said: “Learning is not compulsory – but neither is survival.”


It’s just disappointing that, when times get tough, it’s learning and training whose budgets are first to feel the corporate axe – thus depriving people of opportunities to move towards the maturity that we all (overtly or covertly) crave.


An afterthought – perhaps for students who are ‘learned’: The story is told that, enjoying a night out with his friends, the philosopher, Descartes, enters a hostelry. Descartes walks up to the bar and the barman says: ‘What would you like to drink?’


Confused by all the noise – and the large array of drinks available to him – Descartes says, ‘I can’t think…’


And immediately, he disappears!