Dreaming of Holistic Adult Education in 2020

By Giraldo, Monica Arboleda | Adult Learning, Summer-Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Dreaming of Holistic Adult Education in 2020


Giraldo, Monica Arboleda, Adult Learning


"Survival for the pursuit of Liberty and Happiness involves less inconsistencies, less arrogance, and more than instrumental reason. Generosity and a political will are also needed. The situation calls for the heart as much as for the head of the rich and poor. Hands and minds should move in tandem in a new world alliance to reconstruct societies through humane globalizing initiative"

Orlando Fals Borda (2000)

Who is speaking and from what perspective?

Would projections about adult education look different if they were made by people from multiple countries, backgrounds, and perspectives? I strongly believe that no matter how much global knowledge one has, interpretations and projections would be different and would be influenced by those aspects already mentioned. If one knows who is speaking or where that speaker is from, it would be easier to understand the positions, interpretations, and projections of the speaker. So, who is speaking here? I am a feminist from Colombia who has been working for more than 12 years in non-formal educational processes from a social justice and human rights perspective--a woman who believes that critical thinking and taking action should occur together. This is particularly important today as we are facing global issues like peace, wars, humanitarian crimes, and structural injustices.

Trying to think globally as an adult educator has not been an easy exercise due to the enormous spectrum of theories and practices that adult education has had, and could have. Besides, "The future has not yet happened and so cannot easily be defined. Consequently, writing about it is rarely uncontested. All that can be said without qualification is that writing about times future is to interpret the past and orientate the present in order to explore future prospects" (Zepke, 2005, p. 166). So, adult education's projections are framed by the alignment of "the desired ideal" and what the analysis of reality can tell us. For practical reasons, this paper concentrates its analysis in some aspects that are embraced within the "global notion" of adult education: first, perspectives and tendencies, and second, social movements and globalization.

Perspectives and Tendencies

We are guided by various perspectives, a few of which will be discussed below.

Merriam and Brockett (1997) show the different philosophical perspectives that have shaped the foundations of field from a United States perspective. These include liberal, progressive, humanist, and critical philosophy, to name a few.

The Liberal and Progressive Perspectives. John Dewey is the most well-known advocate of these perspectives. He was able to "translate these new perspectives into concrete educational goals and programs" (Merriam & Brockett, 1997, p. 35). Eduard Lindeman, "is probably the most prominent proponent of progressive adult education" (Merriam & Brockett, 1997, p. 36). Other important theorists are Cyril Houle, who is well known in the field for his definition of adult education and the concept of self-directed learning, and Dorothy C. Fisher, who provided strong leadership in writing the literature of the field during the 1920s and 1930s (Merriam & Brockett, 1997).

The Humanist Perspective. Assumptions of this perspective lead to a focus on developing the potential of the learner. "Learners are internally motivated, can identify their needs and can make decisions about content" (Merriam & Brockett, 1997, p. 40). The most prominent writer of that perspective was Malcolm Knowles who brought out the concepts of andragogy, who continued developing and researching self-directed learning, and who was the champion for informal learning. As Smith (2002) expresses: Knowles "was a, perhaps 'the', central figure in US adult education in the second half of the twentieth century" (Para 1).

Critical Philosophy. This perspective is considered "radical in the political sense of utilizing education to bring about social, political, and economic changes in society" (Merriam & Brockett, 1997, p. …

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