John Ohliger:  Published Work About John | Questions? | Contact Info | Home

Front Page 
 About John
 Second Thoughts Newsletters
 Complete text of all the Second Thoughts Newsletters
 Talks by John
 ACET (Adult and Continuing Education Today)
 Selected Articles by John Ohliger

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. 3, April 1980

Email this article
 Printer friendly page
Vol. 2, No. 3, April 1980

In this issue:
--Participatory Research by Ted Jackson
--Professors Speak Out (on MCE)
--Women and MCE
--The Bar Gets in the Act by Marvin W. Mindes

NAVL: Network? Organization? Movement? It's up to you

Last summer, the National Alliance for Voluntary Learning (NAVL) was formed by a group of concerned persons from many regions and interests in the United States and elsewhere. We met at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, the historic residential focus for linking adult education and worthwhile social change.

NAVL was established generally to encourage motion toward a free and fair society. Specifically, NAVL supporters seek alternatives to, while opposing, such worldwide trends toward control over our lives as universal mandatory continuing education (MCE), adult education licensing, certification, degree requirements for jobs, credentialing, etc. Alternatives fostered include informal learning networks, free universities, self-directed learning and validation, participatory research, Highlander-type centers. We believe that persons and groups will find their own alternatives as MCE and other restrictions on their freedoms are removed.

Now, after months of activity under the informal NAVL umbrella, its structure stands poised between a network, an organization, and a movement. Which way should it go? What should NAVL do in the future? What kind of relations should there be between those involved? It's up to you! You may be a member of NAVL and not even know it - there is no formal membership at present. Read below about recent NAVL and related activities then decide how you want to be involved and contact any of those whose names appear in this newsletter, either directly or through us. Here is what's been going on:

In October Barbara Conroy, Bill Draves, and Seth Horwitz informally presented their concerns at the National Free University Conference in Denver. (In 1977 the Free University Network National Steering Committee had approved a resolution opposing MCE.) Barbara also participated in a two person debate on MCE at a conference of the Midwest Federation of Library Associations in Milwaukee, at which she pointed out that "'mandatory' and 'learning' are mutually contradictory terms – MCE becomes a manipulative device to 'make' people learn." John Ohliger via long distance teleconference phone joined in a debate on MCE at Virginia Polytechnic and State University. The New York Times (Sept. 9, 1979) and The Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 4,1979) report that opposition to MCE is spreading.

In November the National Adult Education Conference attended by over 2,000 in Boston
became the focus for many NAVL activities. First, during the meetings of the Commission of Professors of Adult Education, Jerold Apps, John Niemi, and John Ohliger led a session on the rationale for NAVL. Several professors prepared brief statements which are printed in their entirety on pages 3-5 and were excerpted in NAVL Gazing, the special two-page newsletter handed out daily to all Boston conference attendees. (Copies are available by sending us a stamped self-addressed envelope.) John Holt, author of many books on education, schooling, and their relation to the free life, opened his office near the convention hotel to us to put out NAVL Gazing. Contributors included: Mike Col1ins, Phyllis Cunningham, Anne Fitzgerald, Dave Gueulette, Mary & Mike Havercamp, Budd Hall, Tom Heaney, Aimee Horton, Paul Ilsley, John Niemi, Bob Nolan, John Ohliger, Leslie Rothaus, and Robert Smith.

Also in Boston the Adult Education Association Delegate Assembly considered two NAVL resolutions. The first was defeated after heavy debate: To reaffirm that portion of the UNESCO declaration on adult education which says that participation in adult education programs should be a voluntary matter. The second passed: To set up an AEA Task Force on MCE which will report back to the next AEA convention in St. Louis. Tom Heaney was appointed chairperson of the MCE Task Force.

Members include Dave Gueulette and John Ohliger. Your suggestions to the Task Force and your participation are vital to its success.

The first general meeting of NAVL was held in Boston on the last full day of the larger AEA-NAPCAE convention. Thirty-five to forty people participated and a lively discussion about NAVL purposes took place. Also in Boston philosopher Kenneth Benne cautioned against the trend toward MCE in his address to the Social Philosophy luncheon, Dorothy Height evoked Eduard Lindeman's ideal of adult education expressing "the uncoerced free will" during the General Session on Voluntarism, and the Colorado Association for Continuing Education presented a voluntary self-validation procedure as an alternative to coercive credentialing for adult education teachers.

For more on NAVL at Boston see Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years (January 1980, page 22), Adult & Continuing Education Today (February 1980). Dean and Director (January 1980), and The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 29, 1979). (Or send us a donation for reprints and we'll include the two page MCE Bibliographic Sampler we've just prepared.)

Since the Boston convention, interest in NAVL mounts while persons to follow up this interest lag behind. The Self-Validation Proposal by Frank Adams, Anne Fitzgerald, and Jane Vella printed in the last issue of this newsletter has drawn much favorable comment, though it is sometimes confused with self-assessment, procedures which are often linked to MCE. Response has been good to the appeal for subscriptions to Second Thoughts in the last issue. We now have a solid base of about 300 persons who have jointly contributed about $2,000 to cover some of the costs of printing and mailing. However, volunteers to prepare and write for the newsletter are badly needed.

The Illinois Adult and Continuing Education Association has just approved and funded a section on voluntary learning. But the Illinois Continuing Higher Education Association refused to establish a similar section because it was "too controversial."

Obviously, we are at the beginning of a movement with NAVL as a focus. Where do we go from here? Do we emphasize the network aspect? As an example of its value, Helen E. Willson, who attended the general NAVL meeting in Boston, wrote us: "I found it helpful just to know there were others concerned and in communication with each other." Or do we emphasize a more conventional political action organization as seen in resolutions, task forces, and sections? Can or should we have both? Your conclusions and actions will determine NAVL's future directions and the future of this movement for a free and fair society.

Read it and weep

We hereby present the first annual Second Thoughts "Don't Believe Everything You Read" award to UNESCO for in turn giving its annual prize for the most effective literacy campaign in the world to Iraq.

According to the Washington Post (Sept. 27, 1979): "The tough Arab nationalist leadership of Iraq has launched an extraordinary literacy campaign that makes refusal to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic punishable by fines and jail terms."

Way to go Iraq! Our award includes a NAVL button and a juicy apple. Iraq gets the NAVL button and UNESCO gets the apple, sour that is.

Sam Brightman, the incorrigible editor of the perky newsletter Adult & Continuing Education Today, has sent us the official UNESCO announcement of the Iraq order for illiterates between the ages of 15 and 45 to learn to read or else (UNESCO Adult Education Information Notes, No. 2/1979).

Sam also proposes federal legislation for compulsory literacy to be imposed on United States citizens in gradual stages. "The first year, literacy would be mandatory for Ed.D's and Ph.D's; says Sam. "After a reasonable length of time, the same requirement would be imposed upon the authors of studies sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Next, perhaps, would be those who write the instructions for the assembling of appliances. Far down the line I would expect literacy to be required of all who write newsletters."

Sam concludes his proposal on this thoughtfully critical note: "Our fate seems to be In the hands of illiterates with quaint and savage tribal customs in such out-of-the-way places as Afghanistan and New Hampshire. All I can say is that you foes of compulsory literacy should be ashamed of yourselves!"

We are, Sam, we are.

Participatory research

By Ted Jackson,
International Council for Adult Education

Highlander Education and Research Center in New Market, Tennessee was the site of a seminar on participatory research in the community and the workplace, September 7-9, 1979. About thirty adult educators and activists from Canada and the United States took part.

Among the issues raised in seminar discussions were: participatory research as political education; the possible cooptation of participatory research by dominant forces; media and ideology; how activists survive in the professional and academic "mainstream"; and the need to form direct links, through travel exchanges and network alliances, across different sectors of struggle by working and oppressed peoples.

Case studies presented by the participants included "kitchen economics" sessions for Saskatchewan farmers; participant-derived ABE curriculum for Pueblo communities; development of a peoples' occupational health association in the Carolinas; the unionization of GED curriculum for Tennessee textile workers; community self-portraits on video by Latin American immigrant workers in Toronto; popular use of video by community organizations in Rockford, Illinois; resistance by lobster fishermen in Magdalen Islands to a large-scale salt mining project; and strike education and corporate research for the empowerment of coal miners in Appalachia.

The meeting was organized by the Toronto team of the ICAE's Participatory Research Project. More information: Ted Jackson, Coordinator, North American Programmes, Participatory Research Project, international Council for Adult Education, 29 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Canada M5R 1B2.

There are at least two possible captions for this guru-seeker cartoon: (Note: in original newsletter, there is a picture of someone seeking wisdom from a guru).

(1) Seeker: "Before I sit at your feet to learn the secrets of the universe, are you accredited?" (from the Free University Net-
work newsletter)

(2) Guru: "Look, mister, if you want me to tell you the meaning of life, you've got to stop saying 'bullshit' after everything I

Found in a Chinese fortune cookie: "You can make people follow, but they cannot be made to understand."

Professors speak out

Six reasons to think twice

by Robert M. Smith,
Northern Illinois University

1) The professions should not be allowed to pass off the responsibility for ensuring the continuing competent performance of their members to us continuing educators. Why should we contribute to a cop out?

2) The voluntary aspect has been at the heart of adult education and the teaching-learning transaction for adults for hundreds of years and is closely linked to motivation and successful behavior change. You can lead a horse to water . . .

3) MCE constitutes one more area of choice that is being taken away from the adult citizen. Why should continuing educators help to further diminish the autonomy of the individual in a society of "bigness" and "remoteness"?

4) We have sufficient knowledge of educational design and educational promotion to attract people to our programs. We don't need captive audiences, do we?

5) Because a thing can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Three Mile Island anyone?

6) "Things that get put over seldom stay put." E.C. Lindeman in The Meaning of Adult Education (1926). Did he have MCE in mind?

MCE is THE solution

By Robert A. Carlson,
University of Saskatchewan

Mandatory Continuing Education is the ultimate short-term solution to the pressing problems of our society.

Are ecological difficulties seen to be threatening our very existence? Mandatory Continuing Education can be advocated as a means of gradually teaching people to adjust their lifestyles to the new situation, thus relieving public concern regarding ecology.

Are professionals so miseducated that they are failing to keep up-to-date with developments in their fields of practice? MCE can be used to suggest the problem no longer exists. Professional training can continue in the traditional ways. Practitioners, compelled to attend adult classes, can take the costs off their income taxes while enjoying their favorite leisure-time activity in the surroundings of a posh educational facility. And the public will be mollified.

Traffic offenders can be sentenced to safe driving courses, thus assuring the public that the traffic safety problem is well in hand.

Welfare recipients can be forced to attend school in order to receive their checks. MCE will tool or retool such people for gainful employment. We can forget about the problem of structural unemployment that there are not enough jobs to go around-- and put the blame where it belongs: on those welfare recipients who refuse to get jobs despite the free training given them.

Mandatory Continuing Education is, in short, the panacea for all our ills.

If adult educators jump on the MCE bandwagon, the field may flourish for a while—until the public discovers that the emperors of adult education have as few clothes as the emperors of schooling.

Adult education, based on a history of voluntarism, is slowly assuming the panacea proportions once held by compulsory public schooling. Until Kozol and Holt and
Illich and others published their analyses. Now, it is argued, if adult education is so good, why not make it mandatory? There is not enough recognition that what makes adult education great is its voluntary nature.

If compulsion is imposed, it's possible that some people who didn't participate voluntarily may learn important things. It's as likely, however, that those who used to participate and learn voluntarily among self-motivated learners will now find the majority of their fellow "learners" somewhat like many of their peers back in school--sullen and uninterested in the crucial things they're being "taught" by compulsion. Chances are that quality will go down as quantity goes up.

Eventually, we will be brought to the bar of accountability. We may well find ourselves experimenting lushly with behavioral modification and other questionable "innovations" to teach those who really don't want to learn all that much.

The path of least resistance is to accede to the pleas we hear for MCE. If people say they need it and we seem to prosper from meeting these needs, then why not? What's the alternative?

The alternative, it seems to me, is to speak out honestly as adult educator to tell people they're being sold a bill of goods by those promoting MCE. We cannot do better than the teachers of children have done with a compulsory system. By the time people reach adulthood, it is surely time to give them choice. Let a person learn any way he wants how to drive safely or to hunt safely. Require him to learn, perhaps; test him if you must. But don't require that someone "teach" him to do it. It's too great a price to pay in the loss of personal freedom in a democracy to require an adult to participate in MCE. Particularly when it is recognized for the short-term, stop-gap, criticism-stemming solution that it is.

Learning—Yes! MCE—No!

By Gordon G. Darkenwald
Rutgers University

What constitutes mandatory continuing education is debatable. Here I assume it refers to forced or coerced participation typically directed at occupational groups for the ostensible purpose of upgrading or maintaining occupational competency.

To force adults to learn is not only repulsive to me and most other adult educators, but it is also likely to be futile—particularly if application of learning is the desired outcome. I would nonetheless maintain that continuing education is essential for most adults in our society if they are to achieve their own full potential as well as contribute as best they can to the common good. Continuing education in this sense then is mandatory. The categorical imperative, of course, is to continue to 1earn, not necessarily to participate in classes or other formal educational activities. Learning in many cases can and should be self-directed.

Forced participation in continuing education seems to me seldom if ever justifiable. If the issue is maintenance of competency to practice some occupation, then competency should be enforced, not sitting in classrooms. Formal continuing education can of course be an appropriate means to maintain or enhance one's competency. Whether this or other means should be employed is best left to individuals to decide.

Capturing another market

By John A. Niemi,
Northern Illinois University

My opposition to mandatory continuing education has a philosophical basis and reflects my long association with the field of adult education. The position I question is the substitution of the concept of "mandatory" for "voluntary" on the grounds that society will be protected if we require some people to update their professional competencies, or compel other people who exhibit deviant behavior to participate in training programs. As to the first category, there has been little solid evidence that relicensing requirements improve practice, yet this reason is consistently advanced to the public as though it were valid. Acting on this premise, many professional faculties of higher education have reassessed and expanded their mission from one of pre-service or preparation of people to both pre-service and in-service training for a particular field of work. Probably the attempt to institutionalize learning activities through MCE has its greatest payoff for institutions enabling them to retain tenured staff and even to expand their staff. It might also enable them to acquire venture capital from the surplus generated by expensive course offerings and to use this capital to finance other activities. The public's need for accountable professionals in the field may be totally lost by this dysfunctional activity.

As for the provision of training for persons exhibiting deviant behavior such training may have little impact in relation to its cost. The sheer force of numbers to be served makes it virtually impossible to design programs that will genuinely meet the needs of learners. Again, institutions are the beneficiaries.

MCE denies self-study

by Roger Hiemstra,
Iowa State University

There is no easy, clear-cut answer in my mind regarding the appropriateness of the Mandatory Continuing Education movement. There no doubt are some professionals who are unable to discipline themselves in terms of remaining competent and up-to-date. Some of these individuals may benefit from "forced" requirements. But can you really mandate learning? I suspect not too effectively. The natural resistance to being "forced" may inhibit most of what is intended by the requirement.

Can you guarantee a professional will remain competent simply by passing a law? I once observed two medical professionals sign the roster at the beginning of a .8 CEU workshop, slip out never to be seen until the final minutes of the session. The "system" was beaten but their attitudes toward continuing education could hardly have been made more positive. I also witnessed a State Nursing Association border on ridiculousness in trying to figure out various "cute" ways to meet their MCE requirements.

What bothers me most about the acceleration of MCE is the frequent ignorance about or denial of the propensity of most adults toward self-guided study. If given the choice a typical adult selects "self" as the primary planner in most of his or her learning; what prompts the MCE advocate to suggest that professional competence must be maintained primarily through attendance in structured, institutionally sponsored continuing education offerings?

I would also raise several other questions that have been floating around in my mind:

1) Who monitors the quality of instruction in an MCE setting?

2) Who guards against the fly-by-night, profit-only providers?

3) Can or should all professions be treated in similar ways?

4) Is the field of adult education even prepared to deliver what is required in MCE or will the movement shift to the control of non-education related sources?

5) Doesn't MCE put an extra burden on many already over-extended professionals in terms of time, money, and energy?

It should be obvious that I have grave apprehensiveness about the whole MCE movement and what it means down the road. Ideally, all our time would be better spent in helping to develop lifelong learners who have a positive attitude about themselves, their abilities and who know how to use learning resources in meeting needs. Professional ethics, professional pride, and a profession's support of learning would all be strengthened in the ideal world. But we don't live in an ideal world, and I see us moving in some troublesome directions. Therefore, I applaud the efforts of NAVL and hope that adult educators will consider carefully their own views on MCE and what should be the stance of our various professional associations.

Other speak out

Roy Ingham (Florida State University): "MCE really stands for 'More Careers for Educators!"

Allan B. Knox (University of Illinois): "To the extent to which MCE is a token solution to the problem of substandard professional performance, it serves to discourage the search for more effective solutions."

Jerold Apps (University of Wisconsin): "Forcing people back into classrooms is not the way to assure the public of competent and qualified professionals. MCE laws create a dependency relationship that is counter to the very meaning of 'professional'."

But Malcolm Knowles (Nova University) says: "A professional organization, ..has a responsibility to assure that its members are engaging in continual professional development, preferably voluntary but under compulsion if necessary...Professional organizations and practitioners would do well to accept continuing education now as a universal norm before it becomes compulsory; but some compulsion may be necessary for a transitional period until continuing professional development gets incorporated into the bloodstream of our professions." (From Training and Development Journal, May 1979)

Wilson Thiede (University of Wisconsin): "... we should not generally support MCE for any purpose..."

Women/MCE? Women/MCE?

Becoming a Person-101

by John Ohliger,
Basic Choices, Inc.

Laura Hoffman is a 38 year old suburban housewife. Most of her friends are "into" hysterectomies, Cuisinarts, extramarital affairs, or going back to college. Because none of these appeal to Laura she feels there is something wrong with her. The least repulsive choice is going back to college to get a degree. So back she goes.

Continuing Education (New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers, $7.95) by Dorothy
Weil, who returned to school herself under similar circumstances, is a new novel about what happens when Laura enrolls as a senior to cope with her "unraised consciousness," "moldering talent," and "wasted life" and becomes a "Person 101."

If you still cherish the lingering belief that adult return to college can be a joyful totally voluntary act, then dip into this book. It will quickly dispel the market cobwebs of extension brochures, needs analyses, and participation studies and you will even have some fun discovering what a complex mix of pressures, fears, and a few satisfactions are involved.

The first quarter of Continuing Education is composed in the light-hearted style of Erma Bombeck or Jean Kerr. It's one chuckle of recognition after another until toward the end of Laura's first semester in the fall when "nothing is so bad that Christmas can't make it a little bit worse." From there on the book vacillates between humorous jibes and sober stuff like divorce, sexual harassment, and death that Erma and Jean would never risk. But Erma and Jean would be wrong and Dorothy Weil should be congratulated for almost (but not quite) succeeding in accomplishing the difficult feat of writing a funny/serious book about what she calls the Catch 22-203 of returning to the campus.

We're thinking of putting together an anthology of humorous writing on adult education. A chapter from this book would certainly qualify along with something from The Education of Hyman Kaplan, Woody Allen's "Spring Bulletin" in Getting Even, an excerpt from one of the several TV sit-coms that have recently dealt with the theme, and maybe even one of Cy Houle's speeches gently poking fun at adult educators who take themselves too seriously. If you have any nominations for this anthology, please send them to us. Any accepted will receive a free book from the Madison Review of Books which provided the one examined above.

"The new kid in class is your mother"

"The New Kid in Class Is Your Mother," is the title of a long article by Elizabeth Stone in the September 1979 issue of Ms. She writes that returning adult women students between 22 and 34 are "the nation's fastest growing group of postsecondary students. Between 1970 and 1977, the number of women students aged 22 to 34 increased by 133 percent to about 2 million. Those women students who are 35 and older constitute the second fastest-growing group of returnees, having increased 94 percent from 1972 to 1977. By 1978, both groups together constituted 25 percent of all post-high school students and, according to Census Bureau estimates, by 1985, 40 percent of all college students will be over 25.

"What is it that leads so many adult women to college? At least part of the motivation is economic—job advancement or career change . . . Many educators regret the coupling of college degrees with vocationalism, finding in it a devaluation of the degree and a watering down of the traditional curriculum. But, as one reentry woman put it, the explosion of credentialism in this society is ridiculous, but if I have to have a credential to get ahead, then there's no question but that I'm going to get it.

"... Economic or career considerations, however, crucial, are not the whole story. For many women who have been home-makers living in relative comfort or even affluence, the wish to attend college seems fraught with a kind of last-chance urgency to know their own capabilities. . .

"That the nation's colleges have been so accommodating to reentry women is due more to economics than feminist enlightenment. Colleges that expanded to accommodate the post World War II baby boom now are adapting to the needs of a new target population of adult students simply to maintain themselves."

An editorial exchange

Sudie Hofman writes: "In an effort to raise our consciousness about the fact that white males continue to dominate even the most progressive causes, note that all of the professors speaking out on MCE in this issue are, beyond any doubt, white males."

John Ohliger replies: I agree that white males continue to dominate but hasten to point out that professors Phyllis Cunningham (Northern Illinois University), Kathy Rockhill (UCLA), Jane Vella (North Carolina State), and Joan Wright (North Carolina State) have spoken out in previous issues of ST. But what concerns me is that you feel professors of any sex dominate this cause.

The equal opportunity illusion strikes back

"If evidences of discontent in fascist and socialist countries are overtly suppressed, in our country the attempt is to maintain an appearance of free expression while the dissidents (and potential dissidents) are carefully manipulated to fight amongst themselves. The illusion of abundant and equal opportunity for all is provided by dramatic and well publicized opportunities for a few people among the 'out' groups. The rest are thereby made to feel that scrambling (or gambling) for the top is a chance worth taking, and they pour their energies into competing with one another. Thus we see women going to college in their late thirties and even forties, after their children are grown, do develop careers which they hope will make them independent for the second half of their lives, at least. How many of these women succeed in their re-entry trials is doubtful. The attempt, however, does give zest to their lives, and if the results turn out to be massively unsatisfactory, it is possible that these newly aware women will respond with collective action." From Dreamers & Dealers: An Intimate Appraisal of the Women’s Movement, by Leah Fritz (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979).

A hair raising/cutting story

By Steve T. Bett, Director
Indianapolis Free U

In Indiana the only kind of haircutting course that can be approved is a 1,500 hour one. We have kind of an interesting situation developing in Indianapolis, resulting from our run in with the "beauty board," which refused to exempt our 16 hour home haircutting class. If a barber or a beautician participates in an unapproved course, their licenses will be revoked. Several beauty shop owners threatened to take us to court if we offered the course. We notified the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which expressed some interest, and went ahead with our plans. In our letter to the State Board of Beauty Culturist Examiners we said, "We consider attempts to regulate and control avocational non-credit hair care courses to be a violation of the freedom to teach as guaranteed by the First Amendment and do not think it is the business of any government agency to interfere with anyone's desire to share interests, skills, or concerns."

The Bar gets in the act

by Marvin W. Mindes, School of Law, Oklahoma City University

The mandatory Continuing Legal Education (CLE) movement has been slowly growing. Six states now require it. Despite this growth there has been considerable opposition to it based on a number of factors. One of these factors is the educational deficiency of many programs. Many bar sponsored programs are assembled and conducted by committees. More important, based on the bar's generally unexamined assumption of the efficacy of "The Word," CLE programs are exercises in one-way communication. Lawyers who prepare these programs are thus oblivious to what has been known about adult education methodology for a third of a century; all of which has been accepted in medical education since the Flexner Report of 1910 led to the standardization and tightening of physician training. The six states that do require CLE have no examination requirement, nor are lawyers in these states required to take courses of any relevance to their own practices.

Since it makes so little sense in itself, it is not surprising that mandatory CLE has often been linked with the equally questionable movement toward formal certification of specialists. The specialty certification movement, if it succeeds, will result in eventual de facto or de jure licensure of specialists in a myriad of individual legal areas to an even greater extent than that witnessed in the fragmented medical profession.

Opposition to certification for lawyers stems primarily from the generalist tradition maintained by two basic groups: First, the major corporate firms which are at the top of the bar's professional caste structure; and, second, the national law schools which, in the era of increasing law school enrollment and prosperity, are seeing their graduates and their elite philosophy substantially control all American law schools. Certification is also perceived by other general practitioners and many established specialists as contrary to their interests. Despite these conservative factors, the movement for certification was gathering substantial momentum until the mid-1970's, when Supreme Court decisions opened up lawyer advertising—in effect, self-certification—and also cast doubt on the validity of professional restrictions generally.

Another special factor calling into question the need for compulsory CLE is that many lawyers, including the more successful, are already habitual lifelong learners. In addition to learning about new laws affecting clients, they often have to absorb new factual circumstances including complex medical, economic, or other technical material and information about industrial, governmental, or other institutional arrangements. Similarly, lawyers must often examine, reassemble, seek out, or formulate the law applicable to a specific factual situation. Hourly-billed clients become accustomed to having significant portions of their bills specified as "library research" or "investigating law."

Unfortunately there is a very thin line between investigating the law and spinning new law. There is a tendency for lawyers, as part of their work, to reify and promulgate the product of their labors, thus further adding to the overburdening of the total system.

Furthermore, at the lower end of the professional spectrum, the work of the ordinary small office lawyer is "crypto menial;" highly routinized and restricted to the simplest and most repetitive practice areas--divorces, collecting unpaid bills, bankruptcies, small real estate deals, etc. Occasionally one of these areas is hit by basic legislative or judicial change.
Then the new words and music must be learned through CLE seminars or otherwise. These changes usually result in even greater formalization of rules and procedures. Thus the law is escalated even before the inevitable glossing by judges, lawyers, and law journals. Seldom examined are the core institutional arrangements that underlie the need for lawyers' services to begin with.

Given these reasons why mandatory CLE makes little sense, what explains the expansion of CLE? The primary pressure for CLE is the law explosion. It is responsible for immense growth in the law industry and it forces lawyers to engage in CLE, either informally or formally. This vast expansion and intensification of legal systems, institutions, and activities may be problematic to lawyers, many of whom are also its beneficiaries. This accelerating trend is also a substantial danger to many major social arrangements and to the consuming public. What is paradoxical is that, at least initially, much law growth was aimed at reform or improvement in workplace safety, the environment, consumer products, etc. But now, general awareness of increasing costs of, for example, regulatory activities, has spread to the extent that process-type arguments against regulation per se are the most effective tools of those who fight reform. Also, the increasing caseloads in the courts are now pointed to as arguments by those who oppose easing access to them.

Here is the underlying and seldom examined problem: Under the adversary system most legal activity and "knowledge" is not useful but just countervails or offsets other activity or "knowledge." This problem applies to phenomena, which ranges from specific litigation all the way to the 1ong-run competition between various social, economic groups, interests, and organizations. At this latter point the battlefield includes all branches of our formal system. In these ways lawyers continually make work for other lawyers. As Boulding has pointed out, the formalized legal adversary system is similar to the international power structure. Both lead to continual escalation in effort and resources used—an armaments race. In law this potential is accelerated further by a substantial increase in the number of law school graduates. It is now in the process of actualizing itself into apparently unlimited law-type activities to absorb social products and energies. And this process is not limited to lawyers. Law expansion is a national tune we all dance to.

It may be that usefulness is not the issue. People need work. But there are alternative uses of time that may humanize more and produce more grace. And, at a minimum, there is the issue of limits. To what extent is the law explosion the best use of lives and resources? A more basic question is, to what extent is law itself the best means of ordering social arrangements? There are certainly worse means, but law as a process often exacerbates conflicts and may in other ways distort the realities with which it deals. This exacerbation and distortion are predictable when a formal juristic mode is substituted for informal processes in the family, the university, or the factory. At the very least people lose control over their own lives when law expands. The internal logic of each step of adversary escalation is irresistible for the side that makes it; just as is the argument for continuing to develop new weapons of international destruction.

Though, as I have tried to show above, law is a special case, the law explosion may be an example of what afflicts all fields: the tendency of cultural matter to become alienated from its creator (as Simmel pointed out) and to expand indefinitely far beyond human scale and purpose. Thus the art engulfs the artist and we are all in danger of drowning in our own waste products,

But the concern is not new. Athenians in the fifth century B.C. discouraged specialization and protected generalists in the arts, sciences, and government. And Rousseau in his First and Second Discourses urged that most invention or development is pernicious not beneficial. Yet the modern Western world is built on the pursuit of growth and expansion. In 1904 Henry Adams wrote of an iron law of acceleration in knowledge growth comparable to a law in physics. Fortunately belief in such an "iron law" has now come into question. But the mental habits and work patterns related to this growth may not be brought under control without vast and costly upheavals destroying other values.

Berger and Luckman in their magnificent treatise, The Social Construction of Reality, describe the processes by which people create culture. Culture becomes reified and subsequently culture shapes people. Certainly these processes hold in law where all is human custom, arrangement, and practice. Since there are no rules of nature or mathematics determining our laws, it follows that what has been created by human beings can be abolished by them. The legal structures, however, are intimately intertwined with basic social meanings and arrangements. Meat-axe reactions such as Proposition 13 can harm much more than they can cure.

We know very little about the relationship between changes in law and the behavior of social groups, institutions, courts, professionals, or lay people. This relationship appears to be so complex and so irregular that predictions of consequences are generally worth very little. What is clearly needed is more understanding and control of the processes underlying legal growth. But in the interim we have a legal system which is growing and fragmenting at an alarming rate; a legal system which is rapidly becoming alienated not only from the laity but from lawyers as well.

The flamingo who learned to keep things in proportion

By Joe Bash, University of Minnesota

There was once a pink flamingo who stood one-legged as usual, beak tucked under, in a pond. Nearby a man in hip boots fished the waters. When the bird stirred, the fisherman struck up a conversation.

"That's no way to stand, you know," he said. "Best put both legs under. Better balance, optimum mobility and all."

The flamingo was impressed. "Could you teach me that trick?" he asked.

"Righto," answered the man though he soon found it was not an easy matter to teach an old flamingo new styles. "Worse than storks," he muttered. There was the theology of two-leggedness to work out along with two-legged methodology. He developed a seminar concerning "Evaluative Reflections on all Two-legged Standers in Florida" and closed off the sessions with a strong "Polemic against Four-legged Standing."

In time the flamingo got the hang of it and stood on two legs.

Some days later the bird, still slightly embarrassed and ill at ease, was practicing his new stance when a swan swam by. Looking at the flamingo, she honked, "Ridiculous! Two-legged standing! Look at me, sitting on the water. Nothing to it. And I catch fish too."

The flamingo considered the matter a while and finally decided to try the swan's style. However, this proved to be even more difficult than the two-legged stance. For one thing with his long legs the flamingo had to move into deep water and almost drowned. The legs didn't bend right for swimming and the contortions he went through made him look absurd—which the offended fisherman was quick to point out.

Just then a fish stuck its head out of the water. "You've picked the wrong environment altogether. Try underwater life."

The flamingo felt that the new proposal might be pretty fishy. Suddenly he stretched out his wings and flew, beak tucked under. "If Continuing Education is going to be a lifelong process, I may as well get comfortable," he said.

But he did keep the Geiger counter he'd picked up at one of the fisherman's seminars--to check out the fish he was catching, and when the fisherman swore at him for rejecting his advice, the flamingo also took a course in Human Relations.

HEW on credentialism

Barbara Conroy has sent us this tantalizing quote from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Report on Higher Education, page 38: "When the reliance on education credentials compels individuals to spend tedious hours and years in school against their interest, perpetuates social inequality, gives one group in society unique and arbitrary power over the lives of many, establishes conditions in which people will be dissatisfied and unhappy with their jobs, undermines the educational process, and all those unnecessarily—then the time has come to change these practices."

The masthead

SECOND THOUGHTS is a newsletter designed to serve as a link in a network of persons raising basic questions about mandatory continuing education (MCE), professionalization and related issues.

It is published by Basic Choices, Inc., 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 SECOND THOUGHTS to continue we need responses from you including: suggestions, criticisms, comments, articles, subscriptions ($10 for individuals, $15 for institutions), 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 Barbara Conroy, Tom Heaney, Seth Horwitz, Sudie Hofman, the Madison Review of Books, and the Press Connection for help in preparing this issue.

NAVL for the anatomy

There are still a quantity of buttons and T-shirts available from the National Adult Education Conference in Boston. Buttons and T-shirts bear the NAVL logo (pictured
here). Some additional buttons simply carry the letters "NAVL," and are designed to be worn at the appropriate spot on your anatomy. Buttons are $1 each and the T-shirts (high quality) are $7 each, including postage. To order any of these items send a check payable to NAVL to Tom Heaney, Community Services Office, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. When ordering a T-shirt, please indicate size (32 to 46 available).

© Copyright 2004 John

Top of Page

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