The Politics of Nonformal Education in Latin America

By Carlos Alberto Torres | Go to book overview

Educational research has proven that the decisive features of mainstream adult education are its methodological individualism, its technocratic and economic rationale for policymaking, its case-study or project-by-project approach, its normative and prescriptive emphasis instead of an explanatory and analytical focus, and its ahistorical and antitheoretical biases. A more dynamic approach, popular education, calls for democracy, participation, and economic political reorganization of the poor and greater autonomy for the communities. These premises are indeed a radical departure from mainstream adult education programs. Undoubtedly there are still numerous dilemmas for popular education, but it has moved from being an emergent educational model ( Avalos, 1988: 167-69) to become a politically established practice whose point of reference is popular movements.


NOTES
1.
Pablo Latapí, in personal correspondence with the author, has criticized the use of the term "idealist-pragmatic" to refer to the three diverse currents represented in Dewey's progressivism, andragogy, and "recurrent education." I shall argue, however, that some of the naive assumptions embedded in them about the relationships between human agency and structure, and their unfounded optimism for the role of technology and adult education in humanization and social change will qualify as idealist. The pragmatic side comes from the refusal to discuss the practical implications of the current organization of production (i.e., constraints imposed by social and economic structures) for a comprehensive reform of nonformal education, and the possibility that adult education could impact on the division of labor and well-being of adults segmented by classes, races, and gender. Stressing an epistemological approach, the pragmatism can be equated with the lack of a critical theory of society to understand the dynamics of transformation of capitalist structures that would impede generation, in Habermas's terms, of massive ideal speech situations.
2.
There are obvious differences between civilian corporatist states and military dictatorships, and among military dictatorships. Similarly, there are strong differences between inclusionary and exclusionary forms of corporatism ( Stepan, 1978). For instance, while the bloody military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 drastically diminished the provision of adult education, its Brazilian counterpart, after the coup d'état of 1964, created the MOBRAL (Brazilian Movement of Literacy Training) in 1967, ( Bhola, 1984; Chapter 4 of this book). The Mexican corporatist state, which because of the radical trends emerging from the Mexican Revolution does not entirely share an organic-statist normative perspective, greatly expanded the provision of mass adult education in the 1980s, though there was not immediate concern with the quality of education provided to adults ( Pescador and Torres, 1985; Morales-Gómez and Torres, forthcoming). Finally, while the Brazilian state ( 1964-1983) and the Mexican state may have oscillated between inclusionary and exclusionary policies, the Argentine experience can be characterized as an exclusionary political reform, a form of corporatism called by O'Donnell a bureaucratic-authoritarian state. There are still important theoretical problems in analyzing corporatist experiences of policymaking in industrial advanced societies, particularly in Western Europe ( Therborn, 1988).

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