Adult learning programs are popping up all across the state of Wisconsin, offering educational opportunities to those in their golden years. One program in Stevens Point is attracting hundreds of participants.
The program is called LIFE, an acronym for Learning is ForEver, and it's sponsored by UW Stevens Point. Retired Philosophy Professor Richard Feldman helped get it started more than ten years ago.
"What we discovered is we had a lot of people in the community who had little or no connection with the university but very, very important and interesting people," he says. "We have a retired ambassador, we have retired bankers, retired physicians and lawyers and teachers and business people."
The retired professionals both teach the classes, and attend them. Feldman taught a class on the philosophy of pragmatism. He says one of his students was a retired emergency medical technician, who asked real world questions an undergraduate would never ask.
"'It's 2:30 in the morning,' he said. 'Here is a patient before me. I'm not sure what to do. Do I preserve his life? Do I increase his suffering? What do the pragmatists have to tell me?"
About 400 members can attend an average of 80 courses each semester, in the liberal arts, science, and hands-on subjects like CPR, cooking, and the rules of football. Instructor Tom Ordens takes the adult students on field trips, teaching them fly fishing, snowshoeing, and what it's like to serve on a Navy submarine.
"We did spend the night on the submarine," he says. "It was quite interesting, sleeping on a cot with your nose rubbing on the bottom of the cot right above you. The sailors put their dress uniforms under their sleeping facilities so that they could press them all the while they were sleeping."
Stevens Point isn't alone. There are now 13 adult learning programs set up in communities across the state.