Academic journal article Adult Learning

Our Philosophy: Are We Really Too Busy to Talk about What We Believe?

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Our Philosophy: Are We Really Too Busy to Talk about What We Believe?

Article excerpt

My job, like many today in adult education, is extremely varied. I run an extension center in a downtown area for a state university. I manage the facility, the staff, the scheduling of the credit classes, corporate training programs, space rentals and community service events. My staff and I don't have time to philosophize about adult education, or do we?

There was a lull in the normal hubbub at the center so I decided to give it a try. After conducting our regular business at a staff meeting, I asked about our philosophy of adult education. Silence. The response was blank stares from the two full-time and one part-time employee that are the top-notch team that make things happen at the center.

I tried a different tact by asking more concrete questions. Why do we do what we do? What do we believe is the purpose of adult education? What do we believe about the adult students we serve? The answers were very interesting but the real surprise for me was the reaction to this opportunity to discuss "our philosophy." Everyone really got into it! Though we have worked together for a number of years, the information that came out of this exchange was new and the perspective somewhat different. Also surprising was that after our somewhat shaky start, everyone had clear, definite and enthusiastic opinions to offer.

Our discussion started with a reference to our mission statement. It was suggested that we exist to make education accessible to more people. Survival skills for the Information Age also came up. We talked about the changes that have taken place in our field of higher education. Issues like rising costs, grade inflation, quality standards and the impact of increased competition surfaced.

What became apparent as we progressed in our discussion, is that our working philosophy of adult education is eclectic. Opinions were expressed reflecting the behaviorist, progressive, liberal and humanistic philosophies though they were never labeled as such at our meeting. My coworkers believe that education should prepare individuals for participation in our democratic society, prepare them for better job opportunities, serve those who just love to learn and facilitate personal growth. They did not see these purposes as conflicting but rather as compatible.

Probably the most beneficial aspect of the discussion came when we were talking about how we feel about our jobs. …

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