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Education : Second Thoughts Newsletters : Complete text of all the Second Thoughts Newsletters Last Updated: Sep 8th, 2009 - 08:07:52

Second Thoughts Vol. 2, No. 2, October 1979

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In this issue:
--Task Group Reports from Highlander
--Economic Growth and Social Mobility/Helen Parris
--You Can't Mandate Learning/Anne Fitzgerald

Highlander in June, Boston in November

The first three days in June saw 40 proponents of voluntary adult learning gather at the Highlander Center in Tennessee to talk, share, play, argue, become a community, and, in the end, lay the groundwork for an organization that will critically review, and possibly challenge the direction of contemporary adult education. As the July 2nd issue of Adult and Continuing Education Today reported the meeting ended with a "strengthened sense of hope and a strong impulse toward continued communication and collective action."

The participants came from all regions of the United States, from Canada and West Germany. They represented broad arenas of social action, such alternate approaches as participatory research, free universities, and learning exchanges, and such professional fields as adult education, law, medicine, nursing, religion, veterinary medicine, and library science.

From Friday evening (June 1) through Saturday evening, the 40 participants met in large and small groups to explore their concerns about mandatory continuing education (MCE) and related issues, with plenty of time in between for informal interaction, housekeeping chores, swimming, volleyball, fiddle playing, singing, and partying. Sunday morning everyone gathered to hear reports from the five Task Groups that had formed, and to test for unity:

The Strategies Task Group proposed, among other things, the establishment of an organizing instrument. The National Alliance for Voluntary Learning (NAVL) has now been set up with plans for meeting during the National Adult Education Conference in Boston, November 5th-9th. The Criteria for Evaluation Task Group presented a set of guidelines for continuing professional education as a way of searching for clear identification of alternatives to MCE. The Research/Legal Task Group pointed to the need for data on the current MCE situation, the importance of supporting participatory research, and the need for developing legal data to aid in specific court challenges. The Second Thoughts Task Group came up with helpful suggestions related to content, format, circulation building, and editing. The Exploring Alternatives Task Group called attention to underlying needs related to MCE and proposed broad areas for alternative development. (Details of the proposals of each of these task forces may be found in the following pages of this newsletter).

Also during the weekend, Barbara Wrede presented a paper on "Toward a Radical Revision of Education." Frank Adams joined with others in proposing the formation of a self-validation association to counteract rigid certification and credentialing programs.

For a detailed summary of the weekend's discussion plus a complete list of participants' addresses and phone numbers, send us a stamped-self-addressed envelope.

No comment

Harold Denton, the chief of reactor regulation for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently completed a three week adult education course at Harvard on "How To Be a Better Government Bureaucrat." After completing the course he announced that, despite the fact that the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island is still being investigated by a Presidential Commission, plans to lift the freeze on licensing new reactors. When the Presidential Commission accused Denton of thumbing his nose at their investigation, he backed down. Newsweek reports he commented, "What else could I do? Obviously, I need more schooling."

MCE for personhood?

Sunny Robinson writes: "Shall I, and/or my children, have to take a qualifying course to be a person? Peopling skills for all? MCE for personhood? Isn't that the next logical step beyond mandatory courses in parenting skills? Or is that what we have de facto now as a result of classism, racism, sexism, ageism?"

Strategies Task Group

The Strategies Task Group proposed the establishment of an organizing instrument to develop an action program based on the many suggestions discussed. In the weeks following the Highlander meeting participants agreed, through a mail consensus process, on the name The National Alliance for Voluntary Learning (NAVL).

NAVL is the focus for an action program by which people can judge us rather than expecting statements or social criticism to serve this purpose. It will provide a means to test out the many suggestions for action in order to find out which work, when, and where.

The first NAVL activity will be a meeting in conjunction with the National Adult Education Conference in Boston, Nov. 5-9. At this meeting and others concerns will be shared with convention participants and support will be sought. Plans are also afoot to bring MCE and related issues to the floor of the convention,

If you are interested in further information on the NAVL meeting in Boston contact Tom Heaney, Community Services Office, College of Continuing Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. Telephone Tom at (815) 753-1646.

Other suggestions during this strategies discussion which ended the Highlander meeting included:
•Making connections with other organizations, national as well as local, having similar goals;.
•Encouraging legislative action including Sunset Acts;
•Utilizing mass media including film production; and,
•Since the term MCE was fostered by those favoring it as a way of making it appear more palatable, it was suggested that everyone begin referring to it for what it is: Forced Continuing Education (FCE).

First Law of Expert Advice: Never ask a barber whether you need a haircut.

Research/Legal Task Group

The Research/Legal Task Group at Highlander presented a three-fold report calling for:
(1) Research on how much MCE exists and what services people are seeking (not being manipulated into "needing");
(2) More emphasis on the participatory research approach of, for example, Budd Hall at the International Council for Adult Education, John Gaventa at Highlander, and Tom Hutchinson at Amherst, Mass.; and
(3) Legal research into closing tax loopholes to discourage MCE, getting data for court cases to show irrationality of MCE.

If you are interested in working on any of these areas send us a stamped self-addressed envelope for the full Highlander report which gives names, addresses, and action commitments of Task Group members.

"Toward a Radical Revision of Education"

Only one paper was presented at Highlander and it was a highpoint of the weekend. Barbara Wrede, a Northern California professor and political activist, spoke on "Toward a Radical Revision of Education." Copies of her presentation, along with a bibliography, may be obtained by writing Barbara at 1631 Loop Road, Fortuna, California 95540. Here are a few excerpts:

"In order to change such obstacles to learning as Compulsory Continuing Education, we need to look at the whole disaster that is our present education. I maintain that it needs to be changed, from bottom to top. First, realize that white males are the only ones who do now define what it is important to know...

"To become educated in the approved sense, all women today are forced to learn lies about themselves...Compulsory Continuing Education for women continues and enforces our lifelong brainwashing...To change the ugliness of an entire miseducational system based on lies, secrets, and silence, women must refuse the same of the White Male Lie...

"How, specifically, can one begin this seemingly huge task? First, take your women students and your women associates seriously. ...Second, correct the flaws in your own education...When we all can fully understand the forces that have brought us to our present day, we will be able to move off into a sane and healthy future where neither people nor the earth shall be oppressed, raped, held in bondage."

Criteria for Evaluation Group

The Criteria for Evaluation Group brought forth a set of eight guidelines for continuing education of professionals that was authored by Connolly Gamble. The guidelines are meant to illustrate that compulsory education is not as effective as voluntary education, as well as point to the inequality of one class or group ordering another to learn something (as well as dictate how it will be learned). The Guidelines:

1) Formal and informal education is a proper concern of educational institutions, professional associations, and the patients/ clients/consumers/students/members served by the professional. Yet the primary ownership of a person's continuing education belongs to the individual professional. There is empirical evidence that the nature of an educational experience is changed when attendance is mandated.
2) Education that focuses on personal growth and professional development thrives best in a context of free inquiry and voluntary participation rather than mandated attendance .
3) Those institutions, associations, and groups that are concerned with the continuing development of a professional may properly encourage and enable participation by that person in continuing education experiences.
4) This encouraging/enabling may take such forms as providing or assisting with finances, giving or arranging for time to be available, arranging for or assisting in planning of learning events, and interpreting the values of participation — but does not preempt the individual's decision to participate or not to participate. ".. .the nature of an educational experience is changed when attendance is mandated."
5) The good results of voluntarily attended continuing education experiences should not be taken as reason for mandating attendance of the entire profession on the supposition that what was good for some members will be good for all members of a profession.
6) Those professions that require participation in continuing education for a certain number of hours or CEUs (continuing education units) within a certain period should review the results of this mandatory program and seek alternative means to encourage participation.
7) Those states that require a certain number of hours or CEUs within a certain period in order to maintain certification in a professional field should review the results of this mandatory program and seek alternative means to encourage voluntary participation.
8) Those public/consumer groups that may advocate legislation mandating continuing education for certain professions should consider the results of mandating programs as now observable, and seek alternative means to encourage rather than require participation.

After the guidelines were presented on Sunday morning, an intense discussion of the issues ensued. The group questioned the distinction made between training and education, and some suggested that the distinction is designed to justify class differences. Myles Horton pointed to the fact that professionals seemed to "discover" MCE only after they became affected by it. A suggestion later arose: "Should these guidelines for CE of professionals also apply to CE by professionals?"

The guidelines have been printed here to encourage further debate and discussion. Any comments or criticism can be sent to us.

Self-validation proposal

Three Highlander participants, Frank Adams, Anne Fitzgerald, and Jane Vella have prepared a proposal for setting up an association for a genuine validation process as opposed to the present rigid, top-down certification and credentialing systems. Your comments on this tentative proposal will be very helpful:

"Purpose—The purpose of this association is to provide free and responsible means of recognition of successful learning and the consequent manifest competency.

"This association sponsors a process whereby people, their peers, and the persons they serve voluntarily validate or accredit their learning.

"This process is initiated by the person and reviewed by both peers and those served. Ultimately, the declaration of certification is made by the person her/himself. Empirical evidence indicates that self-defined learning “usually results in the most stringent self-evaluation.” This validation process therefore assures society of competency.

"This declaration of certification is a declaration of personal independence and responsibility recognizing genuine voluntary self-directed learning,

"Procedures--1. Identify those competencies needed to fulfill individual goals. 2. Measure one's own skills and behavior against these competencies. 3. Establish a learning contract to reach those self-defined learning goals. 4. Review the new competency (skill, behavior) with peers and those being served. 5. Publicly declare one's certification in that competency.

"A certificate of the association can be used. On it will be written the specific competency and the name of the person declaring, as well as the date.

"This process may be used by anyone, in any job, any profession or any academic discipline. Further, the person seeking self-validation may do so at any time, in as many areas, fields, or skills as are appropriate."

"Who would I take a course from? I think I know more than anybody."

On June 17th this year The New York Times reported that a new New York State law would require that, beginning in 1983, all real estate brokers and salesmen take 45 hours of continuing education credits (CEUs) every four years. Superstars of real estate brokerage in New York City are enraged.

"The cry of most people to me is 'Who will educate Harry Helmsley?'" said Norman Weinberg, dean of the New York University Real Estate Institute. Said Mr. Helmsley, who is perhaps the city's biggest builder and developer: "Who would I take a course from I think I know more than anybody." Mr. Helmsley may be rescued by a provision in the new law that affords brokers of "stature" the opportunity to teach courses instead of being forced to "just attend." The Real Estate Board of New York City is already trying to make modifications in the law so that "veterans" are exempt from the MCE requirements.


"Although it has fostered some fancy technics, capital has come up with no better uses for them than enforcing social dependence and isolation, simultaneously. It is up to some more congenial organization to find the good uses of the paraphernalia worth saving."

Exploring Alternatives Task Group

The Exploring Alternatives Task Group examined the basic underlying human needs that are related to MCE. It called attention to the importance of finding new ways for people to take care of themselves without being too dependent on experts. The group also pointed to the need for client (or consumer, patient, or student) review of professional services. For example, patients should have a meaningful chance to evaluate and make public their views of the health care they have received from physicians, nurses, etc. Student evaluations of teachers exist but the information is frequently not made public. Sometimes professionals in these situations become more interested in "pleasing" the evaluating consumer-client–patient-student than in performing well. Is there no overlap, the group asked?

The principle might be to keep professionals accountable and competent by encouraging them to be mutually self-reliant while at the same time, interacting fairly with lay people, who are also mutually self-reliant. These, and other better ways of evaluation and accountability provision, by eliminating MCE, might reduce the cost of professional services because at present the cost of MCE is passed on to the consumer, taxpayer, etc.


ALTERNATIVES? AFFIRMATIVES? In this new column we hope to provide statements and news of projects that emphasize positive alternatives to MCE and related injustices. We do this as a result of suggestions from participants at the Highlander meeting. Your contributions and comments will make this a worthwhile column.


The National Association for the Legal Support of Alternative Schools is a national information and legal service center designed to research, coordinate, and support legal actions involving nonpublic educational alternatives. They see compulsory attendance laws as violations of first Amendment rights, and so they challenge them along with other state controls on non-compulsory learning arrangements. The group puts out a newsletter called Tidbits, which is a collection of resources. Alternative Education Conference information, and other news. Subscription and membership information is available from NALSAS; P.O.Box 2823; Santa Fe, NM 87501.


"Where we need to choose and do things for ourselves, we are coerced into doing what we are told. And where we need the guidance of certain authorities of our own choosing, we are stuck with arbitrary authorities. "It is not a matter of dispensing with the aid of authorities, but of their judicial choice and specific questioning: face to face, voice to voice, text to eye, etc. You can't appoint a board even of eminent authorities to do the choosing and questioning for you."

European alternatives

In the last issue we mentioned The Alternative Free-Neighborhood Universities Catalog. The new 1979 issue is available, and the evident expansion will come as a happy surprise to those familiar with the publication. AFC has grown from 148 pages in 1978 to 296 pages in this edition. AFC is available from Verlag Freie Nachbarschaft Gmbh.; D-6145 Lindenfels; West Germany. Dm 10.0& postage included.

The Learners' Cooperative

Ken Fischer, who was with us at Highlander is one of the founders of the new Learners' Cooperative in Washington, D.C. As we understand it, adults who feel they must go back to college band together in a cooperative to bargain collectively with institutions of higher learning to get the best program for their needs at the best price. As Ken explains it, the first project involves nurses who feel pressured to get a bachelor's degree. He reports initial success getting a group of nurses together and attracting offers from several colleges in the area. Write Ken at 5010 Wisconsin Avenue N.W., Suite 408, Washington, D.C. 20016, or call (202) 244-6590.

Self-chosen learning

Allen Tough continues his long range study of self-initiated learning projects. His most recent effort is Choosing To Learn prepared for the Learning Stance Project of the US National Institute of Education. Here he deals in a hardheaded practical way with the positive aspects of self-chosen learning in a society that does not encourage such activities. He deals specifically with the problem of MCE in two sections headed "How voluntary, self-initiated, and pro-active is adult learning?" and "How can we encourage or force people to learn things that are beneficial to others?" To find out how to obtain this new 22 page paper of Allen's write him at OISE Adult Ed, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Canada M5S 1V6.

Cutting Edge

The Society For Educational Reconstruction is a group of educators that believe that our turbulent times require a bold and radically innovative group dedicated to personal, social, and political transformation through education. SER is committed to four basic goals: Democratic Socialism, Cooperative Power, Global Power, and Self-Transformation. SER's current projects include the publishing of a quarterly journal. Cutting Edge, which serves as a forum to communicate perspectives regarding the reconstruction of education and society. Information is available from Dr. Thomas J. Venables, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ 08102.

Free universities

There are now over 200 free universities and learning networks In the US, enrolling over 300,000 participants a year. In 1978 they were listed as one of the major providers of adult education by The College Board and the Federal Task Force on Lifelong Learning. Now, for the first time, a complete bibliography is available on them. It's called Research and Resources and contains 16 pages of listings on articles, books, periodicals, directories, etc. The Free University Network (1221 Thurston, Manhattan, Kansas 66502) publishes this bibliography, along with a monthly newsletter, various manuals, a national directory, and a new publication "Legal Issues in Teaching Self-Care Courses." This report, prepared by attorney-author Lori Andrews, helps those offering self-care courses to deal with possible legal challenges that they are practicing medicine without a license. Write Bill Braves at F.U.N. for information on how to obtain all these publications.

Growing Without Schooling

John Holt is the author of many books on education, schooling, and their relation to the free life including How Children Fail, How Children Learn, What Do I Do Monday?, and Instead of Education. Recently he started putting out a newsletter to help parents with what he calls "unschooling". It's called Growing Without Schooling and it's a very helpful publication filled with practical suggestions for parents who want to work with their children away from the school setting. For information on how to subscribe write Holt Associates, 308 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. John is also turning his attention to adult education. In his book Escape From Childhood he pointed to the trend toward "womb-to-tomb" education for all and wrote: "I am very serious in saying I think this is coming unless we prepare against it." His most recent book is Never Too Late, In which he writes about his struggles with doubt and fear as he learned to play the cello at age fifty. And recently he wrote us "I do think the work you're doing is very important. We are more or less working in parallel."


Interchange is a newsletter for learning networks to share ideas, resources, techniques, and expertise. It is published bi-monthly by the Learning Exchange in Evanston Illinois. Information and subscriptions are available from: The Learning Exchange, P.O. Box 920; Evanston IL 62704. .

Holt vs. Newton on learning exchanges

Re: Learning exchanges — one reason, maybe the main reason, they got into trouble is that they almost instantly got too fancy. They all missed Illich's point about being networks, and began to think of themselves as organizations that had to promote something. When Illich spoke of a card file, that was damn near literally what he meant he sure wasn't thinking of newsletters, programs, etc."

This is from John Holt who goes on to provide a model of a learning exchange that isn't so fancy. "To the exchange in Anytown USA, Jane Smith sends a double postcard. One half of that post-card is not addressed, but the message side says, 'Please tell me what you want to know about Chinese Cooking (or whatever she wants to know) .' When Mary Jones writes in saying that she knows something about Chinese Cooking, you look under Chinese Cooking and mail her Jane Smith's card. Or better yet, you mail Jane Smith back her return postcard, giving her Mary Jones's name. If there is more than one card in the Chinese Cooking file, you mail them all back to their original senders It's up to them to get in touch with Mary Brown. If that doesn't work, then they send you new cards, which you hold until the next Chinese Cooking expert turns up. Nothing here that needs to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Once a year (maybe) you print up a directory of resource people, which you sell for $1.00 — more if it is bigger. If there's something wrong with this idea, someone tell me what it is."

Phil Newton, director of the Learning Exchange in DeKalb, IL responds with this report of a learning exchange that he calls "the technological polar opposite of John Holt's model."

"A Community Memory System was developed in the San Francisco Bay area in the early 70's into which anyone could put any information, and from which anyone could retrieve any information. It facilitated not only learning exchange-type meetings, but also virtually every other kind of interpersonal encounter, including the sale of goods and services, ride-pools, along with pure information (e.g. poems, sermons, and commentaries on these, and commentaries on the commentaries. ..) ."

In the Autumn, 1978 issue of C/O: The Journal of Alternative Human Services, Michael Rossman describes the system as being "a fully democratic information system.. Power to put information in public reach and to draw on information was available to anyone, regardless of their financial, organizational, or social status. No central authority provided that information, edited it, censored it, determined who could know what, or certified what was true. No central authority mediated people's direct communications and transactions with each other." (The people responsible for Community Memory, and its decedent which is now being implemented in the Bay Area, publish the Journal of Community Communications, a quarterly, $6 per year, P.O. Box 996, Berkeley, CA 94701)

Newton continues: "My learning exchange now resurrected —falls somewhere in between Holt's postcards and the Computers of Community Memory. All approaches have certain advantages and disadvantages, but networks are nothing more than sophisticated bulletin boards, with a varying degree of sophistication. The point is the use of whatever skills and resources one has available to help people to learn and solve problems outside the influence and control of formal institutions. Whatever works to facilitate this, be it computers, postcards, telephones, classified ads, public access media, or the village square on market day, can and should be acknowledged and supported as tools for positive learning."

Lasch on second thoughts

"The health and welfare industries, which have done so much to promote the new paternalism by professionalizing activities formerly carried out in the workshop, the neighborhood, or the home, have themselves begun to harbor second thoughts about the results of their own labors. Members of the 'helping professions' have begun to question the efficiency of the public institutions and welfare agencies that monopolize the knowledge formerly administered by ordinary citizens -- the hospital, the mental asylum, the juvenile court." From "Paternalism Without Father," Chapter Ten in Christopher Lasch's new best-selling book The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979). Out soon in paperback.


An aging liberal curmudgeon?

By John Ohliger

Anyone who enjoyed Sam Brightman's provocative "Caveats on Lifelong Learning" in the last issue of ST should consider subscribing to Adult and Continuing Education Today, the sprightly newsletter that Sam has been editing for more biweekly issues than we care to remember. Sam is that aging liberal curmudgeon who, in the pages of ACET regularly accomplishes this impossible anatomical feat: he has his finger on the pulse of what's happening in adult-ed-land in Washington and elsewhere; he keeps his ear to the ground for rumblngs of future trends; and he has his wise eyes firmly fixed on a benign but hazy vision of what the future could be. Sounds easy? You try it sometime.

If you haven't seen a copy of ACET, write to Sam's new publisher Scott, Foresman and Co., 1900 East Lake Ave., Glenview IL 60025 or call (312) 729-3000 and ask for a sample.

I hope all our readers subscribe to ACET, Sam. And, if you'll stop calling me a "guru" in the pages of ACET, I'll stop labeling you an "aging liberal curmudgeon" here. Okay?

Dick and Jane go back to school

"Adult education is the hottest phenomenon in the university system. The army of returning students is a dynamic feature of a largely stagnant academy. The recent blossoming of programs for adults is an example of development-in-decline: while education as a whole writhes in cutbacks, adult education proliferates wildly."

Thus begins the Introduction to Issue No.12 of Radical Teacher with adult education as its main theme. But the introduction ends on a brighter note: "A surprising amount of radical teaching is slowly evolving in this noisily reactionary decade. We hope these articles will raise the profile of some largely invisible good work."

The four articles are; "What is Liberating Education? A Conversation with Myles Horton," by Bingham Graves; "Learning on the Inside, Education through Theatre," by Marjorie Melnick; "Teaching Socialist Ethics at Co-op City," by Karsten Struhl; and "Radical Ideas in Adult Education; A Manifesto-Bibliography," by John Ohliger. Other articles in the issue include one on teaching the history of work and another on women's studies programs.

Radical Teacher is a quarterly published by Education In These Times, Inc. with the subtitle "a newsjournal of socialist theory and practice." Single issues are $2; subscription prices range from $3, if you are unemployed or retired, to $25 for sustaining members. There are back issues available on Women's Studies, Marxist Teaching, The Politics of Literacy, and The Academic Profession. Write to The Radical Teacher, P.O. Box 102, Kendall Sq., P.O. Cambridge, MA 02142. We recommend it, as does the prestigious Library Journal which says: "The out-front radical point of view makes this quarterly an important contribution to both politics and education."

Setting the Pace

MCE is the theme for the inaugural edition of Setting the Pace, an issues oriented quarterly journal published by the Illinois Adult/Continuing Education Association.

Among the contributors are: Ronald M. Cevero, "Thinking About MCE," Phyllis Cunningham, "While They're Debating, What Do We Do?"; John Ohliger, "Searching for Balance, Coping with Threats, Looking for Opportunities;" Kenneth Sutton, "MCE: Are We Asking the Right Questions?" and William H. Young, "Mandatory Continuing Professional Education: The Bright Side of the Picture."

Direct enquiries about copies to Mike Collins and Paul Ilsley, Editors, Setting the Pace, Graduate Studies in Adult/Continuing Education, 101 Gabel Hall, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115.

Letters from participants in the Second Thoughts/Basic Choices network

Rolland Paulston
We heard from Rolland Paulston, a professor from the University of Pittsburgh: "Your help in focusing attention on an area of potential educational exploitation is valuable. MCE will be an important part of 'friendly fascism' American style if it ever arrives. Accordingly, MCE bears close scrutiny both as a threat and an indicator." Paulston is the author of two books on the Highlander type activity as a positive alternative to MCE, Other Dreams, Other Schools: Folk Colleges in Social and Ethnic Movements and Folk Schools in Social Change, both available from the University of Pittsburgh Center for International Studies.

John Flautz
Also from Pennsylvania, John Flautz, Chairman of the Cedar Crest College English Dept., writes: "I have no personal reason to be hostile to MCE except suspicion of compulsion as a motive for learning (compulsion is a splendid motive for competence, if competence is what's wanted, but what the hell, I never yet belonged to a club that didn't have a few members I couldn't get along with). Furthermore, it seems to me from the one issue of ST I've seen that both friends and foes of MCE share a conviction that some sort of moral imperative demands a high correlation between schooling and income, whereas I fail to see that the two have anything whatever in common."

C. Ashley Ellefson
"Since the people at ST appear to be interested in the same sorts of things that I cover in The Higher Schooling in the United States. I am presuming to send you some information on that book," writes C. Ashley Ellefson, Professor of History at SUNY-Cortland. His book, now available in paperback from Schenkman, states that "academic administrators and their propertied bosses want people incapable of thinking."

David Williams
David Williams has just joined the adult education faculty at Penn State University after a year with the Ministry of Education in Jamaica: "I think it is time to begin considering Third World infestations of MCE. Like Coke and Pepsi, it's everywhere. It is not always as advanced as in post-industrial societies, but it works the same crap. The bureaucracy and credential-consciousness in Jamaica is incredible, so you can see how ripe it is for MCE."

Barbara Glanz
Barbara Glanz teaches English as a Second Language to adults in Northern Illinois: "It is refreshing to me as somewhat of an idealist, who has made it in the real world, to find people like you concerned with issues, and actually doing something positive with this concern. As we lose more and more of our personal dignity and freedom, I feel it is essential that we make our voices heard. I deal each day with students who see America as the 'Promised Land,' and I hope we can keep it that way!"

Should ST / Basic Choices broaden its concerns?
We have been sending out to interested persons the summary of the Highlander meeting available to everyone who sends us a stamped self-addressed envelope. Here are two of the letters of reply we've received so far. These excerpts note contrasting viewpoints.

From Budd Hall, the newly elected Secretary-General of the International Council for Adult Education: "Thanks for sending us the notes from the meeting at Highlander. The strong turnout is evidence that there are many people who are concerned with the abuse of adult education.

"I think that the work which Basic Choices (has) done to build a network of concerned persons to be one of the brightest lights on the U.S. adult education scene.

"I'm particularly pleased to note the sense that Basic Choices should broaden its base." The only chance that adult educators have of making any positive contributions is by beginning to come to grips with the central and critical issues of our times. Basic Choices seems to me to have the best chance of organizing this focus in the U.S. of all the options. "MCE is certainly one critical issue but there are obviously others. I do not, for example, feel that the Illich-Gross-Free University type option is ultimately egalitarian. I realize that this can be debated and should be but that is not the main point.

"Is there not a case to be made for building the Basic Choices network around additional issues such as: unemployment; building alliances between unions and community work; survival of progressive adult education in a recession; political-economic analysis of existing institutions; the elimination of poverty; adult education-political struggle in an international context; funding progressive programs? "

Malcolm Adiseshiah (Past-President of the Council) thinks that we should be building 'cadre-based' adult education movements. What would that mean in our contexts?"

From Jack McDonell, Director, Centre for Continuing Education, Clayton, Victoria, Australia: "I'd argue that the Impact of ST is likely to be reduced rather than enhanced by this proposal (that ST should view MCE in a broad social context rather than being a single issue newsletter). By all means, encourage those who write for ST to point to the social contexts of the aspects of MCE they write about. But let's not see ST transformed into just another, journal in which 'broad social issues' are the main concern, with MCE as just one manifestation of the general ills of society. It's the sharp, pragmatic focus of ST on a particular and important issue which appeals to me."

Do you agree with Budd or Jack or have a different view? Please let us know your opinion.

The converse of MCE
By Ron Gross

I'm currently studying what might be called "the converse of MCE" —serious, advanced intellectual work conducted independently, either individually or collectively .

I'm calling it Independent Scholarship at this point. Whatever the name, I want to call attention to the passionate pursuit of truth beyond academe, by all kinds of people in all kinds of realms: the hard sciences from microbiology to astronomy, the humanities from history to metaphysics, the social sciences from demographics to environmental activism; other realms of knowledge denigrated or undreamt of by the academy. I consider such studies the converse of MCE because they are utterly voluntary, proactive, self-directed, autonomous, idiosyncratic, non-institutionalized, productive, innovative, and joyous.

Maslow's study of "self-actualizing" people is one model (and inspiration) for this inquiry. Just as Maslow learned some 'useful things about troubled or blocked individuals, by studying not just them but also others who were notably exhilarated and productive, so perhaps there is something important to learn from "high learners" (to borrow an Allen Tough term, and change it slightly).

One of the commonest objections to our anti-MCE assertions is that people need to stay compelled if they are to learn. Yet professionals of all kinds, as Cyril Houle and others have shown, have traditionally taken command of their own continued education. "Learning one's living" this way is one main category of Independent Scholarship though in many other cases the learning is irrelevant to the learner's occupation.

I began this inquiry with The Lifelong Learner. This deeper look at Independent Scholarship will be a part of a College Board project. Future Directions for a Learning Society. My hope is that the findings and recommendations will help gain greater recognition for Independent Scholarship and even possibly some kinds of support for it which are currently not available.

1 would welcome hearing from any members of the Second Thoughts network interested in this subject. Write me at 17 Myrtle Drive, Great Neck, New York 11021.


"Forty years ago, Robert Binkely at Western Reserve University stumbled onto what he came to call the 'amateur scholar,' and recognized an intelligentsia in America invisible in every way save locally. The project he inspired soon lost its funding."

The quote above, like the others sprinkled throughout these pages with the headline MUSINGS, is from a thirty page manuscript sent to us by an author who prefers to remain anonymous. We found the whole manuscript fascinating but too long to print. If you have comments, or are Interested further in these MUSINGS, write to us, we'll forward your remarks to the author, and perhaps you will receive a copy of the manuscript, as we did.

Economic growth and social mobility: an essay-book review
By Helen Parris

Anyone who concludes that adult education is a growth industry with a mandatory compulsion will want to read Social Limits to Growth, by Fred Hirsch (Harvard University Press, 20th Century Fund Study, 1978). Hirsch's abstract jargon makes the going tough, but for the patient reader the reward is a reasoned analysis of factors contributing to the current escalation of education.

Hirsch sees this escalation rooted in an intense class struggle back to the 19th century when political freedoms percolated down to the masses. Scholars of that day feared that new political power might one day lead the masses to exercise economic power. During the early days of capitalism the ethic of collective restraint — our legacy from our feudal past — held the masses at bay. But gradually the masses moved away from their "I-know-my-place" ethic of the business-oriented minority.

After World War I, liberal economists sought to circumvent the distribution struggle through economic growth. Through economic growth, they reasoned, all could have more. However, having satisfied their basic needs, and armed with the middle class self-interest ethic, the masses worked to acquire resources that are socially scarce and cannot now, or ever, be obtained by all. Suburban lifestyles, summer homes, higher education, select jobs — these and other positional resources, as Hirsch calls them, were once comfortably divided among the higher echelons. Today everyone wants them and works to get them.

Hirsch's central focus is on the distribution of these scarce positional resources. "Who gets what?" His conclusions about how the pie should be divided, however, must be put aside until one has reasoned through his analysis of the crisis incurred by growth.

Purchasing power for positional resources depends, not on absolute income, but on an individual's income relative to that of others. Jobs above the base of any occupational pyramid are a positional resource. As incomes rise, demand for these jobs increases, but the supply of these jobs does not increase proportionately. Education is the screening device for adjusting demand to supply.

To rise on a particular job hierarchy an individual invests in additional schooling. But in a growth economy, other individuals are doing likewise. The educational factory expands to meet rising demand. As more people become more schooled, their educational credentials convey less and less information about their qualifications. Employers screen with a finer screen. Those in the labor force who do not regularly reschool themselves, slip back as the credential ladder rises. For losers with high job expectations, the result is frustration. Everyone wastes time, effort and money piling on layers of education just to remain at the same relative place.

Hirsch concludes that a growth economy can make basic goods in the material sector available to all. But in the positional sector one person's gain is another person's loss. In the end all lose. Thus the liberal economic system cannot be held to its social purpose. Its promise is an illusion. The question is, if liberal economics is at a crossroads, where do we go from here?

One policy alternative would be to level down the rich and redistribute the wealth. Hirsch is against the idea. Hirsch is also against the conservative alternative marked by "an era of constraint" rhetoric. Hirsch thinks the conservative remedy could lead to terrorism and subsequent repression. Thus he is opposed to it as well. He envisions an economic policy aimed at dampering competition for scarce positional resources while at the same time affording individuals an equal opportunity to compete for them.

Hirsch theorizes that a market economy combined with democratic freedoms leads to a distributional problem only when all individuals are maximizing their self-interest. Restraint must now come from the upper echelons. For instance, Hirsch would reduce the salaries of executives, professional practitioners, and others above the lower half of the job pyramid. Also he would provide higher education and other (unspecified) positional facilities at reduced cost or on a non-market basis. Thus a person's income would no longer be a significant element in access to education or to top jobs. But this policy would work only if individuals accept it in good spirit. And herein lies the key to Hirsch's alternative: individuals must be oriented toward a social ethic.

Universal adoption of a social ethic would not require a change in motivation, Hirsch contends. People would still be motivated by self-interest. The change is that they would act as though they put social interest first, even if they do not. He believes that many people already perceive that it is in their self-interest to consider the collective good. But, he maintains, isolated individual action is difficult and painfully slow. The present crisis of capitalism makes planned implementation of the social ethic necessary.

Hirsch devoted only a final chapter to these policy inferences which are difficult to decode and raise a host of questions. Can a social ethic be equitably legislated either directly or indirectly? Hirsch states that, although a social ethic should not be directly legislated, legislation designed to remove obstacles to socially oriented behavior may be possible. A society of individuals acting as if they put the social ethic first, even if they do not, may be less sure of arriving at social equity than a society in which individuals become increasingly aware that their self-interests are not distinct from the collective good. Only when social morality is internalized will it be possible for individuals to take an active role in planning their own economic order. Legislating an ethic, either directly or indirectly, sounds more like social management than democratic dialogue.

Does reducing salary differentials really address the question of economic distribution in a society where there are many forms of income other than salary income? Without tapping these other sources it would seem that power and wealth would remain in the hands of the few. In fact with most of us assuming a posture of moral restraint, social management might be made easier. Would the average professional person be willing to act in the social interest knowing that the profit policies and price mechanisms of giant corporations could operate outside that social interest? What means could be found to legislate corporate moral restraint?

Few would deny that Hirsch's analysis of positional competition has merit. His distinction between the positional and material sectors and the havoc created when everyone is advancing on the latter opens the door to understanding -many of the disturbing aspects of our dally lives. Positional competition is reflected in the frustration of professional people and those who recognize the social waste of MCE; in the creation of artificial scarcity of practitioners in the professions; in the dominance of contractual relationships over those of mutual obligation, trust, and altruism; in the credentialing imperative that dominates much of adult education today. Few scholars have set up a framework for understanding so many seemingly unrelated elements to a central source. But in focusing on the distributional struggle with its unsustainable demands on the system, Hirsch overlooks other elements equally threatening to the system. For example, the present application of industrial technologies contributes to the environmental deterioration and unacceptable levels of pollution and waste — all of which lead to disillusionment with "progress" and capital costs that are masked in the national accounts. Regrettably, Hirsch fails to relate the physical limits of growth to the social limits.

Nor does he question the hierarchical organization of work, requiring a disciplined workforce to perform monotonous, meaningless, routines. Without mechanisms for decentralizing decision making in the work place and transforming the work process into a meaningful experience we can expect indifference, sloppy work, chemical dependency, and mental health problems to mount — all of which undermine the productive capabilities of the system. Hirsch would not only preserve this hierarchical structure, but would also afford a more equal opportunity for all persons in any social strata to pursue their job aspirations. Since there are only so many jobs at the top levels, status jobs would still be scarce. Only now the responsibility for failure to secure a status job would more likely rest on the individual's shoulders rather than on the structural, technological organization of work itself. And attempts to reform the work process might be made more difficult, thus deepening the frustration of losers with high job expectations.

These problems -— which might be called the social limits to modernization and are endemic to all mature societies — contribute their share to social disorganization. Along with positional competition they are bound to put the system to a test, sooner or later.

Hirsch's new society might be less commercially oriented and less stressful in some ways. And who does not wish for a more ethical order? But his policy inferences in the final chapter represent a subtle attempt to preserve the principles of our market system by legislating moral restraint on the part of all of us — except the rich and powerful. We shall be hearing more of this "egalitarian" rhetoric as conditions worsen, and it is time that we begin to educate ourselves for critical consciousness on these matters. Hirsch's policy inferences, however, are yet in the formative stage and they need to be widely aired and publicly debated. The momentum for critical thinking Social Limits to Growth generates is one of its greatest contributions. And fortunately the book itself is not a positional resource.
Oppose book worship.

"You can't mandate learning."
By Anne Fitzgerald

"You can't mandate learning", says Rep. Steve Durham of Colorado, but how does he deal with the fact that existing laws seem to do just that?

Durham is using the Sunset process to control MCE. Each time a licensing board or regulatory agency comes up for review, Durham and others try to 1) eliminate the MCE requirements, 2) reduce the number of hours required, or 3) exclude the agency from new legislation. To date he has had some success. MCE has been eliminated for nurses and realtors in Colorado. A new bill in this session would have required MCE for dentists (not currently required in Colorado). The bill was defeated. The number of hours for chiropractors has been reduced.

The struggle against MCE is not over in Colorado. A new bill that covered veterinarians lost in the State Senate, leaving their MCE requirement unchanged.

Sunset legislation may be one of the most useful tools in the fight against the MCE explosion. 29 states have enacted Sunset legislation, so people in those states might want to find a receptive legislator to raise the MCE issue, and/or give Common Cause, in those states, a call in an attempt to develop joint strategy.

For more information, look back to ST Vol. 1, No. 1 and also Vol. 1, No. 2. The states that have developed and passed Sunset legislation are: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

(ed. note: Anne Fitzgerald is also willing to share her Information and experience in the use of Sunset Legislation. Her address is 1518 N. Wahsatch, Apt.6; Colorado Springs, CO 80907.)


"The implication which nobody in the 'trade' can face to this day is that the totality of educational programs and services, bought for billions of dollars yearly by the federal government, are of no tangible use to the majority of adult 'learners' in the population who finance this expenditure."

The masthead

Second Thoughts is a newsletter designed to serve as a link in a network of persons concerned with raising basic questions about mandatory continuing education (MCE) and related issues.

It is published by Basic Choices, which is a project in values-clarification of Madison Campus Ministry, 731 State St., Madison, WI 53703. Members of the group are John Hill, David Lisman, Art Lloyd, Sue Lloyd, Mark McFadden, John Ohliger, Vern Visick,and Chris Wagner.

For the newsletter to continue we need responses from you including: suggestions, criticisms, comments, articles, subscriptions, and financial contributions. The address for Second Thoughts is 1121 University Ave., Madison, WI 53715. Telephone, 608-256-1946.

Exchanges with other publications are welcome. Our thanks to members of the Madison Review of Books for help in preparing this newsletter.

Second Thoughts Task Group

The ST Task Group at Highlander reported out content and format suggestions and called for circulation and editing help.

Content: ST should view MCE in a broad social context rather than being a single issue newsletter. It should also emphasize its support of the "good folks" in adult education and elsewhere who present worthwhile positive alternatives to MCE.

Format: ST should be divided into sections and readers located to assume responsibility for each one (for example, legal, new alternatives, new publications sections).

Circulation and Editing: Help is needed to increase subscription base closer to self-support and persons are needed in Madison to work on editing, circulation building, etc.

Basic Choices heartily agreed to these suggestions. If you are interested in helping us carry them out, please contact us. A portion of the funds remaining from the $4,000 McDonald's Corporation one-time grant may be available.


For the first four issues of Second Thoughts, we've been mailing it without charge to those of you expressing interest and to others we thought might want to read it. Since we are without any source of continuing funding, the time has come to put the newsletter on more of a self-supporting basis.

Starting with the next issue we will be mailing Second Thoughts only to those of you who fill out the coupon below. We need your subscriptions if we are going to continue. If you can't afford to subscribe, let us know, and we'll try to keep you on the mailing list. While you're filling out the coupon, why not also take the time to let us have your comments, criticisms, suggestions, and viewpoints on the newsletter and the issues explored. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Chronicle of Higher Ed says opposition to MCE developing

"Opposition to MCE is developing among some educators and members of the professions," writes Beverly T. Watkins in the Chronicle of Higher Education for Sept. 4, 1979. Watkins continues: "They are becoming concerned that lawmakers are acting too quickly to pass legislation requiring education for relicensure without a full understanding of what they are requiring or whether it is appropriate for the particular profession. Some professionals are complaining about the academic quality of continuing education courses. Others point out that there is no evidence that continuing education improves a professional's ability."

She quotes Jerold Apps, professor of continuing education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as saying he is part of "a movement of thoughtful opposition among persons who want to look carefully at the legislation mandating continuing education and at what it is apt to do. We are opposed to blanket legislation for all professions."

Apps tells us that the "movement of thoughtful opposition" he referred to is the network fostered by ST. Jerry Apps participated in the first meeting of the group in Detroit in 1977 that spawned this newsletter.

Supreme Court rules on MCE

On February 26, 1979 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that firing a public school teacher for failing to meet MCE requirements is constitutional. The case is labeled "Harrah Independent School District et al versus Mary Jane Martin (No. 78-443)." Harrah is a small school district near Oklahoma City where Mary Jane Martin was a tenured secondary school teacher. Mrs. Martin was upheld in her attempt to get her job back at the appeals court level only to be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Because of several complicating factors, it is unclear how much of a precedent the decision will set. What is clear is the irony that her competence as a teacher was never in question, just her obedience. MCE is supposedly designed to insure competence, not necessarily conformity. As her National Education Association attorneys pointed out, the president of the Harrah school board repeatedly testified that she was "'a good teacher' who did all that was asked of her and more."

In future issues of ST we will go into this case in greater detail. For that purpose we would appreciate receiving any further information or comment on it from anyone interested.

Armed police for MCE?

Sunny Robinson, a nurse and longtime political activist in the Boston area, writes: "If we proceed with MCE for nurses, as we do here in Massachusetts, shall we, in a hundred years have metal detectors, armed police, passes, etc., in the nurse re-education centers, as we do now in the Boston schools where young people are forced to attend?"

© Copyright 2004 John

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Complete text of all the Second Thoughts Newsletters
New Additions
Second Thoughts Vol. 1 No. 1 May 1978
Second Thoughts Vol. 1, No. 2, November, 1978
Second Thoughts Vol. 2, No. 1, April 7, 1979
Second Thoughts Vol. 2, No. 2, October 1979
Second Thoughts Vol. 2, No. 3, April 1980
Second Thoughts Vol. 3, No. 1, October 1980
Second Thoughts Vol. 3, No. 2, February 1981
Second Thoughts Vol. 3, No. 3, July 1981
Second Thoughts Vol. 4, No. 1, October 1981
Second Thoughts Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1982