One can never be “finished” learning.
The learning process begins very early; formally with the start of an organised education regime, informally simply by existing. It is impossible to go a single day without learning; why, even in attempting that, you will learn something: that it is, in fact, impossible not to learn from trying not to learn.
I bring up this topic because I’ve noticed among acquaintances a tendency to limit high school education to only having read a certain number of books, taken a certain number of classes, earned however many credits, etc. This is an odd idea, but nevertheless widespread and widely practised. Being myself a voracious reader, I cannot imagine limiting myself to only a narrow list of books for my entire high school existence. Why, then, do teachers (and yes, parents, I am afraid, are also some of the very worst offenders) feel the need to put a hold on learning after the student has finished whatever class they are taking? It is as if the “pail” referenced in the opening quote has been filled, and no more learning needs to be put into it.
That explains what education should most decidedly not be. Limiting education is detrimental to the formation of an active mind. There is no valid reason to stop a student from learning.
Here is what learning should be; the lighting of a fire. This means nurturing, from the early years, the innate wish in all of us to know more of the world, people, and places around us. This begins in the home with parents reading aloud to the children, with fairy tales, with classics such as the Little House books, and, most importantly, with parents displaying a positive attitude to reading, writing, and learning in general. Reading is seen by many as a necessary, but somewhat laborious task, and it is seen by still others as a joy, and something to be looked forward to instead of dreaded.
The pail of education will be filled, but for those who burn with the flame of learning, the fire will never be quenched. Despite all the proclamations of kids being “finished” with their schooling, this can never be fully true. Learning cannot be made to stop, no matter how hard we try.