This reflections column is also the concluding article in this special issue on Future Directions. The following reflections indicate my view of the new realities that frame our futures efforts today. One feature of the past half-century working in the adult and continuing education field is that my entry provides me with a sort of hinge of history Many of the pioneers from the previous generation, when the field was still emerging, were still around. The following reminiscences illustrate the very different societal context when the field was invisible compared with the new realities today, when there are frequent references in the mass media to lifelong learning.
Fond memories abound: Listening on the radio to Invitation to Learning with Lyman Bryson, an early professor of adult education when Teachers College, Columbia University had just established the first doctoral program in adult education; receiving the first doctorate in adult education awarded by Syracuse University; working with Malcolm Knowles while he was executive director of AEA and later professor of adult education; chairing the residential adult education section of AEA with members including Myles Horton at Highlander and Tim Pitkin at Goddard; starting the Adult Education Research Conference; serving as visiting staff at the Center for the Study of Liberal Education for Adults; and my career long friendship with Cy Houle.
When I left Nebraska and joined the Teachers College faculty in 1965, the last of the long-time professors of adult education there had just retired, and I handled the transition from the Institute of Adult Education (that had produced many early publications) to the Center for Adult Education Research and invited Jack Mezirow to leave his extension position in California to join me there.
The field, and related graduate study and research, continued to expand during the 1970s, when I taught in a newly established University of Illinois adult education graduate program, held an administrative role, and served as consulting editor for Jossey-Bass and started their quarterly sourcebooks on New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Our move in 1981 to the well-established graduate program here at the University of Wisconsin has marked the longest time Linda and I have lived in any one community.
After 12 years at Syracuse University the more in 1960 to Lincoln to start the Adult Education graduate program at the University of Nebraska occurred when Commission of Professors of Adult Education members were completing a statement on "Adult Education: A New Imperative for Our Times" and a 1964 book edited by Jensen, Liveright, and Hallenbeck entitled Adult Education: Outlines of an Emerging Field of University Study.
Reviewing them recently reminds me that we have far exceeded much of what seemed to many of us then to be bold dreams for the future. However, I still share Houle's sentiment expressed to me back then that what the field could become is what continues to interest me most. As with many grandparents, familiarity with three previous generations increases my interest in the legacy and prospects for coming generations.
The dramatic increase in the size, diversity, and visibility of the field was a rising tide that lifted my boat and many others. But circumstances are different now Complaints about marginality and neglect have been replaced by acceptance and then assimilation. Pioneering and celebrations of diversity have been replaced by fragmentation as reflected in the vitality of 50 specialized national associations of people who work in the field, and in concern about whether the center will hold. As Roger Boshier commented some years ago, we seem to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
By contrast, my optimism about desirable future directions for the field given our new realities springs …