the social, political and economic drivers of lifelong learning and lifelong education

November 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm (education, essays)

much less late than usual. I even got to proof it myself!

The Social, Political and Economic Drivers
of Lifelong Learning and Lifelong Education

The educational principle of Lifelong Learning is implicated in neoliberalism. Together they seem to have taken over the world, however the self-representation of an ideology as all-encompassing must not be confused with the notion that there is only one viable economic system and one worthwhile theory of lifelong learning.

This article, the companion to Lifelong Education in the context of community organising, discusses how Lifelong Learning has come about on an international scale, its close ties with neoliberalism in the West and the potential of its alternative strands. Three countries are illustrated, to contrast with the inevitabilities projected by the English speaking West. Sweden, Japan and China have all followed different paths, with different histories, motivations and assumptions leading to different priorities.

The importance of learning throughout the lifespan is seen as an uncontroversial part of contemporary life. An overwhelming majority of people think learning is essential at all ages (Field 2006). From the richest corporation to the poorest Chinese peasant (Boshier & Huang 2007), people agree learning is an integral part of life and if learning is good, then more learning is better. However, there is a distinction between “lifelong learning as a common sense principle – of learning from the cradle to the grave – and lifelong learning as an educational principle that has to be realized in policies, programs and projects”. (Medel-Añonuevo 2002, pxx)

As shall be seen, the educational principal of Lifelong Learning is culturally situated and, while not monolithic, it is anything but value-free.

The way one looks at a concept affects what is seen. In Part 1, Edwards’ three discourses of Lifelong Learning were discussed (Boshier 1998, p12; Rogers 2006, p126). However many other theorists have attempted to draw similar lines, representing three strands of education as orthodoxy, heterodoxy and heterogeneity (Paulston in Rogers 2006), or three progressive sentiments: individual, democratic and adaptive (Bagnall in Rogers 2006). The repetition of thirds is not coincidental. Each set identifies a breakpoint between a) the current orthodoxy, a neoliberal, individualist status quo and b) the democratic work that is done to include everyone in public life, particularly the heterodox minorities who aren’t currently served by the system. The third in each set distinguishes that c) facilitating greater access to public life still only co-opts people into the status quo. For true emancipation, people must also learn the tools to adapt and transform their own worlds.

As this Part discusses policies and projects rather than broad frameworks, it will use the terminology of Rogers’ three strands: Learning for Work; Learning for Citizenship; and Learning for Social Transformation (Rogers 2006). The term Lifelong Education usually conflates programs for either Citizenship or Social Transformation, drawn from, or reminiscent of, the Faure report (1972) and counterposed to the dominant Western trend of English-speaking countries such as Britain, North America and Australia which are strongly couched in the neoliberal Learning for Work (Boshier 1998). While this Part focuses on national and international organisational levels which generally prefer work for Citizenship over the more ‘dangerous’ promotion of Social Transformation, and at best conflate the two, Learning for Social Transformation abounds in academic discourse (Field 2006) and in smaller community projects, thus the distinctions are still important to understand.

The Faure report, as discussed in Part 1, was released in 1972, a time of great change in the world. Economically, times had been good for two decades in the West, with the development of welfare and a lack of world wars. However, several crises produced a scramble to maintain economic growth even if society suffered. Several countries, the EU and the OECD promptly released their own reports on learning, which took the solutions Faure had found for ameliorating the unevenness of world development and its effects, and applied them to bolstering the economy and focussing on jobs (Field 2006).

Through the 1980s there was little emphasis on Lifelong Learning, but in the 1990s it was back again, bigger than before. UNESCO produced the Delors report in 1996, which attempted to resurrect some of Faure’s ethos while rectifying some processes of the original. However the political climate was changing rapidly and it was swamped by even more economically-focused reports than the original had been (Field 2006).

With the breakdown of Communism, the challenges facing Capitalism were no longer about winning hearts and minds but maintaining the economic stature and advantage of the corporate class (Hyslop-Margison & Sears 2008). Thatcher, Fraser then Reagan convinced their countries that capitalism was inevitable, an almost religious sole solution to contemporary fears. This was the beginning of neoliberalism as the predominant force in the industrialised world, and lifelong learning was right there. It provided the skilled labour required for continual growth, facilitated competitiveness and justified the neoliberal thesis that “the old ways of working were not enough” (Field 2006, p35): if everyone accepts that making corporations happy is the most important goal of education policy, it follows naturally that continuing government control of education will never meet that goal as well as will handing over all control directly to the corporations.

From the 1990s to now, despite many and varied changes in the world, the influence of neoliberalism and its version of Lifelong Learning has only intensified. Indeed, educational offerings are now largely dictated by industry’s demand for graduates and workplace learning dominates adult education in the English speaking West (Field 2006). Nevertheless, while this history is important and has much to say about the development of Lifelong Learning in Australia, Britain and North America, it is not the whole story.

It is telling that Sweden, Japan and China are places where Lifelong Education has been taken up by the state. Sweden is a Socialist Democracy (Larsson 2001); Japan, a Developmental State (Shibata 2008) and traditionally structured society; and China is Market Socialist with Chinese Characteristics (Boshier & Huang 2007). All three have implemented some aspects of neoliberalism, and been affected by other countries’ uptake, yet none have neglected the core of their own systems for the theory.

All three have their own adult education traditions which predate Lifelong Learning: In the seventies, Sweden was the only country which implemented Faure’s recommendations in a significant way, such as implementing Education Leave (Field 2006), however the folkbildning tradition and its Study Circles had already been thriving since they started to be set up by social movements outside of the state, in 1912. Eventually Study Circles were taken up by the state, to the extent that they received funding, though the state does not intervene into matters of curriculum. In the 1990s they suffered a decrease in funding, yet participation increased and they continue to this day. (Larsson 2001)

 

Japan’s pre-existing educational tradition was ‘Social Education’, run out of Kominkans or local learning centres. Unfortunately Social Education did not solve the problems in society caused by their rigid, credentialised formal education system. When UNESCO started producing reports on Lifelong Education and Lifelong Learning in the early 1970s, Japan recognised the dual problems of rigidity and the breakdown of traditional social structures. The reports were taken seriously with debates in parliament resulting in a major report in 1981. By 1990 there was a law Concerning the Development of Mechanisms and Measures for Promoting Lifelong Learning, a lifelong learning bureau within the education department and an advisory body publishing recommendations to support organisations from educational institutions to local authorities, “leading to a substantial amount of activity, particularly at local and regional level.” (Field 2006, p38)

Qualitatively, the new Lifelong Education was a rebranded Social Education, complete with the conservative overtones about Japanese culture, tradition, morality and family. There was also an acknowledgement of economic consequences of Lifelong Learning. The Bureau was dominated by non-educational agencies and ministries, the law was passed [in partnership with departments of Industry and International Trade], and there was a hope that ‘self- learning’ would allow a cut in public spending (Field 2006). What was remarkable in global terms, however, was that in 1991, when the bubble economy collapsed, they increased funding instead of cutting it like in the west. Further, the increase didn’t focus on expanding vocational education but on individual and community based lifelong learning (Field 2006).

 

China’s recent history of learning has been more controversial. The Cultural Revolution, which started in 1966, could be argued to have been built around an explicit policy of learning, enacted by force. Schools and universities were closed and replaced by compulsory ‘re-education’ through informal learning from peasants in the countryside. Interestingly, this informal learning was to run to a specific curriculum of ‘purity’ of thought and strict adherence to the messages of Mao’s writings in the Little Red Book and the sycophantic Diary of Lei Feng (Boshier & Huang 2007, p57).

This is certainly not learning for learning’s sake. In fact it is learning for neither work, citizenship nor transformation. Academic models of learning are not prepared to encompass a concept so far outside of the aims of most educators. However it does highlight just how education can be, and has been, utilised.

The Cultural Revolution only completely ended with the death of Mao Tse Tung in 1976. By 1979 translations of the Faure report had appeared in Shanghai, followed by a Symposium of adult education in 1984, the flourishing of work on learning organisations and, by 2004, a full-scale national campaign of learning cities and villages (Boshier & Huang 2007). Thus the process of revaluing education to the service of harmony rather than purity, ran alongside the reconstruction of society.

 

The table below sets out some of the differences and similarities of each country or region.

  West Sweden Japan China
Economic / political Conditions Relatively rich* neoliberal capitalist democracies Rich and stable since the 1930s; Social Democracy, with neoliberal influences since 2006 Developmental State with neoliberal influences.    1991 crash then economic stagnation End of dictatorship then rebuilding, Market Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
Goals of National Policy Leaders Economic competitiveness of corporations. Maintaining high educational standards and standards of living Increasing flexibility of society and salvaging cohesion Harmony and stability. Critically engaging the best ideas of the rest of the world.
Actions on Lifelong Learning Cuts and Privatisation. Prioritising only the most neoliberal Maintenance of LE, uptake in the 1970s, funding cuts in the 1990s Boost of spending on LE in the 1990s Implementation of LE from as soon as the country was stable, to the present

* North America is in great debt, especially to China, and is printing money every month as ‘Quantitative Easing’, but is still the most powerful economy in the world. In terms of capacity to implement educational policies if will permits, North America, Britain and Australia are all well-resourced.

Comparing the similarities and differences of Sweden, Japan, China and the English speaking West, it becomes clear that the different approaches to Lifelong Learning are not couched directly in economic imperatives, but in assumptions, motivations and priorities; in short, ideology. The English speaking West posits many arguments predicated on the supposed inevitability of neoliberal capitalism (Field 2006), however they are clearly invalid. The primacy of a free market system as the best way to enhance wealth and life; the guidance of society by the economy; the necessity of a low tax, user-pays economy; and the limit of government intervention in society: they are all couched in specific ideology, and the assertion that viable alternatives are impossible is refuted by the experiences of Sweden, Japan and China. So too with the supposed impossibility of non-corporate lifelong education, as illustrated by the table above. While links can be seen between Conditions and Goals, and between Goals and Actions, there is little logic to the connections between a country’s conditions and their actions on Lifelong Learning if ideology is not taken into account.

This article has charted the very specific courses of three national governments against what is accepted as the status quo. However the variety should be taken to indicate the presence of possibilities, rather than any attempt to navigate their breadth. More models will no doubt be found in places such as the histories of popular and radical education movements, or small communities of location or commonality, as much as from national and international policy. One thing, however, is clear: The neoliberal ideology’s sense of its own inevitability is inaccurate and is not accepted where other ideologies are dominant. This indicates that, even within heavily neoliberal states, other models are possible. Whether one looks to the grand learning projects of the country which might become the next world superpower, or to a tiny intersectional community group, the only thing preventing Lifelong Learning from flourishing into Lifelong Education is ideology.

 

REFERENCES

Boshier, R. (1998). Edgar faure after 25 years: Down but not out. In J. Holford, P. Jarvis & C. Griffin (Eds.), International perspectives on lifelong learning (pp. 3-20). London: Kogan Page.

Boshier, R., & Huang, Y. (2007). Shuang yu: Vertical and horizontal dimensions of china’s extraordinary learning village. Studies in Continuing Education, 29(1), 51-70.

Faure, E., Herrera, F., Kaddoura, A., Lopes, H., Petrovsky, A. V Rahnema, M. & Champion Ward, F. (1972). Learning to be: The world of education today and tomorrow. Paris: UNESCO.

Field, J. (2006). Lifelong learning: A design for the future? Lifelong learning and the new educational order (pp. 9-43). Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.

Hyslop-Margison, E. J., & Sears, A. M. (2008). Challenging the dominant neo-liberal discourse: From human capital learning to education for civic engagement. In M. A. Peters, A. Britton & H. Blee (Eds.), Global citizenship education: Philosophy, theory and pedagogy (pp. 219-315). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Larsson, S. (2001). Seven aspects of democracy as related to study circles. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(3), 199-217.

Medel-Añonuevo, C. (2002). Integrating lifelong learning perspectives. The Phillipines: UNESCO Institute for Education.

Rogers, A. (2006). Escaping the slums or changing the slums? lifelong learning and social transformations. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 52(2), 125-137.

Shibata, K. (2008). Neoliberalism, risk, and spatial governance in the developmental state: Japanese planning in the global economy. Critical Planning, 15, 92-118.

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Lifelong Education in the context of community organising

September 25, 2013 at 7:16 am (atheism, community, education, essays, queer)

Essay. First in several years. deadline 8.30am, submitted 6.40am. how’s that! of course that was on the second extension, but still. only nine days since the original deadline!

the sun is shining, the birds are singing – but the’ve been at it all night! i’m doing surprisingly well for having pulled an allnighter – though we’ll see how i am when i have to get up and go out at 1.30… now, i should attempt to sleep.

This is part one of two interconnected assignments – the next one is coming up soon enough. The diagram didn’t copy in, so i described it in place.

Does the analytical framework of Lifelong Education enable greater insight and understanding of learning and change in the context of community group organising?

 [figure: two axes. “Old people” up top, “Young people” below.
“Non-formal settings” to the left, “Formal settings” to the right.
Quadrants marked 1-4, clockwise from the top left.]

Dimensions of lifelong education (Boshier 1998, p7)

This paper explores Lifelong Education as outlined in the Faure report (Faure et al. 1972) and in Boshier’s analysis (Boshier 1998). It finds that, despite neglect in Lifelong Learning circles, the Faure report is still engaging, while its goal of developing learning societies and its primary aspects of vertical and horizontal integration and democratisation are relevant and adaptable.

Part One examines how the concepts of Lifelong Learning, combined with later thought on its discourses, can help understand and improve the organisation of contemporary community groups. An example is made of Sydney Queer Atheists (SQA), a small community group in Sydney, Australia which engages in non-formal and informal education and learning. Part Two considers these concepts in a wider lens.

The author is an organiser and participant in SQA, and draws on an anarchist-utopian tradition. The paper assumes that education, broadly conceived, is good for individuals, communities and societies alike.

THE FAURE REPORT

The Faure Report, Learning to be: The world of education today and tomorrow was written in 1972 by Edgar Faure and the International Commission on the Development of Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). An ambitious work, it was meant to revolutionise education around the world, advising the governments of both rich and poor countries. Writing 26 years later, Boshier considered “the original report is still an excellent template for educational reform” (Boshier 1998, p5). Now, 15 years further into the neoliberal project, the document and its master concept of Lifelong Education are still relevant and illuminating.

LEARNING SOCIETIES

Much as every corporation now has to be a ‘learning organisation’, in 1972 the concept of the moment, from Paris to Ontario, was the learning society (Boshier 1998, p7). In a learning society, education is a fundamental human right for all rather than a luxury, and responsibility for it is also spread throughout society (Faure et al. 1972). The main aim of the Faure report is to develop learning societies, and the vehicle is Lifelong Education.

LIFELONG EDUCATION

Lifelong education is a utopian concept which arose from the social changes of the 1960s. It was influential only briefly, and implemented by few governments (Field) yet its inspiring theory has continued to have an impact as a minor tradition and has more recently been picked up by the government in China (Boshier & Huang 2007). It was, however, quickly overshadowed by lifelong learning, where learning becomes the responsibility of the individual, largely as a way to make a corporation more competitive.

There are three main facets to Lifelong Education: vertical integration, horizontal integration and democratisation. Boshier portrays the first two as axes that outline quadrants, as shown in the diagram above. The vertical axis regards learning across the lifespan; the horizontal covers the sites of learning – formal, non-formal, informal, semi-formal (Kalantzis and Cope p31) and in between. The quadrants formed by this schema would each receive equal emphasis and distribution of resources (Boshier p9) such that everyone can access a variety of education options at any age. It is important to note that the axes are permeable; individuals will, and should, participate in all segments over time. The emphasis would be on the quality of learning, not how it is achieved.

VERTICAL INTEGRATION

 

Vertical integration regards opening up education for people of all ages. Faure refutes the “traditional” idea that all education should be “provided during the first years of life, before entry into ‘active life’” (Faure et al. 1972, p190). However this is not simply about provision of educational opportunities; in a non-compulsory system, not only must structural barriers such as cost, unnecessarily restrictive prerequisites and lack of resources be dismantled to provide access, but psychosocial barriers must also be tackled, such as “audiotapes inside people’s heads [that] send negative messages about returning to education” (Boshier 1998, p10). Further, “Equal access is not equal opportunity. This must comprise equal chance of success” (Faure et al. 1972, p72).

Beyond Faure, theory on access and accessibility has continued to develop. The term ‘accessibility’ is used to differentiate the need to change systems to meet the needs of people, from ‘access’ which assists people to meet the needs of the systems. (Wright in Rogers 2006 p131). Despite predating the theory and terminology, Lifelong Education requires accessibility.

HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION

A horizontally integrated society is one which offers a diversity of settings for education and learning, from formal to non-formal to informal. Currently in western cities such as Sydney, most recognised, funded education exists in formal settings such as schools, universities and TAFE colleges. Access to formal study largely relies on accreditation from previous formal study in a structured system of prerequisites. Non-formal education is available in reading groups, learning circles, learning webs, summer camps, community organisations, prisons, workplaces and homes. However this vast array of learning opportunities often go unrecognised, unorganised and underresourced, even stigmatised. Sites of informal learning such as travel, media, listening to poets and social interaction in general are even more neglected, with the exception in Australia of public awareness campaigns. (Field 2006, Boshier 1998)

In contrast, a learning society with truly “lifewide” (Rogers 2006), horizontally integrated education  would recognise, resource and value them all as equal parts of learning. Faure did not want to dismantle formal structures, but develop and mainstream “a more pluralistic and accessible array of opportunities for education throughout the life cycle” (Boshier 1998,  p11).

DEMOCRATISATION

Democratisation, according to Lemaresquier, “has been made synonymous with uniformity and rigidity” (in Faure 1972, p75) in an attempt to provide equal opportunities for all by lockstepping compulsory schooling. However, Lifelong Education’s concept of democratisation is very different, regarding “more widespread involvement of learners in the design and management of their educational processes.” (Boshier 1998, p11) This is integrally linked with access. Practically, this involves the multiple entry, exit and re-entry points of recurrent education, eroding the distinctions between different levels, sites and disciplines and reducing the “inordinate importance given to selection, examinations, and diplomas. The system rewards the strong, the lucky and the conformists [and] it blames and penalises the unfortunate, the slow, the ill-adapted, the people who are and who feel different” (Faure 1972, p75). However, democratisation is also an end in itself, involving a revival of humans’ “natural drive towards knowledge” (Faure et al. 1972, pXXIX) and blurring the boundaries between teacher and learner, while learning participatory democracy.

FAURE OVER TIME

While some of the Faure report’s concepts and more terminology have entered our vocabulary, the main content was quickly overlaid with others more in line with the new order of neoliberalism Edwards  illustrates this change by separating out three different discourses that each claim Faure’s term “learning societies”, yet interpret it in radically different ways (in Boshier p12):

–          A “learning market” where learners make ‘rational’ decisions to choose educational offerings based on their own needs and the needs of employers

–          An “arena for citizenship” where an individual has a responsibility to learn in order to benefit society

–          An “arena for participation” “at the centrepiece of an active and socially engaged lifestyle for groups of learners, tribes or collectives”.

This distinction appears some decades later, once theory had progressed further. The first is the most common discourse from soon after Faure to now. The Faure report was intended to sit squarely in the second category, concerned with uplifting people for the purpose of making societies run well and cohesively for the betterment of all. However, the third and newer category has much to offer. This article proposes that, in this time of uncertainty and aggressive capitalism when considerations of citizenship are so badly restricted, the new home of utopian thought and possibilities for radical change, such as Faure once represented, is in the third category. Also, it proposes that plenty of the report and its main concepts are still relevant and useful for adapting to small groups and cultural communities.

EDUCATION FOR PARTICIPATION IN COMMUNITY GROUPS

Edwards’ third point, education for participation is tailor made for community organisations and community organisations are tailor made for fulfilling education for participation.

CASE STUDY: SYDNEY QUEER ATHEISTS

Sydney Queer Atheists (SQA) is a small community group in Sydney, Australia which has arisen out of the organisation of an atheist float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade every year since 2009. In March 2012 it formalised and started running monthly meetings, subsequently separating from Sydney Atheists Inc. and becoming autonomous. Since then, it has produced another float, one workshop at a student queer conference, one small fundraising dinner, another small dinner event and regular monthly meetings. Now, after a year of trying to anything more than running an annual float, the group is in crisis. Members have no motivation to continue running events as there is no common purpose, no vision of the potential of the group beyond hard work and a small social pool.

SQA has been known to educate the atheist community about queer issues and the queer community, as well as the general audience at Mardi Gras, about coming out as atheist. Internally, it has also encouraged informal learning and occasionally non-formal education, on many topics from minority religions to organising floats. The educational possibilities have been articulated, but have not been seen as core, or worth effort and commitment.

LIFELONG EDUCATION AND SQA

There are several reasons why people join a group like SQA. The biggest portion is to find social interaction with similar people and be part of a likeminded community, or even to find a partner. However most other reasons revolve around learning and education, or the activist flipside of teaching and transmitting messages to others. In the current neoliberal world the social and economic needs of individuals are foregrounded, but there are still people, groups and theories of education which buck the system.

Understanding Lifelong Education and its fate in neoliberalism also suggests why building the group is a difficult task. Not only is it an intersectional minority group, but it is a group formed around identity and difference, which have little place in a world of markets, majorities and individual responsibilities. Despite rhetorics of multiculturalism and diversity, it runs against the grain of the current dominant paradigm. Where the group really fits is within the arena of participation. Operating outside of the mainstream can be difficult, but rewarding. Being independent, the group is free to embody and enjoy it. There will still be pressure from the outside world, but there is the potential to be an oasis within it.

Once the arena of participation is embraced, Faure’s ideas may be able to help SQA by locating it within non-formal education, and thus within a broader project. In the optimistic context of Lifelong Education, SQA needs to fulfil its best possible purposes, which are the educational ones, not just the social ones that have attracted members in the past. If the group needs to find new people who are more interested in this than in current activities, then the new agenda must be publicised.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To establish a charter which clearly locates SQA within Lifelong Education would be particularly helpful, not just for orienting the group within education, but also for focussing it on what it needs to be in order to do education well. It’s not just about providing educational opportunities and hoping people attend, the group needs to work with the axes on a micro scale to create a learning community as well as working towards a learning society: recognise all ages, work with a variety of levels of formality and be democratic.

In SQA, decisions are already made as a collective, but there is a resistance where people want a ‘leader’ to show the way. Lifelong Education suggests that the democratisation is crucial to increasing involvement, so the group needs to educate people about collectives and get them on board with doing things differently from the mainstream.

SQA is mostly a group of adults who have left formal education. Queer atheists in formal education tend to have access to a variety of queer and atheist groups that fulfil their social and intellectual needs. Young people are hard to advertise to because of stigma; double stigma here.

While the intention of the horizontal axis is to map diversity in educational settings, not the instructional processes within them, (Boshier p11), applying the broad concepts down a level can also be worthy of consideration. SQA could benefit from availing itself of a variety of strategies, from the informality of a social event within a queer, atheist context, to excursions, dialogues with other groups, discussions, reading groups, forums, to the formality of a series of lectures or a structured course with a certificate of completion.

REFERENCES

Boshier, R. (1998). Edgar faure after 25 years: Down but not out. In J. Holford, P. Jarvis & C. Griffin (Eds.), International perspectives on lifelong learning (pp. 3-20). London: Kogan Page.

Boshier, R., & Huang, Y. (2007). Shuang yu: Vertical and horizontal dimensions of china’s extraordinary learning village. Studies in Continuing Education, 29(1), 51-70.

Faure, E., Herrera, F., Kaddoura, A., Lopes, H., Petrovsky, A. V Rahnema, M. & Champion Ward, F. (1972). Learning to be: The world of education today and tomorrow. Paris: UNESCO.

Field, J. (2006). Lifelong learning: A design for the future? Lifelong learning and the new educational order (pp. 9-43). Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2012). New learning: Elements of a science of education (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rogers, A. (2006). Escaping the slums or changing the slums? lifelong learning and social transformations. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 52(2), 125-137.

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back to school

June 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm (education)

tonight i went back to my old high school. it’s been thirteen and a half years since i left, and though i went and visited a few times in my first year out, since my friends were still there, it’s still been a very long time.
the evening was a mocktail night, a chance for the senior students to hear from old girls and get career advice. there was a speech from someone who chucked in first year law yet became the youngest director at stacks law firm, and ‘speed networking’, which was amusing. with a complicated history like mine, i really didn’t have enough time with each group to tell my story, answer questions and actually give them the advice i needed to, but i think i managed to give a bunch of girls some tips that might make the transition easier when they get out there and realise the hsc really didn’t matter that much.
the place has changed significantly. not just that the hall really didn’t feel as big as it used to; north sydney girls’ now has both a gay straight alliance and a students against homophobia group. not only is that wonderful and amazing, but it suggests there’s an awful lot more going on, too.
still, i hear the place is now 90% ‘asian’, yet it was only the few white faces who bounced over to me and stayed to talk, wanting to know about student politics rather than straight tracks through law. i’d like to know whether it’s about the way i present, my name tag that said ‘scientific research’, something about parental pressure still being a strong feature of those ethnic groups… either way, it disturbs me.
nevertheless, there must be involvement in the good stuff across this reported ninety/ten split, since things are thriving. my sample size was small, even though everyone was supposed to be there. it was late in the evening, and half the girls live in hurstville, i hear. despite st george girls’.
coming back, with my thank you gift of a nsghs mug, i feel conflicted and emotional. it always was a strange place, and i have lots of not so good memories of it. but mostly i feel happy, reassured. the school looks promising, what that says about school education is promising, and what that can do for the world is promising. there is a new generation coming up, with good people amongst them, who are getting a better start in life than i did, without losing their fire.
oh, and they changed that awful blazer – the new one is still black watch tartan, but it has a bit of shape, and collars. that would’ve made a difference, too.

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…and the other one

June 15, 2010 at 1:54 am (education, essays)

well i’m pretty embarrassed to be putting this up, but it’s my record, so i’ll deal with it. after the last article review, i got a fail/resubmit so i could put this one in too. turns out i was supposed to do this within a week, but noone told me, so i got an extra week. till now. well, an hour and a half ago. i counted down hours from midnight last night, i got something done in the morning before breakfast, then ended up asleep for another few hours; cross them all off the list. by evening i’d gotten something done, but of course not enough. i talked to lisa on chat for a while, explaining all about the article, and a bit about the questions – it was good to focus my attention, enthuse me and get my brain working a bit, but didn’t really help me with the more technical questions. a bit more got done hour by hour, but i think the last hour before my midnight deadline was spent exclusively on quiet panicking and procrastination. once the time had passed i got it together for a while again, and managed to answer some of the questions in point form. that’s good, got it nearly to the minimum word count, but i really don’t think that was all the questions – maybe it was all the small, specific subquestions, but not the overall question. i don’t know, i was at the point where i couldn’t understand the questions anymore, so i submitted it. it looks good, nice footer, no longer lacking my name! maybe, had i waited till the next hour, i would’ve been able to take things in again, see what was missing, match my remaining scraps of notes to their appropriate paragraphs or questions, and maybe even make sentences of them. maybe, but maybe not. and i’ve missed too much work that i have to make up already, i have to go in in the morning. i need my sleep, and it’ll already take too long to calm down after the distressing experience of clicking send.

i still don’t understand why i’m quite so bad with this. tonight lisa suggested motor neurone dyslexia. seems i have more to learn about dyslexia, apparently it’s not just about getting letters mixed up. maybe there’s something in that, and i’ve just always been thrown off because i can spell just fine. hmmm.

Koori Action Research In Community Health

Hughes, I., Goolagong, P., Khavarpour, F. & Russell, C. 1994, ‘Koori action research in community health’, Action Research Electronic Reader, viewed 1/6/10 .

I chose this article because I’m interested in learning about critical perspectives and Participatory Action Research.

1. What is the problematic that is addressed in the research?

The problematic of this article regards the health status of Koori people on the Central Coast of NSW, which is significantly worse than the general population, the non-uptake of mainstream health services by Koori people and the lack of health services that are culturally acceptable for Koori people.
As Action Research, this project works to both understand and change this situation.

2&3. What are the outcomes from the research and how/why are they significant? What evidence does the researcher present in support of the conclusions? What has been included and what has been omitted in this report of the research, and how does this represent strengths and weaknesses in the author’s knowledge claims?

As an action research project, there are a variety of different kinds of outcomes planned. The aims of the Aboriginal Health Action Group involve assisting and promoting the development of Aboriginal health services (Hughes et al., p6) and documenting ways of doing research suited to the special needs of Koori (p6) as well as actually conducting action research in Aboriginal health and community development (p6).

Evidence of the former is outlined, including supporting and validating overworked staff of Aboriginal organisations (p8), supporting the mobile dental service (p8) and making representations to the Area Health Service on behalf of the Aboriginal Community (p8).

Ways of research are discussed throughout the article, addressing the need for research that does not demand pure objectivity (p12), Koori community control (p13), consensus decision making (p10) and an understanding and use of Koori knowledge and views of the world (p7).

At the time of writing, concrete research outcomes were underway, including a community profile, a handbook for Koori action research and a statement of local Koori health goals. When complete, these will contain much evidence of both research and action.

4. What kinds of theoretical assumptions are embedded in the article?

· Ontological assumptions: Critical – power relations can be seen at the base of things, past injustice and the dominance of others’ systems have created how the world is today. Also, indigenous worldview different from any western categories. Distinction not drawn between culture and nature (p10)

· Epistemological assumptions: Critical – the important things are making change, working for and with the affected population, seeing past the dominant ideology. There are different truths, non-positivist. Koori knowledge.

· Relationship of researcher and researched: The researchers are the community, though others are welcomed too, including University students, local doctors and Government representatives, none of whom control proceedings. The group is not exclusively Koori, but has Koori identity (p6).

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5pm or 5am… eh, never mind

June 3, 2010 at 5:14 am (education, essays)

another essay. a week’s extension granted at the end of the class that started when the essay was due, then an extra day’s extension to go and get special consideration when i didn’t get it in or even show up to class. then three weeks of special consideration, just to be generous to myself, hoping to not fill up every last moment. then an arrangement after class, the night before it’s due, to put one of the two reviews in on time, then be asked to resubmit which will give me time to work on the second on an entirely new article i was given. so. it was due 5pm today, err last night now. i just got it in at 4.57am. eh. i’m usually bad, but frankly not this bad. i don’t really know what’s wrong, it’s not even that challenging an assignment. at least it’s done. this one.

Wasted skills: The hospitality industry and its young chefs

McDermott, R., 2008, ‘Wasted skills: the hospitality industry and its young chefs’, VocEd Highlights, May.

I chose this article because it addresses questions of training and conditions in the hospitality industry, which relates to topics I am preparing to research. It also offers considerations on the directions taken by TAFE, which are of concern in my voluntary life.

1. What is the problematic that is addressed in the research?

As an Interpretivist study, the research described in this article concerns itself with interpretation of the interaction of various parties in the social world, their opinions, needs and understandings. The problematic considers Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia, particularly a three-way mismatch within the hospitality industry and commercial cookery training, between available formal training and the expectations of both employers and trainees. Also considered are the effects of this on a climate of industry changes, skills shortages and a high staff turnover.

The primary stated research question is “Does the current training of chefs impact their high turnover and if so, can training offer solutions to this high turnover?” (McDermott, 2008 p2) This developed into a second question, “Can vocational education offer more relevance to the trainee and what part does the industry play in the attrition of young chefs?” (p2).

However the research is also declared to address “how large training organisations, such as TAFE and industry have responded to government reports on critical skills shortages within the industry” (p1), “what can be done to stem the high turnover of young chefs” (p1), “the composition and effectiveness of both formal and informal learning of the trainee” (p1), “the industry and training organisation’s capacity to produce long term employment prospects for the trainee to meet the industry’s need to retain skilled, productive employees” (p1), and “how practitioners understand the learning needs of trainees in the current climate” (p2)

As could be expected of an interpretivist study, the methods used are equipped to consider attitudes, opinions, expectations, possibilities and ways of understanding, but are of dubious applicability for the more concrete questions, including the stated research question, regarding effectiveness and large groups and systems. In fact, though this paper poses many questions, it does not claim findings for the more positivist-styled ones, sticking to “the quality and effectiveness of the situated workplace learning for trainees and its connection to the required knowledge and skills to deliver contextual learning” (p1), while providing some context about “current liberal practices in vocational education” (p1) and “changing socio-cultural requirements of trainees” (p1).

2. What are the outcomes from the research and how/why are they significant?

Several outcomes are discussed, although it is unclear whether many are a result of the research, or merely commentary produced by a literature review. Points that claim to be derived from the research include:

* The quality and effectiveness of workplace learning is extremely important (p3)
* Employers may often evaluate trainees based on their own training (p3)
* Workplaces are not always appropriate learning environments as there may not be competent, trained staff available with time to assist (p4)
* Difficult working conditions including long, late hours and low pay discourage some from staying in the industry (p8)

These points contribute very little to answering the research questions or addressing the problematic at all. They do, however, touch on some compelling points. The paper paints a picture of an industry which is not valuing its essential components, and is suffering for it. The suggestion that wages and conditions are prompting serious attrition from the industry, if founded, will be of serious concern to employers, who could hope to improve retention of skilled staff by accepting higher costs and improving what conditions they can. It will also be of significance to employees, who could potentially hold far more power than they currently do within the industry, recast as valuable, skilled and in demand rather than inadequate, short term and casual.

As for training and apprenticeships, the picture is of workplaces being seen as the ideal learning environment but not often enough fulfilling this promise, while TAFE, though important, can’t pick up the slack. This is partly through the perceived limitations of classroom based rather than workplace based learning, and partly because of the directions they take. It is suggested that TAFE is overlooking the students as stakeholders in their own training, and listening to short-sighted employer demands for shorter and cheaper training, rather than addressing their actual needs and the needs of the whole industry and the students themselves, for broadly skilled, happy trainees.

Such kinds of Interpretivist understandings could be very valuable at many points throughout these large, bureaucratic structures which are not known for prioritising reflexivity, or apparently, taking account of the needs and workings of their partners and generally seeing others’ points of view. If correct, these insights have noteworthy significance for employers’ groups who ought to re-evaluate their training needs, for VET providers who should consider other directions, and for students and employees who should take any chance to make their own needs known.

3. What evidence does the researcher present in support of the conclusions? What has been included and what has been omitted in this report of the research, and how does this represent strengths and weaknesses in the author’s knowledge claims?

This paper was written to present at a conference on VET research. It discusses a body of research that was still in progress, and explores some issues that had arisen to that point. Its format and purpose therefore differs from those of a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. It would have benefited from the ability to ask the author questions, which would have been available at the original presentation. Presumably the presentation would not have been limited as the text is, by the ambiguity of the ungrammatical writing and the lack of coherence between the discussion and the quotes meant to illustrate it, all of which makes unclear exactly what is being said and who is saying it at many points and does not engender confidence in assertions made. Unfortunately all that remains now is the imperfect text version, at least until the next stage of research is published.

There are other issues however, that appear to go beyond the writing up. As it should be in an Interpretivist study (FASS, 2010 p66), context is emphasised. The responses are claimed to be “grounded in practice” (McDermott, 2008 p2) by dint of the interviewees having experience in the situation, and much of this paper is devoted to discussing current issues in Australian VET. This concern, however, does not follow through to the presentation of the actual research. No picture is painted of the interviewees to allow the reader to further interpret the findings, no details are given of why they were chosen further than them being “a broad range” (p2) and “interesting” (p2). No information is offered about what organisations or roles the interviewees come from, beyond the bare fact that some recent graduated trainees have been included (p2). While it is impossible to know if they have been included, the paper does not mention the role of stakeholders such as any unions or employers’ groups. No explanation is offered for why an unknown number of interviewees are in the UK when the project is firmly embedded in the Australian context, educationally, politically and economically. The participants are so decontextualised that all that is presented is thirteen bare quotes, coded by a system that remains unexplained to the untrained reader.

Although the author describes the research as empirical (p3), the number of participants appears much too small to answer the questions about the effectiveness of an entire industry and educational sector. The questions regarding opinions have yielded “points of consideration” (p8) yet with no idea who the participants are and what they represent, it is difficult to assess the significance of these ideas. As an interpretivist study it could be expected to focus on a specific case (Candy 1991 in FASS, 2010 p67), but with a small number of diverse participants within a large set of systems, it instead seems to fall between the two poles of case and generalisability.

There are many issues that appear due to the lack of explanation about the interviewees, that could be either omission in reporting or serious problem for the research. From the evidence presented, it appears no distinction is made between criticism of systems and criticism of such elements as the resourcing of the system, which is a frequent concern in the quotes; whether something is deemed to not work in the interviewee’s experience or to not be able to work at all can be important in assessing solutions. Further, not addressing aspects of TAFE such as workplace delivery or practice in on-campus restaurants, both of which combine VET and functional workplaces, encourages the assumption that the class-based learning discussed is universal, where the existence of these initiatives prove this untrue. Hopefully the further research does have more than this to draw on when exploring possibilities for change.

4. What kinds of theoretical assumptions are embedded in the article?

No mention is made of the relationship between researcher and subject. The interviewees were chosen and the questionnaire developed by the researcher.

Nothing about the researcher is disclosed, no acknowledgement is made of any effect of the researcher on the interviews, and even the interpretation involved in the analysis is not emphasised. The questions asked have also not been provided. The language of the article suggests it is epistemologically objectivist, although it is probably not true considering the emphasis on Interpretivist questions and heavy use of personal opinions. Ontologically, too, the language and methods seem to suggest that there is a common reality, where the opinions of a small number of people, when suitably analysed, will be able to answer quite concrete questions about the world. In a rare admission of personal beliefs, however, a more subjectivist approach is indicated by the insistence on the importance of context, despite failings to use it, and in the assertion that “this information cannot be described through a linear cause and effect” (McDermott, 2008 p2) which can possibly be interpreted, as Candy (1991 in FASS, 2010 p67) states of interpretivism, that cause and effect are not linear.

The article comes close to touching on power relations as it discusses the different expectations of trainees and employers, but as it is not critical research, this is understandably not emphasised. One aspect of the lack of context of interviewees is that focus seems to be entirely on large entities – the government, TAFE and large employers with multiple trainees. Comment is not made as to whether this is intentional, whether results are expected to be relevant to all contexts, or only in other large organisations. In the same way, all the omissions of information about the interviewees indicate the absence of parameters.

Supplementary Reference:

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, 2010, 013952 Research Perspectives Learning Guide, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney.

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postmodernism

June 10, 2009 at 4:22 am (education, essays)

well here it is, submitted four hours before my plane leaves. now i’d better go and pack. it’s 4am.

Does postmodernism have anything to offer you in terms

of understanding the contemporary context in adult education?

What can you learn from the adult education literature on this topic?

Postmodernism has much to offer in terms of understanding the contemporary context in adult education, by both examining new developments in the field and offering new perspectives and tools with which to delve deeper and reinterpret previous analyses. In this paper I will survey several examples of Australian adult education in postmodernity such as university and TAFE systems, lifelong learning, public health campaigns and the queer and convergence movements. In an attempt at somewhat postmodern writing, I will use question, irony, eclecticism and analogy instead of definition and certainty to discuss how the literature of postmodern adult education can enhance understanding of these educational settings I also hope to suggest some jumping off points and create a sense of possibility that there will be somewhere for education to go, given adequate deconstruction and openness to the situation. I will also be using the personal pronoun, to not pretend that my own positionality does not inform this reading.

Whenever postmodernism is mentioned, the first objective is usually to attempt to explain what it is. However postmodernism does not adapt well to such a modernist endeavor; the consensus required to define the term does not exist. Yet rather than being a failed theory, postmodernism has been described as a constellation of views (Hill 2008), a new perspective on meaning and the world which emphasises and criticises a new selection of aspects and puts forward a selection of tools, comprising an additional lens of analysis with which to do so, to supplement and adjust the previous hundreds of years worth of modernist understandings (Kaufmann 2000).

Some sections within postmodernism are easier to pin down than the whole, and serve to mark some parameters of the field. With regard to adult education theory, several authors have offered dichotomies in order to adapt postmodernism to some practical use. Radical postmodernism, according to Kaufmann, claims that the world has fundamentally changed, that postmodernity is “an era of hyperreality in which all relations are governed by images” (Kaufmann 2000). This is a challenging claim; many criticisms of postmodernism, for such concerns as nihilism, amorality and overly dense language, often appear to be directed towards such an interpretation. Yet it does have at least some explanatory power, as evidenced by the inclusion of public health campaigns as an integral aspect of adult education. The Australian AIDS awareness (Willett 2000) and anti smoking campaigns are two striking examples of heavy use of powerful imagery to change public behaviour, and both campaigns’ successes attest to the potency of image in contemporary society, and its significance in adult education.

Strategic postmodernism, which Kaufmann draws in opposition to the radical version, is a more integrated approach, a perspective where political grounding is still possible, which uses tools to be explained below to rethink and recontextualise what we know, rather than discarding it.

Addressing the era rather than the theory, Bagnall similarly refers to a postmodernity of resistance which is “a positive, constructive, adversarial postmodernity of critical opposition to the status quo”, and opposes it to a postmodernity of resignation, a “negative, passive, compliant acceptance of the inevitability of the status quo” (Bagnall 1994a), which, though possibly demoralising, nevertheless needs attention. While we scramble to find practical applications in resistance postmodernism for a strategic postmodernity, the flip-sides can explain much of our surroundings, those aspects of the contemporary context which can otherwise be interpreted as a crisis (Usher, Bryant & Johnston 1997). Bagnall lists eleven features of a postmodernity of resignation, which are evident in our world and need to be addressed, rather than ignored as we try harder to keep sailing to our original course no matter what obstacles are in our way. The features, which challenge the epistemology behind education and all of modernity, are presentism, surfacisation, fragmentation, changeability, non-progressiveness, anti-intellectualism, crude instrumentalism, consumerism, existential insecurity, despair and practical indifference (Bagnall 1994a). Between the former and Bagnall’s list of tendencies of adult education appropriate for postmodernity, one can get a reasonable feel for the subject. The tendencies are for adult education to be reflexively contextualised, indeterminate, expressive, open, participative, heterodox, phenomenal, critical and dedifferentiated (Bagnall 1994b). As with much of postmodernism, the attributes in the latter list are not exclusively postmodern or new, but together they can amount to a postmodern approach.

Postmodernism is still a new perspective, likely to transform with time and continued social change. However, we need not wait for debates over hyperreality to be won before we can find use for insights and tools that reside in various corners of the last few decades’ scholarship, as can be seen in the increasing merging of postmodernism with several important strands of education theory, born of modernity. Postmodern feminism in particular melds a consistent focus on gender and oppression with newer, sophisticated views of diverse, complex identity; deconstructing gender and power into “multiple systems of privilege and oppression and their intersections, along with people’s capacity for agency or resistance (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner 2007).

Deconstruction is the tool at the heart of postmodernism and probably the aspect which garners most agreement from otherwise conflicting strands of postmodernism. It is a means of interrogating our understanding of meaning, and by extension, the world. Some aspects of deconstruction which are particularly pertinent for Adult Education include Lyotard’s suspicion of metanarratives (Peters 2000), and an incredulity towards binaries (Newman 1999).

To deconstruct binaries is not as simple as it may seem, since they are densely integrated into our lives. The most obvious manifestation of this is the suspicion of binaries. Modernist thought is heavily dependent on commonplace acceptance of dualistic categories; good or bad, male or female, normal or other, and ironically, radical or strategic and resistance or resignation. These and many more structure the way we interpret the world, until it becomes acceptable to assume that everything that does not fit in one box will conform to a second one, and that anything which does not, is necessarily insignificant.

To deconstruct binaries is to examine these assumptions and construct ideas free from such conventions, while acknowledging their use and its consequences, where they are retained. Gender is a good example as it is ostensibly one of the most stable binaries at the basis of our language and culture, and also has a concrete bearing on adult education. A binary view of gender declares every human to be either male or female. Whether determined by chromosomes, anatomy, birth certificates, presentation or some other criterion, we are all expected to be untroubled when we tick the M or the F box on a form. Our biological sex, gender identity and presentation, and often even sexuality are expected to align; all in one box, none in the other and certainly no colouring outside the lines. Secure in this assumption, we have binary gender dependent educational theories, enrolment forms, some attendance lists and classes grouped by gender. Examples and illustrations in teaching materials are clearly gendered, usually with stereotyped gender role attributes furthermore, even when the extra information is entirely irrelevant to subject being explained. Feminism has long fought for recognition of the speciousness of the role stereotypes, and indeed recent textbook illustrations are likely to carefully disturb stereotypes such as portraying female engineers and male nurses, yet this flipping of codes depends on the understood binary structure and merely reinforces the acceptability of the underlying concept of binary sex. Despite all this use, when the gender binary is interrogated, it can be seen that the lines are not nearly as clear as they have been drawn.

Nature, including all attributes used to determine human sex and gender, evolves in spectrums and bell curves rather than dichotomies. Questions of identity, though suppressed by the status quo, have the potential to be even more wide ranging. Supporting this view of gender, postmodernism sees identity as a complex, multiple and mutable collection of self-selected attributes and identifications, rather than a category, determined by others, that one is born into.

This perspective change has huge consequences in education. Throughout modernism, theories have paid more and more attention to different characteristics of individuals, their experiences and the social groups they belong to, for reasons ranging from the reduction of individuals’ barriers to learning to the forming of class consciousness and revolution. Many theories of education depend on fixed identities being a determinant of needs, as have identity politics. Yet just like the queer movement which is taking over from the gay and lesbian movement, postmodern education celebrates the productiveness of difference (Edwards & Usher 2001).

Once we accept such a view of identity, there is much to do. We suddenly find our classrooms are filled with a diversity of people that we can’t categorise, tame and manage. We already knew our picture of a good student as young, straight, white, middle class and male was erroneous, but w can no longer merely replace it with a better image. What’s more, the social positions of teacher and student become merely another aspect of people’s identities, as changeable as the rest.

This all leads to celebration of difference; acceptance is not enough. In order relinquish belief in the comforts and structures we are accustomed to and make the most of these ideas, we must find them not just right, but important. From the original example, why merely add a box marked ‘other’ and leave anyone who doesn’t step into it to keep their original problematic labels, when we can appreciate the differences between being, for example, female-to-male transgender, intersex or genderqueer, and understand how the regulation of our own identity by the status quo is a contemporary, subtle form of oppression (Hill 2004).

As well as alerting us to the needs of differently gendered people in classrooms, this one deconstruction has exploded our confidence in binaries and given us a taste of a whole new ambiguous world underneath our comfortable conventions, one that requires an entire reworking of the concept of knowledge. In today’s information-saturated society, it’s getting hard to pretend the world is neater than it is, and even harder to justify the negative consequences of adhering to knowledge that just isn’t true. We find that people in a different place, time or circumstance have contradictory views and knowledges, and we are too exposed to them to be able to conscionably assert that ‘we’ are right and ‘they’ are wrong. Without postmodernism this can leave the world, and especially education, in crisis as our confident foundations now look like shifting sands. However, rather than digging for replacement foundations, postmodernism develops a whole new architecture, adapted to building on the sands of ambiguity. “Uncertainty is not a passing state of puzzlement but an acceptance of the provisional and contingent in what we believe and do” (Usher, Bryant & Johnston 1997).

Of all the ways society has changed in postmodernity, the era in which postmodernism has come about, the availability of information is but one of several which have a direct impact on adult education. As well as facilitating reinterpretation of many extant facets of education, postmodernism can take account of the impact of newer phenomena, for example the marked increase in education at a distance, another consequence of information technology. Online learning has greatly increased access to education, but only to those who can afford the technology and [find the support required, as it becomes less the responsibility of the institution]. Looking further, this promotes individualisation of learning, but also provides opportunities for distributed forms that are actually collaborative. (Edwards & Usher 2001).

This ambivalence echoes the quandaries in a wide shift in the circumstances of society surrounding education, which can be grouped under Bagnall’s classification as consumerism. While many adult educators consider consumerism irredeemably bad and would like to prevent it impacting their classrooms, adult education has become a consumable commodity, and to pretend it hasn’t won’t make it less so, or help educators respond to the change.

As the government cuts funding from the big education institutions and encourages but regulates private providers, all education that offers qualifications has to find more of its own funding. Courses are tailored to the market; subjects are only taught if enough people are expected to pay for them, be it corporations or individuals. Content is therefore forced to the lowest common denominator too. We see for example that TAFEs are teaching only three market segments; vocational, enterprise and tertiary (Towards 2012: Strategic Plan 2009), and their funding has been opened up to private colleges. They have also lost their last free offerings, as the unemployed now have to pay $50. There’s a good reason that adult educators are suspicious; access that has so long been fought for is lost as user pays is entrenched. From this largely modernist perspective, the problems are too big to assail and the future is dismal.

However postmodernism, while not necessarily rejecting such concerns, asks different questions and suggests new directions. Why privilege these major institutions? They’re big, they have cultural cache, but they do not need to dominate adult education. Education is a foundation of modernism and the modernist project is what has made educational institutions so important. Formal education tends to rely on there being a truth, an ultimate knowledge, usually in the possession of the teacher, to be either poured into, or drawn out of the student. Many theories throughout modernism have debated the nature of this process or where knowledge resides, but they do not question the existence of knowledge and truth. A core of postmodernism, however, is that knowledge is diverse, local and contingent. Maybe it is the institutions that we need to deconstruct.

Adult education, however, can exist outside of institutions. In fact, the rise of lifelong learning which has been seen in the last decade, is very much in line with postmodernism, to the extent that it has been viewed as a postmodern condition of education due to the multiplicity of practices employed (Edwards & Usher 2001).

Postmodernism has more to offer than elevating lifelong learning to be the new hegemonic paradigm, vanquishing the educational institutions in either importance or idealism. It recognizes education as happening in many other places such as communities and subcultures. The convergence movement, for example, is heavily invested in forms of adult education which fill out the picture and stand in direct opposition to the fears of societal degeneration and lack of purpose sparked by the decline of the most hegemonic forms of adult education. It is heavily collective and committed to awareness and activism, yet distinctly postmodern as a culture of visibility through difference (Hill 2008), with a selection of goal that, while so broad as to be fractured, manage to be cooperative and strong.

Attention to these diverse sites may seem to have shifted the borders of adult education, but according to postmodernism, more than that has happened. Another postmodern term, dedifferentiation, describes the borders of things becoming less defined. In this case, adult education is bleeding into the culture, leisure and entertainment industries. Usher, Bryant and Johnston (1997) speak of confessional, vocational, lifestyle and critical practices, four different aspects of adult learning which, whether or not they are comprehensive, point to an expansion of education in several directions even as the traditional educational institutions contract their purposes.

Confessional practices, such as self-help courses popular in community colleges and the similar topics flourishing in publishing, display education as an unending process, where there is always more work one can do on oneself, as opposed to the modernist concept of mastery where competencies and levels are achieved (Edwards & Usher 2001). Similarly lifestyle practices involve consuming not only the learning but the style, image and mark of difference involved in the content, another process which continues as long as that aesthetic is valued.

Within a modernist context, Houle lists many purposes of learning; “a way of examining one’s life, a tool taken up to learn something specific, an accomplishment, a way of preserving the state, a pleasurable activity, part of a personal rule of discipline, a mandate, a way of avoiding responsibility, an emblem of elitism, a rung on the ladder of success, a personal discipline or rule of life” (Sheridan 2007)  it’s an interesting list, but where Houle saw ‘self directed study as the peak of a continuum, Postmodern consumerism and the search for identity, aesthetics, meaning and spectacle continues further. Usher, Bryant & Johnston consider “A strong case could be made, therefore, that consumption in postmodernity is an active, generative process. It is embedded in a variety of social practices that involve adult learning, thus it cannot be argued that all that is going on is simply a matter of passive an d alienating consumption of goods, services and images” (1997). In our post-full employment society, the source of meaning and identity is shifting away from the workplace, to be found in leisure, desires and the consumption of images. This is an opening which is encouraging education to change, to attend not only to people’s needs, but their wants (Usher, Bryant & Johnston 1997). Needs and wants has been a powerful dichotomy and wants has always been seen as less important, even dangerous. Just maybe, it’s time to deconstruct the binary and learn the value of desires.

At the end of the journey, postmodernism has had plenty to offer; a small amount on how we see students in the classroom, up to a whole body of analysis on epistemology and the reorganisation of the entire field of adult education. With time the theories will no doubt be honed, and unless they are severely challenged they will likely gain more and more acceptance. However even now, when the concepts are more widely feared than understood, they can at the very least encourage us to look upon the world with fresh eyes.

Reference List

Bagnall, R.G. 1994a, ‘Educational Research in a Postmodernity of Resignation: A Cautionary Corrective to Utopian Resistance’, paper presented to the Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education.

Bagnall, R.G. 1994b, ‘Postmodernity and its Implications for Adult Education Practice’, Studies in Continuing Education, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1 – 18.

Edwards, R. & Usher, R. 2001, ‘Lifelong Learning: A Postmodern Condition of Education?’ Adult Education Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 273 – 285.

Hill, R.J. 2004, ‘Activism as Practice: Some Queer Considerations’, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, vol. 102, no. Summer, pp. 85 – 94.

Hill, R.J. 2008, ‘Troubling Adult Learning in the Present Time’, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, vol. 119, no. Fall, pp. 83 – 91.

Kaufmann, J. 2000, ‘Reading counter-hegemonic practices through a postmodern lens’, International Journal of Lifelong Education, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 430 – 447.

Kilgore, D.W. 2004, ‘Toward a Postmodern Pedagogy’, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, vol. 102, no. Summer, pp. 45 – 52.

Merriam, S., Caffarella, R. & Baumgartner, L. 2007, ‘Critical Theory, Postmodern and Feminist Perspectives’, in S. Merriam, R. Caffarella & L. Baumgartner (eds), Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, 3rd edn, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 241-270.

Newman, M. 1999, ‘Looking for Postmodern Adult Educators’, in, Maeler’s Regard, Steward Victor Publishing, Sydney, pp. 194-202.

Peters, M. 2000, ‘Redefining Adult Education: Research, Self and Learning in Postmodernity’, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 335-343.

Sheridan, J. 2007, ‘Lifelong Learning in a Postmodern Age: Looking Back to the Future through the Lens of Adult Education’, The LLI Review, no. Fall 2007, pp. pp 4-13.

Towards 2012: Strategic Plan 2009, TAFE NSW – Sydney Institute.

Usher, R., Bryant, I. & Johnston, R. 1997, Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge: Learning beyond the Limits, Routledge, London.

Willett, G. 2000, Living Out Loud: A History of Gay and Lesbian Activism in Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

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back to school…

May 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm (community, complex pleasures, crafty, dance, education, essays, out and about, queer)

i can’t help myself. i’m studying again. i have studied constantly since i was four years old, except for the time between february 2006 and february 2007… and half a semester at the end of the welding course last year while i was finishing off the mechanical engineering. come to think of it, in 2006 i still did the screen printing course. and the upholstery course. hmmm.

anyway, i’m now half way through my first subject in a masters of adult education; understanding adult education and training. it’s been interesting, and though i died over my first essay, i must’ve done a reasonable job, as i got a distinction for it! here it is.

Identifying Your Philosophical Orientation

This commentary is a personal response to taking an inventory on my philosophical orientation regarding adult education. Despite limitations in the instrument, I found the process and my results offered insights into both my philosophy and my practice in adult education. I found the framework to be useful, especially in conjunction with another on a separate axis, but could not locate myself firmly within any particular tradition, whichever way I tried. I was drawn to consider the breadth of purposes inherent in any instance of education, which, I believe, substantiates the broad range of theories and practices in which I find value. Ultimately, the frameworks are only guides to navigate the field in search of all the various theories which one can adapt, use, integrate and enjoy.

Zinn’s (1990) Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) is an interesting instrument. Consisting of a mere fifteen questions, it gives a quick analysis of a person’s philosophy of adult education, according to a framework by Elias and Merriam (Zinn 1990).

In taking the test according to its guidelines, I came out as 97% Humanist, 90% Radical, 88% Progressive, 70% Liberal and 66% Behaviourist. These results are notable for all being quite high and relatively close together as I had difficulty grading the answers. I found merit in almost all of them, and scored everything in the top half of the scale, between ‘neutral’ and ‘strongly agree’. Zinn suggests that this may indicate contradictory philosophies, however I saw answers as appropriate to different situations, rather than challenging each other’s validity.

I had difficulty filling out the inventory with regard to my general philosophy, as without differentiation, half the questions refer to specific practice, such as planning activities, while the rest demand a static philosophy. While both theory and practice are vital and I agree with Grace (2006) one cannot have one without the other, they do not necessarily stay still for examination. My practice varies widely depending on subject and context. Redoing the inventory for five different fields in which I have taught, the variety was more marked that I expected. In fact each one came out with a different primary philosophy, though the range within each was no less bunched than the original.

Burnout Workshops
The radical perspective came up second in general, and top for my Burnout workshops (All scores are tabulated in the appendix below). These workshops, dealing with prevention and management of stress and burnout, are conducted within community groups where the issue is acknowledged as important and very real, both to the individuals and to the group. They are used both to equip individuals for life and participation in the world, and to strengthen community. This is one of the few opportunities I get to confront social action directly, so I’m not surprised it came up the most radical. The humanist element is also strong with facilitation and focus on expanding potential, and working with emotions. Exercises such as role playing ‘saying no’ are effective uses of experiential learning, another focus of Humanism.

Mathematics tutoring
When I teach numeracy and mathematics, it is generally because my students perceive a general need or inadequacy. In trying to overcome their fears of the topic, I use plenty of problem solving and discovery methods to show them what they can do. Needs assessment is also very important, as I cannot rely on these students to be self-directed. These all draw on the progressive category, which scored highest on this take. I have the students’ immediate needs in mind, but I also choose my materials to connect to something wider, real issues in the students’ lives, for better learning by connecting to what students find important, for building confidence in the subject and in life, for community and world involvement and for making the world a little less scared of the subject.

Rubber workshops
Fun with Rubber and Latex scored closest to my overall outcome, in that the highest score for both was humanism. These workshops are run within the queer women’s communities of Newtown and are a forum to get a specific subculture interacting in an alcohol-free environment, to normalise open dialogue about sex of the varieties relevant to that community and to give people experience in the practical aspect of do-it-yourself philosophy. These are all dire needs in the community at the moment and I would have expected a high score in the radical column, but when I thought about it, I don’t use many radical techniques in planning or teaching, likely because there are relatively few to be found (Newman 1999). The workshops are advertised much more individualistically as an opportunity to have fun, learn skills and take home new toys that one cannot afford to buy commercially. Planning is restricted to materials and sequences of skills and learning is experiential after a short presentation, which may explain the high score for humanism.

Tatting classes
Tatting is a form of lace making that is associated with people’s grandmothers. I often run tatting classes in women’s spaces and, as with most of my teaching, they are a chance for people to connect to a community without putting themselves on display, as there is an ostensible purpose, and something to do with their hands. Tatting is a skill that people learn for learning’s sake, or to connect to women’s history, both which have a place in the liberal tradition (Zinn 1990), which came up as the primary perspective here. Mastering the skill is very important as it looks so simple that anyone who gives up goes away feeling defeated, so I put effort into finding different ways of teaching and promoting learning of the basic concepts, which come naturally to very few. I guess this is where the behaviourism comes in.

Tap dancing classes
Tap dancing came up as behaviourist, the very lowest score on my overall results. One reason I can see is that, where I generally don’t believe in practice and repetition as an important part of learning, that is what dancing is all about. There can be no rhythm in one isolated step. This class, like any of mine, has other objectives such as promoting body confidence, but the teaching is heavily systematic, building from simple step to complex sequence, with constant feedback.

These five case studies shed some light on my original score, which was supposed to position my overall philosophy and deep beliefs about adult education. They suggest to me that Zinn’s idea of purpose is simplistic as she seems to assume that there is one or two purposes behind an educational interaction, where as I can list a dozen at a time, primary and secondary, overt and incidental, cognitive or affective, individual or community, all in play at once.

Yet wherever they are placed, with recurrent themes of facilitation, interactive and experiential learning, personal growth and emphasis on affective content, it is no longer surprising that I came out as 97% humanist. I don’t always practice heavy consultation as I tend to have skills to transmit and the student has already chosen with their feet, but when I am in a classroom I do concentrate on empowering each individual student to be able to learn and connect the information, skills and attitudes to the rest of life. Theory-wise, the only aspect of humanism that came up in the PAEI as problematic is the idea that students are always capable of self direction.

My next score was radical, and I am certainly not surprised I scored high there as many theories which excite me fit into that category. I read plenty of libertarian education, critical pedagogy, postmodernist, feminist, indigenous and queer pedagogy. Yet as much of this field focuses on the organisation of education, over which I have less control than I do over my teaching, these theories have not translated as well as I would like to my practice. I have, however, opened a community space which provides resources, support and a location to all sorts of experimental educational projects. This has directly drawn on Illich’s (1971) Learning Webs.

Progressive theory has also had a significant impact on my thought. I have moved from pedagogy to adult education through the thought of such educators as A S Neill (1926), and pin hopes for schools on reducing the pressure they are under, by expanding, improving and respecting adult education. I work with students’ interests and needs and try to link content to their lives and real world problems, and make use of democracy rather than hierarchy, to model social change further than any content can go.

The liberal tradition is no longer the cutting edge of education, but I cannot ignore its achievements. I do not like to lecture and the list of topics a renaissance mind should know is centuries outdated, but I stand by the concept of a broad base of knowledge and understanding being important for interacting with the world.

Behaviourism, too, makes points one cannot afford to ignore, as it addresses a wealth of issues of how the mind works. At the very base, all the theories in the world won’t help if the student is in no position to learn, either from being subjected to a style of input that their brain cannot process, or merely not having had breakfast.

So, Zinn’s inventory has been useful in clarifying differences in my practice. However, her framework is not the only one by far. The number of similar frameworks with slightly revised categories, differences and overlaps, suggest to me that none of them are quite as comprehensive as they’d like to be, and remind me that they are all merely approximate divisions according to one set of criteria, which would easily be shifted according to another. For example, though the topics are surely related, Zinn’s philosophies of adult education and Merriam’s (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner 2007) Five Orientations to Learning each have five categories, some of which overlap while the others don’t. Though each has some interesting questions on the other axis, I find nothing to recommend one over another, apart from attachment to an inventory.

However there are other ways of navigating theory, some of which can even coordinate with one of the first kind. Apps’ breakup (Zinn 1990), I believe, can enhance Zinn’s or any similar framework and make it more meaningful and flexible by providing sensible places to change category. The categories of Teacher, Learner, Content, Learning and Purpose are very real and distinct, and feel closer to being finite, while being overtly an example of aspects to be covered, rather than attributes on which to choose a category.

For example, as a teacher I tend to be a facilitator, as in the humanist tradition. I tend to treat learners in a progressive manner, working towards fulfilling their interests and discovering their experience. The widest purpose, in the back of my mind, is to bring about social change through community cohesion. I believe this is radical though the change I seek is not specifically revolutionary as some theorists require. I believe learning is incredibly broad, and find it appropriate to be very flexible in my methods. Each tradition focuses on different aspects; maybe behaviourism wins this because they focus on it so much more. And for content, I largely teach what I know, and I do aspire to being a renaissance person, as I see all sorts of weird and wonderful titbits of knowledge and understanding, especially learning from the past, can work together into something richer and more complex, that would be lost if we all stuck to the same popular fields.

To examine the original categories as capable of being broken down on these lines is a step towards seeing them as all aspects of a whole, and also to being able to appreciate theories which do not pretend to be a theory of everything. Indeed, I share many sentiments with the postmodernists, though they have severe limitations, especially in practice (Newman 1999). With a healthy disrespect for categories, they seem to support my inclination to not label myself, but to rather put together an eclectic collection of ideas, past and present, leaving room for the future as well.

Frameworks can help navigate the aisles, but what I put into my basket of theories will depend on what I come to need, what I think I can use, and ultimately, what makes me happy. So much of adult education theory takes itself very seriously, which is a pity as it is stuff on which to dream. Many theorists, and especially policy makers in this country, would do well to read bel hooks and consider how “to be changed by ideas [is] pure pleasure” (hooks 1994).

Despite limitations in the instrument, the PAEI has described my diverse views and given me food for thought on what I find useful, and what I find exciting. From here, I hope to fill some holes such as translating some of my radical theories to practice, and continue add to my – now better organised – basket of theories and practices, ideas, techniques and inspirations, all while cheerfully eluding categorisation.

Appendix: PAEI scores

_                   Liberal   Behaviourist   Progressive    Humanist   Radical
Overall        70           66                    88                    97                 90
Tatting         89          86                     84                    85                 76
Burnout      73          71                     89                    94                 95
Rubber        73          70                     85                    97                 76
Maths          84          80                     97                    90                 81
Tap              79           86                     72                    83                 65

Reference List

Grace, A. 2006, ‘Critical Adult Education: Engaging the Social in Theory and Practice’, in T. Fenwick, T. Nesbit & B. Spencer (eds), Contexts of Adult Education: Canadian Perspectives, Thompson Educational Publishing, Toronto.
hooks, b. 1994, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Routledge, New York.
Illich, I. 1971, Deschooling Society, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England.
Merriam, S., Caffarella, R. & Baumgartner, L. 2007, ‘Critical Theory, Postmodern and Feminist Perspectives’, in S. Merriam, R. Caffarella & L. Baumgartner (eds), Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, 3rd edn, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 241-270.
Neill, A.S. 1926, Summerhill, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria.
Newman, M. 1999, ‘Looking for Postmodern Adult Educators’, in, Maeler’s Regard, Steward Victor Publishing, Sydney, pp. 194-202.
Zinn, L. 1990, ‘Identifying Your Philosophical Orientation’, in Golbraith (ed.), Adult Learning Methods, Kreiger, Florida, pp. 39-77.

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student

March 15, 2009 at 10:55 pm (brain, education, musings)

i am a student again. it hits me when i realise that i have a perpetually open word document where i can type in random scribblings on their way to a more permanent home. in the last three years i have not studied essay subjects, have not bothered to open word often, and have instead written in a variety of notebooks, separated by subject. will i lose that clarity now i again have several partial blog posts, email responses and thoughts sitting in the one document below my essay notes? maybe the integration will make me more productive instead, less able to forget and put aside, for better or for worse.

i am obstinate and have just removed all the capitalisation that word insisted on giving me. it was an easy task, considering all but one instance was the letter ‘i’. the fact that most of the themes refer to myself amuses my linguistically trained mind, but of course it’s all about me, it’s a blog. the action concerns me more than the content. when does acknowledging that there is no particular justification override upholding consistency for its own sake? i struggle with that question probably more than i should. is that the definition of obsessive? am i clinging to displays of identity that nobody else will even notice? should i be doing my readings instead of worrying about it?

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my philosophy of education… in 2002

December 24, 2008 at 12:45 am (education, essays)

another old essay i’ve dug up. i recall this being one of the few essays i ever enjoyed, and having lots of inspiring ideas in it, but i hardly dared read it again. i had to though, as i only had a hard copy. on reading every word so that i could type it out, i found it hard to restrain myself from tweaking grammar, explaining and elaborating, smoothing over the dogmatism and idealism, and adding whole chapters on exciting thoughts i’ve discovered in the last six years. still, not bad for a 1200 word essay, and it looks like i didn’t even get an extension; how unusual! i dug it up because i’m about to start thinking about educational philosophy again in my MEd, and besides, i’ve recently agreed to put starting a school onto the agenda at Sydney Atheists. it is, after all, my biggest life goal. so here goes…

The various perspectives relating to education and which were outlined in the first four weeks of the unit provide a benchmark against which to position our views about schooling and teaching. In truth, these views are likely to be eclectic, drawing on aspects of all four perspectives. Outlining your own philosophy of education (an aspect of your identity as a teacher) indicate, through reference to the relevant and related literature, the ways in which it reflects aspects of these various perspectives.

The current system of education in Australia swings between Liberalism and Instrumentalism, neither of which recognise the needs for societal change or individual difference. This does not mean there are no other options. This proposal is heavily influenced by the Libertarian Free Schools, tempered with Critical Pedagogy. Drawn particularly from the works of Paolo Friere, Ivan Illich and A. S. Neill, it is radically different from prevailing systems. To be adopted would require changes in societal attitudes, but the ability to critique is something it attempts to foster.

The nature of our society is largely determined by three interlinking institutions, family, church and school. In Illich’s distinction between manipulative and convivial institutions, (McLaren & Leonard, 1993) all three tend to be manipulative. The influence of family and especially church are fading, but it is both possible and incredibly important to work towards a convivial system of education.

Friere’s Critical Pedagogy (Shor, 1980) draws generative themes from the students’ lives to introduce critical perspectives on power relations in their lives, and to teach literacy as a means of empowerment. It was used teaching adult literacy in South America, but such characteristics as dialogic communication, problematisation, praxis and shared choice of content can be adapted to Australian school life. It is not enough, however, to merely apply the methods of Critical Pedagogy to traditional structures and subjects.

Once the concept is accepted that schools are not, or should not be knowledge factories, there is so much that can be done. The first step is to integrate the school into the community. At present schools tend to take advantage of the community in a very limited fashion, stylised and primarily to do with work – from work experience in high school down to excursions to the local vet and police station in kindy, the way the outside world is presented to students creates and enforces the distinction between school and the child on one side, and the professional and the workplace on the other. When people leave school they carry this view with them, and many never continue with education because of it. This is all despite the very public knowledge that this does not happen, that children cannot always be protected from life and they will be pushed through to adulthood regardless of whether they can read or any other of the multitude of skills supposed to be necessary to existence.

If we are serious about freedom, we must break down some of the distinctions between the child at school and the adult world. Some Libertarians (Spring, 1975) advocate the abolition of school altogether, but it does not need to be taken that far. To make the school a community centre where anyone can study would integrate the two worlds, to their mutual advantage.

A University or Community College style arrangement would facilitate this integration. Instead of either age grading or streaming, courses would be organised by subject, with various levels being provided as required. A wide variety of courses should be offered, not restricted to those preferred by a particular perspective. Practical, Critical Instrumentalist subjects are important, but so are Liberal subjects, the stipulation being that they must also be taught critically, instead of pretending they are value-free. If accreditation is by competency on individual units and workload is negotiated with one’s counselor, then compulsory courses become unnecessary, though some courses will naturally be strongly recommended, especially at lower levels.

This arrangement surmounts the perennial problem of streaming by allowing students to make choices – having a range of valid and acceptable choices for every student. It however requires considerable support: students are being presented with possibly frightening choice and freedom, and even in Summerhill (Neill, 1926) one can never ensure every student is equipped to make the choice. Individual care is required, in the form of counsellors, charged with the ongoing care of a small number of students. This not only ensures students have somebody to make sure they are getting the most out of their school, give advice and help with a strong knowledge of both student and school, but this kind of attention to each student and their choices also works to overcome somewhat the structural disadvantages of family (Matthews, 1980).

Another Libertarian system which could benefit the proposal is the Learning Web (Illich, 1970). Illich’s model consists of a sytem of registers, where students can find four things: peers to learn with, teachers, informants or mentors to learn from, resources to learn with and professional educators to help out when required. It was designed for a similar environment to Friere’s work, but would also be valuable adapted to the situation at hand. A school is perfectly placed to keep such registers, and access to them fills out the range of subjects and learning styles that cannot be accommodated by the regular classes, ensuring that tailoring to a student’s needs is not subordinated to the bureaucracy. Running parallel to other classes, a web would be easily accommodated within the given framework. It would be maintained by the counselors, who would interview all parties, rather than review qualifications, for suitability and readiness. The regular teaching staff would superviese and run teacher training within the school. A school is also perfectly situated to both connect students of similar needs and arrange access to resources.

Naturally each and every element requires more funding, yet considering this country has one of the lowest public expenditures on education in the OECD (Martin, 2001), a significant increase in funding is actually quite a reasonable request. In fact, it is a necessary one if even the current education system is to fulfill what is expected of it for a period longer than is being considered by those in control, who are elected every three or four years.

That brings us to another aspect of Neill’s brand of libertarianism: participatory democracy (Neill, 1926). The only way this proposal can remain authentic is if it remains responsive to the actual needs and desires of those involved. Giving students and staff members equal voices and opportunities to change important aspects of the running of the school fulfils this requirement. It also empowers students to takie responsibility, feel ownership over both the school and their lives, and learn to speak, work and organise cooperatively. This need not be a system which can necessarily be transferred to national government to be a valid way to teach people to work, nor need it imply absolute power over all aspects of the school. To accommodate all that is being asked here, the school will probably be too large to meet comfortably as one body, but the system, like much of this proposal, has been well tested and found to work (Apple & Beane, 1999; Shotton, 1993; Chamberlin, 1989), they are not reasons to opt out and elect token representatives to sit on a powerless school council.

A school with freedom, individual care, participatory democracy, learning webs and critical pedagogy would not only give each student the best possible chance to meet their individual needs, but may also prepare society to finally begin to consider its future.

Reference List

Apple, M. W., & Beane, J.A., (Eds.). (1999). Democratic schools: Lessons from the chalk face. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Chamberlin, R., (1989). Free children and democratic schools: A philosophical study of liberty and education. London: The falmer Press.

Illich, I. D., (1970). Deschooling society. London: Calder & Boyars.

Matthews, M. R., (1980). The Marxist theory of schooling: A study of epistemology and education. Sussex: Harvester Press.

Martin, R., (2001). The OECD education at a glance report 2001. Report for Australian Education Union.

McLaren, P., & Leonard, P., (1993). Paolo Friere: A critical encounter. London: Routledge.

Neill, A. S., (1926). Summerhill. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books.

Shor, I., (1980). Critical teaching and everyday life. Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Shotton, J., (1993). No master high or low: Libertarian education and schooling 1890 – 1990. Bristol: Libertarian Education.

Spring, J., (1975). A primer of libertarian education. New York: Free Life Editions.

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going back

July 4, 2008 at 6:21 pm (brain, education, gender, mechanical engineering, musings)

back at tafe again

back at my parents’ again

feeling more female again

discovering old friends again

hearing my voice lifting again

talking to people who knew me as a child again

getting close to an old partner again

sorting through forgotten belongings and memories again

letting my hair get longer again

falling into old habits again

but it’s all as an adult, walking around in my old life with recontextualising adult feet. reconciling more aspects of myself, again.

it’s much better than it used to be.

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