Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education

By Vanessa Sheared; Peggy A. Sissel et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 20

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Confronting Who “We” Are

Merilyn Childs

I feel that over the past two decades I have seen some change in the expectation one puts into work. What I mean is that in the past my parents sought security and now they seek challenge and are more career motivated. …Now they encourage me to seek a career, rather than a nice job that offers long term security with minimal change.

—Jane, adult educator, 1997


INTRODUCTION

The aims of this chapter are fourfold. First, it provides a broad overview of the changes that have been taking place in the Australian educational system and labor market. Second, it discusses one aspect of broad labor market change— the social construction of the “new model worker” (Flecker and Hofbauer 1998, 113). Third, it explores some of the changes that have taken place through some insights developed during a five-year qualitative research program about adult education work in Australia. Finally, it uses these insights to question the assumed “we” of adult education theory.

Adult educators have given much attention to adult education theory and practice and the contribution “we” can make toward the betterment of society. Almost invisible in this discourse is a frank critique about adult educators as workers. Perhaps this is because worker education and community development programs were established either by enlightened volunteers with limited funding or as a part-time activity, done out of self-interest. In Australia, from where I am writing, this is no longer the case. Over the past decade, adult education has become a billion-dollar “industry” and, as a result, adult education as a form of work has become a core wage activity for many workers—albeit still in many respects a part-time, consultative, market-driven activity.

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