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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. 3, No. 2, February 1981

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Vol. 3, No. 2, February 1981


In this issue:

The St. Louis Connection
NAVL meets at AEA Conference
Draft Statement of NAVL
Canada Forms MCE Task Force
Another Mary Jane Martin
AEA Delegate Assembly on MCE
Minnesota Limits Certification
Basic Choices Gets Tax Exempt Status


On November 4, more than forty educators voluntarily attended an exciting session sponsored by the AEA Task Force for Voluntary Learning held at the AEA conference in St. Louis Task Force Chairperson, Tom Heaney, introduced the session and officially presented the comprehensive 25-page Task Force Report. He then introduced a panel comprised of spokespersons for three professions: Barbara Conroy, a consultant to librarians; Ron Cervero, past associate director of the Illinois Continuing Medical Education Association and currently on the faculty at NIU; and Ana Dale, Assistant Director, American Bar Association Consortium for Professional Education.

Each member of the panel addressed the MCE issue as it relates to their respective professional group, i.e. library science, medicine and law. The alarming movement to ward MCPE within these three professions became apparent as the panelists listed the states and regions either currently mandating CPE or considering MCPE in one or more professions. The critical need within the professions for education regarding the potentially dire consequences of MCPE became evident. The discussion which ensued addressed several significant issues in the MCPE debate including the appropriate response to "successful" MCE endeavors when one's criticism of MCE is grounded in the philosophical or emotional belief in individual freedom.

Another result of that meeting is the Task Force Report, a 25 page document including a brief history of the Task Force and the AEA's involvement in the MCE issue; a statement of Task Force conclusions concerning historical foundations, professionalization, research, individual rights, pedagogy, and the social consequences of MCE, and consequent resolutions presented to the AEA; and the texts of eight of the papers submitted as a result of a national call for position papers on MCE and voluntary learning.

The papers presented in the Task Force Report reflect an emphasis on philosophical rather than empirical approaches to the issue of mandated adult learning. Task Force members at the Madison meeting expressed some concern at the lack of "hard" research data submitted; they recognized, however, that the issue itself is perhaps more ethical than technical, noting that "a danger was seen in reducing the matter of forced learning to the empirical question of effectiveness. Non-effectiveness, once demonstrated, could be countered with improved techniques (drugs, subliminal television, etc.) but the increased efficiency would not eliminate objections set forth in the position papers and the statement of the Task Force itself." The papers which constitute the greater part of this document provide thoughtful, cogent support of voluntary learning from a variety of perspectives: Michael Day ("On Behalf of Voluntary Adult Education") approaches the issue from a historical perspective. Dave Williams ("MCE: From Wanting to Learn to Learning to Want") explores the impacts of sociopolitical trends in the United States— belief in obsolescence, challenges to competence, permanent schooling and behaviorist learning theory—that have influenced prescribed, legislated and tacit MCE. Bob Carlson ("Western Democracy and MCE") defines the position that "informal, voluntary adult education undergirds Western democracy," and that the "sublimated warfare (of various self-interest groups), conducted by means of adult education through non-formal agencies is crucial to democratic freedom." Kathleen Rockhill ("Beyond Research: The Ethics of MCE") contends that mandated education will threaten the quality of educational opportunities and thus "sabotage the efforts to improve professional competence."

In other papers, Helen Parris ("MCE and the Knowledge Explosion") suggests an analysis of the meaning of accountability as a valid end of continuing education and proposes a kind of encompassing continuing education (ECE) that ' contradicts the notion of packaged agendas and "expert" answers to questions characteristic of MCE as we have experienced it. Aimee Horton ("Curing Failure with Failure: MCE and the Poor") documents the failure of adult education in reaching and effectively responding to the needs of the poor and emphasizes a need for "working with alienated groups of poor people (to) develop new kinds of programs which relate to their life problems and aspirations." Phyllis Cunningham and Jim Hawking present an extensive review of the literature of professional education (MCPE) and its impact on practice and participation, concluding that "the better informed people tend to agree that MCPE is an imperfect approach to the problems of obsolescence. What one suspects is that MCPE is a preferable option to mandatory re-examination for most professionals. If MCPE is ultimately for consumer protection, there is no evidence now available that there is any correlation between MCPE and improved practice." This paper also provides an extensive and comprehensive bibliography of articles from educational and professional publications dealing with the MCE/MCPE issue.

Perhaps a summary of the overall theme of the Task Force Report might be taken from the conclusion to the last paper presented, "A Voice from the Field," by Diana Carminati." We can mandate participation, we can dangle jobs and training like a carrot to entreat participants, but we cannot mandate learning, and all the aphorisms in the world are not going to change or disguise that fact. Isn't it time we focused our resources on what we can do and leave moot points to casual conversation?"

The Task Force Report, ably edited by Tom Heaney, was noted as one of the most artistic, professionally presented documents available at the AEA conference. It is clearly both of interest and value to anyone seeking perspective on the issue of mandatory, continuing education. Copies may be ordered for $3.00 from Tom Heaney, Community Services Office, Williston 320, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115, Checks should be payable to NAVL.
JG and AD
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance e.e. cummings (quoted by Dave Williams in the Task Force Report)


The next task for NAVL will be to identify its membership and formulate a statement of purpose (see below). The group who met at the conference included old friends and many others newly concerned about the issue of MCE. Included among the latter was Maureen E. Sullivan of the Bureau of Health Professions at the Federal Department of Health in Maryland. She has a list of the MCE programs in the health professions nationwide.

At the NAVL meeting the group heard from Tom Heaney and David Lisman concerning a proposal to incorporate NAVL as a nonprofit organization and seek research funding. While many felt that incorporation would not enhance funding opportunities, all agreed that individuals and groups doing NAVL related work should actively pursue grants, Others also urged that NAVL continue to provide an information network, especially through ST.

In order to more accurately define who NAVL is, the group asked Tom Heaney to prepare a draft statement based on previous NAVL and Basic Choices documents. This statement, revised after your comments and criticisms are received, will be used on a membership brochure. It was further suggested that membership in NAVL include a subscription to Second Thoughts, This remains to be worked out and Dave Lisman is looking into the possibility of NAVL taking full responsibility for the newsletter.

Meanwhile, your reactions to the draft statement are needed. Please send these comments to Tom Heaney, 3838 N00 Greenview, Chicago, IL 60613.


Adult education is increasingly becoming compulsory by law or social pressure, accompanied by a drive for more certification, credentialing, and professionalization. These trends are burgeoning within political and economic structures dominated by a small minority. Within this framework, knowledge is defined as worthwhile only if it is technical or scientific. Professional elites are increasingly securing monopoly control over access to this knowledge and its developments

NAVL is an association of adult educators, lawyers, welfare recipients, medical technicians, doctors, nurses, librarians, CETA trainees, and others representing professional and social groups already being forced back into school.

Our major goal has been to support the ideal of lifelong learning, while rejecting the depressing notion of lifelong schooling.


-- Voluntary learning

-- Free and open discussion intimately integrating thought, feeling, reflection, and action

-- More democratic control and mutual self-reliance, and less hierarchy, bureaucracy, and external authority

-- A balance between maximum free learning and minimum instruction, with a significant place for activities not publicly defined as job related or as learning,

-- Research on the extent of mandated learning, especially related to links between the political, economic, technological, and cultural dimensions of the problem.

-- Search for, encourage, and work with positive alternatives for human learning at every level: individual, family, neighborhood, institution, local, state, national, and international.

-- Engage in collective political action and work with others to oppose laws favoring mandatory continuing education while at the same time working toward true public accountability and the growth of genuine personal and social competence.


Join NAVL etc.


ST learned from Vince Battistelli at the University of British Columbia that he has been asked by the Canadian Adult Education Association (CAAE) to create a National Task Force on Continuing Professional Education that will give primary attention to the issues of MCE. His current plan is to use the task force as a means of exploring issues and problems addressed by continuing education in the professions, especially regarding matters of discipline, re-licensure, certification, and accountability. Outcomes anticipated from the Task Force in a proposal to the CAAE include:

-- A stemming of the tide of the current movement toward mandatory CPE and its resulting negative consequences.

-- The raising of some serious questions for educational institutions, governments, etc., regarding the concepts of life long learning, re-current education, and educational leave.

-- Re-thinking by educational institutions (universities and colleges) of their roles and responsibilities regarding continuing education for the professions.

Vince Battistelli would welcome correspondence from others sharing the concern of the Canadian Task Force. He can be contacted at The Centre for Continuing Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada V6T 2A4.


Dave Lisman sent us a letter he recently received and asked that it be passed on to readers of ST.

"In my case the Federal Government, the Philadelphia School District personnel and Temple University's Psychology of Reading Department jointly wrote my horrendous scenario. In its (their) usual questionable wisdom, Title I pundits decided that reading teachers in Title I funded schools should be required to become certified.

"For desegregation purposes I was involuntarily transferred from a school not funded by Title I, ESEA, to a Title I funded schools Had I had not been transferred, I would not have been required to become certified. I've been teaching for 17 years, 7 as a Reading Teacher (having more than met the requirements for appointment), I have 80 credits over a master's degree, all of which I took to keep abreast of what might be useful in my work. In addition, I attended conferences, workshops, publishers' exhibits and conducted staff development sessions and workshops for teachers and parents.

"Temple University, where I had taken much of my course work, was awarded the contract (lowest bidder). A panel of Temple Psychology of Reading personnel and School District of Philadelphia personnel decided which courses were "state mandated." So my sabbatical (which I intended to use for travel) was spent taking courses 4 nights a week in material I had previously had, much of which is no longer applicable in city schools funded by Title I. "

"I made contact with every agency I felt had a stake in this money, time and energy waste: local Title I representative, a lawyer, the union, the ACLU, Comm. on Human Relations, Dept. of Labor, my State Representative (a member of the Appropriations Committee. All agreed tax money was being needlessly spent and that the requirements were discriminatory. All, however, passed the buck.

"I hope you will continue writing on this subject—the pen can be mighty mighty.

"Good luck."

Judie Klein

AEA Delegate Assembly on MCE

by James Hawking

Two resolutions on MCE came before the Delegate Assembly of the 1980 Adult Education Association convention in St. Louis. Resolution Number Five, continuing the Task Force on Voluntary Learning, carried by a comfortable margin. Resolution Number Six would have expressed endorsement of one of UNESCO'S Recommendations on the Development of Adult Education (that participation in programs be voluntary). This resolution was tabled.

Resolution Number Five recognized that learning should be voluntary; that sunset laws are causing reexamination of MCE; that neither the effectiveness nor the ineffectiveness of MCE has been proved; that, in spite of growing consumer demand for professional accountability, there is growing recognition that forced educational participation does not guarantee accountability or competence. The AEA charged the Task Force with identifying funding resources and subsequently sponsoring research on MCE. The Task Force will also establish liaison with other professional groups.

Resolution Number Six was addressed by Professor William Dowling of Ohio State University. Dowling had previously offered a friendly amendment to the resolution continuing the Task Force. This time he expressed some sympathy with the goals of Resolution Six but felt some of the language was intemperate and inaccurate. In a somewhat more emotional vein than Dowling, Professor Marvin Hole of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee then argued that business required education of people and if American business did that it must not be incompatible with democratic values. Hole moved to table Resolution Six and the Delegate Assembly so voted.

This reporter came away with the impression that the convention had in no way endorsed MCE by tabling Resolution Six. What was rejected was language like "...compulsory adult education is incompatible with the ideals of a social democracy and furthers totalitarian monolithic trends in our society." More important, the first several AEA resolutions had passed quickly and the delegates were clearly in a mood to do their business quickly. Tabling Resolution Six had more to do with this pace than with any true opposition to the idea of voluntary learning, which had been endorsed in principle by Resolution Five.

A Modest Proposal for MCE-related Action
by Phil Newton (150 Main St., Saranac Lake, New York 12983)

I. A small, inexpensive publicity campaign would be launched with the intent of getting the attention of persons in a local area who have been victimized by MCE-related activities. While any number of publicity techniques (including posters, handbills, public service announcements on radio and TV, etc.) could also be used, I suggest that one approach be the placing of a newspaper classified ad (say in the "Help Wanted General" section) with the following content:

"VICTIMS? Have you been unfairly denied employment or other opportunities through arbitrary or irrelevant schooling/certification requirements? We are forming a support/action group of victims of such practices. (Then provide an address and/or telephone number.)"

II. Given sufficient response to warrant further action: A. Respondents would be asked to recount their victimization in writing or on tape. Persons expressing special interest in the project would be asked to help others by interviewing, taking calls, etc. From this process we might hope that a natural leadership for the group would emerge. B. Once horror stories are assembled, they would be duplicated and distributed to those who submitted them, as well as being used for other NAVL activities. By this process, respondents might gain an awareness of their collective shared experience vis-à-vis MCE/Certification, and begin to gain some personal knowledge of their fellow victims. Thus there might also be the start of a sense of community in the group. C. The final initial step would be to call a meeting of these folks to discuss possible approaches for the redress of their grievances. By this time the impetus for ideas and action might be coming from the participants, and the local sponsoring organization would be involved at an equal/advisory level rather than a leadership/controlling role.

III. Possible actions for the resulting new group: A. Psychological support and mutual aid through meeting and sharing. B. Organizing and acting politically for change through legislative and/or judicial action. C. Development of alternative networking systems to bypass restrictions to both (1) Learning, and (2) Practicing the activity that MCE/Certification prevents (for example, linking disenfranchised craftspeople, teachers, healers, etc., to enable them to serve one another).

IV. Some possible outcomes: A. Develop self-help network of disenfranchised learners/ practitioners. Could serve as a model for a national movement. B. Document cases of MCE/ Certification related abuses for articles and further research. C. (A) and (B) above may well justify funding for more research, hiring staff, legal/political action, etc. D. A strengthened local sponsoring organization in the community because of broadening participation. New people participating in this project may also become interested in working on other projects of the local sponsoring group.

From the Network

Compiled by John Ohliger

Frank Adams (Gatesville, North Carolina) has sent us a clipping from the front page of The Chronicle of Higher Education for Nov. 17, 1980: "Move to Require Continuing Education for Professionals Appears to Be Stalling" by Beverly T. Watklns. Watkins starts by quoting extensively from Cy Houle (MCE for professionals is "grinding to a screeching halt," etc.), reports on the activities of the Task Force on Voluntary Learning at the St. Louis AEA Convention, and notes the most recent conclusion of Louis E. Phillips, who has been compiling statistics on state professional education requirements for several years: the MCE movement for professionals "has slowed down but not stopped."

We're proud to exchange newsletters with Sam Brightman, the H.L. Mencken of adult education. His Adult & Continuing Education Today should be required reading (the only clear-cut and obviously worthwhile MCE I know of). As usual he goes too far. See, for instance, the Dec. 1, 1980 issue where he concludes "Success and acceptance have made the enemies of MCE more conventional." Or the Dec. 15, 1980 issue: "The Free University characters, now stuffy and conformist...mourned a little for the days when their hearts were young and gay."

Speaking of Free U's, Bill Draves, the National Coordinator for the Free U Network, has sent us a copy of his new book. The Free University: A Model for Lifelong Learning (Chicago: Association Press/Follett Publish Company, 1980. $12.95. 321 pages). Looks like a very worthwhile addition to anybody's library, especially since it claims that critiques of MCE have contributed to Free U thought and practice.

Bob Boissoneau (2113 Paseo Loma, Mesa, Arizona 85202) wrote the first dissertation on MCE. Now Bob has just completed a book which delves deeply into the pros and cons of MCE for health professionals. It's Continuing Education in the Health Professions (Aspen Systems Corp.). Write him for more info.

Roger Hiemstra (Syracuse University) has sent along the November 1980 Continuing Medical Education Newsletter which reports "Delegates to the Montana Medical Association annual meeting voted to eliminate continuing medical education (CME) as a requirement for membership." The resolution, which passed, declared "there is insufficient data to support the benefits of compulsory CME."

Lowell Fewster (Colgate Rochester Divinity School) mailed us the October 1980 issue of the Enablement Information Service Newsletter. It notes that the United Methodist Church now has MCE for its clergy. The editor. Rev. James L. Lowery, comments: "Continuing good in principle, but has many dangers of minimalism when it gets mandatory."

A note from Claudia Stockert and Katrin Wolfarth

Thanks to Basic Choices which befriended us and made it possible for us to stay with them for half a year. We are two students of social work from the Fachhochschule Reutlingen in West Germany. We are doing our second field placement at Basic Choices in Madison. It was great luck that we found out about Basic Choices in the Alternative Free Neighborhood Universities Catalog through which we could make the first contact with John Ohliger.

Basic Choices exposed us to many aspects of their work, for example, their work against MCE, political community work with elderly persons, and their support of independent scholarship.

We want to thank Chris Wagner for her great help and support in arranging for visits to alternative agencies, schools, etc. Through her we made contact with Windwood, an alternative elementary school. We are making a slide tape program about Windwood to take back to Germany. With this program we hope to show parents, teachers, and others how they can make changes by themselves with less expense, less fear of repression, and more faith in the future. We hope to show that we can take the future into our hands if we don't like the way things are going and change it.

Thanks to all members of Basic Choices who gave us their assistance whenever we needed it.


John McKnight recently sent us word about the Minnesota Legislature which has determined that by law, three conditions are needed in order to permit regulation of professions:
1) Unregulated practice of the occupation has recognizable and direct potential harm to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens. Evidence of potential harm can be provided by expert or consumer testimony, research findings, legal precedents, court awards or findings, dangers inherent in the functions, devices or substances used, etc. Potential for harm is insufficient if it is judged to be remote, minor or infrequent,

2) The practice of the occupation must require a specialized skill or special training in order to perform a complex function., Performance requires detailed current knowledge and understanding of the function, without which greater harm may be done,

3) There are no other means by which the public is protected such as: supervision of individuals within the group by a member of a regulated occupation; program of facility licensure; control by other state or federal laws, standards, or civil service requirements; or effective protection by voluntary standards, certification, or self regulation. When an unregulated occupation meets all three conditions, the Human Service Occupations Advisory Council will recommend to the Commissioner that the occupation needs to be regulated and indicates the least restrictive mode of regulation necessary to protect the public.

The four modes of regulation are:
1) Civil or criminal penalties as for malpractice or incompetent practice.
2) Inspection upon complaint with injunctive relief to prevent malpractice.
3) A system of registration of qualified persons which enables them to have exclusive use of the title so that the public may recognize persons who have met competence requirements.
4) A system of licensing of qualified persons that enables them to have exclusive use of title and exclusive areas of practice or function, and that reduces consumer or employer choice in service providers.

The Commissioner, after consulting with other state agencies who are major employers of the occupational group, decides whether the group should be regulated and which least restrictive mode or combination of modes is necessary to protect the public. The Commissioner has the authority to establish registration of occupations, but licensing requires legislative action as licensing restricts areas of practice of functions to the particular licensed group.

Our "Less is More" award goes to Minnesota!

Enclosed is my subscription to receive the next year of Second Thoughts ($10 for individuals) Please bill my institution, purchase order no. _____ ($15 for institutions) $10 or $15 is just not enough to help with the important work you're doing. Enclosed is $20, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 (Circle one or more; donations to Basic Choices are Tax Deductible.) I don't think you're worth $10 or $15, but enclosed is $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $6, $7, $8, $9 (Circle one.) I can't afford to subscribe to the newsletter at present but want to continue to receive it. Please try to keep my name on the mailing list. NONE OF THE ABOVE, but NAME (Please print)_____ ADDRESS CITY STATE ZIP CODE Make checks payable to: Basic Choices. Please mail this coupon (or put information in a letter) along with any comments, criticisms, or suggestions to: Second Thoughts, 1121 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53715.

Second Thoughts is a newsletter designed to provide 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, Inc., which is a project in values clarification of Madison Campus Ministry, 731 State Street, 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 subscriptions. Please use the coupon included in this issue.

Material for this issue of ST was perused, produced, discussed, debated, selected and edited at Northern Illinois University by Ana Dale, Joan Gorham, Tom Heaney, David Lisman. Special thanks to Michael Day at the University of Michigan who supplied the photographs.

If a system is making its people sick should we attempt to cure the people and place them back into the system, or should we change the system? —Ernest Mann

BASIC CHOICES GETS TAX EXEMPTION After waiting over three years, the IRS has finally given BASIC CHOICES, Inc. tax exempt status as an educational institution. This means that BASIC CHOICES will be eligible for funds from foundations and other sources which, in the past, could not fund its activities. It also means that gifts from the friends of BASIC CHOICES will be tax deductible;

That's the good news. The bad news is that BASIC CHOICES' bank balance has never been lower. So please help. You could begin by renewing your subscription to Second Thoughts or sending a donation. Also, if you have any ideas about funding sources that might support the kinds of programs you've seen BASIC CHOICES involved in, please let Chris Wagner know. You can write her at Basic Choices, 1121 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53715.

© 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