Academic journal article Adult Learning

Program Planning in War-Torn Palestine

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Program Planning in War-Torn Palestine

Article excerpt

Planning continuing education programs for professionals was a fairly straight-forward task for me--one that I had done for 20 years. It was not until I was confronted with road closures, military clashes, and guns pointed in my face and those of my [U.S.] consultants that I questioned my role and responsibilities as a program planner and how they changed when situated within a global context.

The purpose of this article is to summarize my experiences providing continuing professional education for law professors in the West Bank and Gaza as the Second Intifada raged. The Second Intifada, an armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza, severely limiting our project activities. Security and road closures prohibited travel for professors and students, so the solution was to bring U.S. consultants to campuses to teach research skills to the professors and their students. My greatest challenges were finding alternate ways to transport consultants to the campuses in the middle of the conflict, adjusting schedules, and keeping the consultants safe. This meant I had to reach outside my realm as an experienced Mid-Western program planner to make sure that "the show must go on" and to keep the consultants alive. As a result, not only did everyone survive, but the show did go on, the students learned how to conduct research, and I learned how to be a flexible program planner.

The Role and Responsibility of a Program Planner in Palestine

Program planning has always come easy for me since I am a "details" kind of person. My role and responsibilities as a program planner in Chicago were always clear to me: to plan and present a program with the adult learner in mind and involved. I made sure that speakers used adult education principles when delivering the curricula and evaluating the program, and made adjustments based on the evaluation.

By the time I was in Palestine in 2000 and 2001, I had reviewed about 20 program planning models over the years and had embraced Caffarella's (1994) program planning ideas, Sork and Caffarella's (1989) program planning model, and studied Cervero's (1985) work on continuing professional education. As a program planner, I agreed to take in the context of the organization and to understand the center of the power structure. Andragogy was a word I often used, and I thought Knowles (1980) had a good working program planning model. But planning programs in Chicago was one thing.

I thought about my studies and experience in May 2001 while parked at the top of a garbage heap that was being used as a road bypass outside Biet El (an Israeli settlement) in the West Bank, and looking at my apartment in Ramallah in the near distance, about one--quarter of a mile away. I was in trouble. I knew I needed to get my U.S. consultant, Ralph Ruebner, a law professor from John Marshall School of Law, Chicago, back to Ramallah safely. Ralph had just delivered a workshop on legal research to law students in Bit Zeit University. The only problem was that we couldn't use the main road, because members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were shooting at student demonstrators on the main road and all other roads were dosed. Our only way home was to drive over the garbage heap, across a boulder that had been moved into a ditch, through an olive grove, and around an unpaved mountain road. I wondered what a good program planner would do now.

My Experience

For the situation in the West Bank in 2001 during the Intifada, I had to be flexible in my program plan--really flexible! I was forced to take a shortcut across the Judean Desert in our Chew with Ralph, All Abu Ali--my Palestinian assistant--and find yet another alternative way home. As we waited for the taxis and trucks to cross in front of us, I wondered, what would Sork and Caffarella (1989) recommend now? Did Knowles (1980) have a good solution? I was considering my awesome responsibility to keep Ralph alive when the IDF drove up in their Jeep and tore out our only passage to get back to Ramallah. …

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