From John Ohliger.org

Education
Radical Ideas in Adult Education


INTRODUCTION

1. I first led a discussion on this material in 1975 at Florida International University. Since then I've offered it at the University of Iowa, Florida State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Saskatchewan, Northern Illinois University, and elsewhere. Each time I've revised it and added material, but the fundamental goal remains the same: To encourage adult educators to examine the assumptions behind their practice and to think/feel about the fundamental values they hold.

2. This time I'm asking what I believe are seventeen basic questions we all face. In the blank spaces below, I would like you to tentatively indicate what your answer is to each of these basic questions. You're, of course, welcome to change your responses anytime, but the goal will be for each of you (individually or in agreement with others) to arrive at a fairly firm set by the end of the discussion. Beginning on page five, I've indicated what my views are (Though the quotations there don't necessarily reflect my views). My main goal is not to get you to agree with my views, though I wouldn't be unhappy if you did, but to encourage you to think about fundamental areas of choice as they relate to adult ed. Of course, you're also welcome to add to, or change, the questions themselves.

I. CHOICES ABOUT PEOPLE.

I A. WHAT IS THE "NATURAL" RELATIONSHIP OF PEOPLE TO LEARNING AND EDUCATION?

I A................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

I B. WHAT IS THE "NATURAL" RELATIONSHIP OF PEOPLE TO EACH OTHER IN REGARD TO THEIR GENERAL ABILITY TO LEARN? (Intelligence)

I B................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

I C. HOW SHOULD PEOPLE'S LEARNING NEEDS BE MET CONCEPTUALLY?

I C................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

I D. WHAT ABILITIES DO PEOPLE HAVE IN REGARD TO RUNNING THEIR OWN AFFAIRS?

I D................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................
I E. WHICH GROUPS OF PEOPLE SHOULD BE REGARDED AS HAVING THE MOST PROBLEMS?

I E................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

II. CHOICES ABOUT SOCIETY.

II A. WHAT IS THE PRESENT POLITICAL-ECONOMIC SYSTEM BY WHICH NATIONS ARE RUN?

II A................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

II B. IS A CHANGE IN THIS SYSTEM NECESSARY? IF SO, WHAT KIND? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

II B................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

II C. WHAT WILL THE POWER STRUCTURE BE LIKE FOR PEOPLE IN THIS CHANGED SYSTEM? (If you don't feel the system requires a change, then what is the present power structure?)

II C................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

II D. WHAT WILL THE LIVES OF PEOPLE BE LIKE IN THIS CHANGED SYSTEM?
(If you don't feel the system requires a change, then what are the lives of people like today?)

II D................................................................ .................................................................
.................................................................

II E. WHAT STANCE DO YOU TAKE TOWARD THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL AND CULTURAL VALUES IN A CHANGED SYSTEM? (Or in the present one, if you don't feel the present one requires change?)

II E................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

II F. WHAT STANCE DO YOU TAKE TOWARD THE RELATED ISSUES OF TECHNOCRATIC CONTROL AND ECONOMIC GROWTH?

II F................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................
III. CHOICES ABOUT "ADULT EDUCATION"

III A. HOW IS EDUCATION/LEARNING RELATED TO PERSONAL AND SOCIAL LIFE?

III A................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

III B. HOW DOES KNOWLEDGE/LEARNING RELATE TO EXPERIENCE, THE CLASSIFICATION OF INFORMATION, AND THE ACQUISITION OF FACTS, TECHNIQUES, AND SKILLS?

III B................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

III C. HOW DOES THE PATH TO TRUTH/KNOWLEDGE/LEARNING RELATE TO PERSONAL EXPLORATION, MUTUAL INTERACTION, SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION, AND DIDACTIC INSTRUCTION?

III C................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

III D. IS EDUCATION EVER NEUTRAL? POLITICALLY, CULTURALLY, PERSONALLY,. ETC?

III D................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

III E. WHERE DOES CONVENTIONAL ADULT ED FIT ON THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM IN COMPARISON TO OTHER FORMS OF INSTITUTIONALIZED EDUCATION?

III E................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................

III F. HOW DO YOU DEFINE ADULT ED?

III F................................................................ ................................................................. .................................................................
RADICAL IDEAS IN ADULT EDUCATIONJohn Ohliger

Radical ideas in adult education are some tentative statements drawn from the writings or actions of adult educators and others who claim to be radical in the senses of: (1) seeking to get to the root, the essence of issues; and (2) calling for fundamental change for the better in the social structure. Few or none of these ideas can be proved or disproved through scientific research or experimentation. But, it is important to note, neither can ideas opposed to these be so proved or disproved. Your comments, criticisms, and suggestions for changes for later editions are very welcome.


I. IDEAS ABOUT PEOPLE

I A. ALL PEOPLE WANT TO LEARN. People are active and curious from birth. They don't need someone to "motivate" them to want to learn. "Motivation" is really a euphemism for selling programs.

"We must risk the future on the educability (creativity) of humanity."
[Ivan Illich #32 in Ohliger (1971c)]


I B. ALL PEOPLE ARE ROUGHLY EQUAL IN INTELLIGENCE. Intelligence equals all those qualities of a person's unique inclinations toward learning. Intelligence is thus NOT measurable by IQ tests of any kind, which generally just measure how well someone might do in a school situation.
"Corresponding to the myth of equal opportunity,
there is the reality of enforced inequality."
[Everett Reimer (1971) p. 53]


I C. "MEETING NEEDS" STARTS WITH DISTINGUISHING MINIMAL ESSENTIAL NEEDS FROM EXPRESSED OR MANIPULATED WANTS. Hierarchies of needs, needs analyses, unilateral needs surveys, life stages, and lists of developmental tasks should not be used to perpetuate political, social, or economic inequities.

"I doubt that one can profitably speak of a 'false need' as such.
The emphasis is better placed on false satisfaction of real needs."
[Daniel Callahan. p. 76]


I D. "COMMON PEOPLE" ARE CAPABLE OF RUNNING THEIR OWN AFFAIRS WITHOUT THE CONTROL OF EXPERTS. They are equally, if not more, important and knowledgeable than experts or leaders.

"Common people are you and me. We are all common people when not
concerned with our specialties. ... Politics in a democracy is adult
education, at least half the time."
[Carl Friedrich (1950)]

I E. THE PEOPLE WITH MORE, OR EQUALLY DIFFICULT, PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE SO-CALLED "DISADVANTAGED," "UNDERPRIVILEGED," OR "LAYPERSONS," BUT THE ADVANTAGED, PRIVILEGED, AND PROFESSIONALS.

"The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their
power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate
either the oppressed or themselves." [Paulo Freire (1970) p. 28]
II. IDEAS ABOUT SOCIETY

"They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game.
If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will
punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game."
[R.D. Laing (1972)]


II A. THE PRESENT POLITICAL-ECONOMIC REALITY IS THAT NATIONS ARE RUN BY VERY SMALL PORTIONS OF THEIR POPULATIONS. The Club, Powers-That-Be, Power Elite, Ruling Group, Corporate-State, State-Capitalism, etc.

"There is no country in the world whose structure
is not of a privileged class and a poor class.
There is always a power elite with the mass of people
excluded from any sort of political power."
[Doris Lessing (1986) p. 66]


II B. RADICAL STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN THE ECONOMIC-POLITICAL SYSTEM IS NECESSARY. Only fundamental change for the better will protect the quality of life and make its improvement possible.

"I wish there was a way that we could choose
To whom, and what, and where we pay our dues.
But dues won't pay the tax that's on my mind."
[Anonymous folksong]


II C. WE CAN LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE NO ONE HAS LASTING OR UNILATERAL CONTROL OVER ANYONE ELSE. We can live in a world where power is equally in the hands of all, without hierarchies, and where power itself is considered less important than it is today.

"What is freedom?
Freedom is not being ruled by ideas you don't believe in.
Freedom is not having to put other people down
in order to feel valuable.
Freedom is learning.
Freedom is listening.
Freedom is bending without being pushed over.
Freedom has to be fought for."
[poem by Jan Lindsay]

II D. RADICAL STRUCTURAL CHANGE IS POSSIBLE SO THAT ALL PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO FOSTER THAT PART OF THEIR BEING WHICH HELPS MORE THAN HINDERS, LOVES MORE THAN HATES, COOPERATES MORE THAN COMPETES. WE CAN LIVE AS INTEGRAL WHOLES RATHER THAN IN ALIENATION FROM OTHERS, FROM "THE TOOLS OF PRODUCTION," FROM NATURE, OR FROM THE SUPERNATURAL. This is an anti-capitalist view. Football is NOT the appropriate moral metaphor, but people who can understand the intricacies of football are certainly capable of democratic living in the best sense.

"I would like to help people smile -- smile the social system apart....
Real revolutionaries are people who look with a deep sense of humor
-- deep sarcasm -- upon their institutions. Sarcasm is adult
playfulness. Cynicism is its opposite. Instead of freedom and
independence, cynicism produces not real revolutionaries but a
regressive attachment to slogans and self-worship."
[Ivan Illich, in Gray (1970) p. 274]
II E. NECESSARY AND POSSIBLE RADICAL CHANGE WILL BE OPPRESSIVE IF NOT ENDOWED WITH A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL DIMENSION - AN ACCOMPANYING CULTURAL REVOLUTION.

"I came upon a child of God.
He was walking along the road.
And I asked him, `Where are you going?'
And this he told me....
'I'm going to camp out on the land
And try to get my soul free.'
Then can I walk beside you?
I have come here to lose the smog.
And I feel to be a cog in something turning.
Well, maybe it's just the time of year.
Or, maybe it's the time of man.
I don't know who I am.
But life is for learning...."
["Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell]


II F. TRENDS TOWARD INCREASED TECHNOCRATIC CONTROL AND ECONOMIC GROWTH MUST BE REVERSED. New limits must be agreed to on technology itself and on economic-technical growth as well.

"For a hundred years we have tried to make machines work for humanity
and to school people in their service.
Now it turns out that machines do not 'work'
and that people cannot be schooled
for a life at the service of machines."
[Ivan Illich (1973b) p. 10]


III. IDEAS ABOUT ADULT EDUCATION

"Education without social action is a one-sided value
because it has no true power potential.
Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy.
Deeds uninformed by educated thought can lead to false directions."
[Martin Luther King, Jr.]


III A. EDUCATION/LEARNING IS LINKED TO PERSONAL AND SOCIAL LIFE AS A FRAGILE, DELICATE, AND A SUBTLE HUMAN (AND A SOMETIMES TRANSCENDING HUMAN) ACTIVITY. It can only be minimally helped by behavioral or conventionally scientific models. It is generally hindered by force or compulsion (Mandatory Continuing Education - MCE).

"There can be no quantity production of the things of the spirit."
[Everett Dean Martin,
after giving the example of a New England public school administrator
who "in a burst of oratory proposed that adult ed be made compulsory."
See bib item #8 in Ohliger (1974b)]
III B. KNOWLEDGE/LEARNING IS MORE THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF AND LESS THE CLASSIFICATION OF INFORMATION, THE ACQUISITION OF FACTS, TECHNIQUES, OR SKILLS. In this sense there has been no "knowledge explosion" and could not be one.

"Experience is, first of all, doing something,
second, doing something that makes a difference,
third, knowing what difference it makes."
[Eduard Lindeman (1926)]


III C. THE PATH TO TRUTH/KNOWLEDGE/LEARNING IS MORE PERSONAL EXPLORATION OR MUTUAL INTERACTION AND LESS SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION OR DIDACTIC INSTRUCTION.

"It is only the process of discovering whether the assumptions
by which we live are truly valid which constitutes education.
The process is inductive. It can never be taken over by computers.
Rather it requires the imaginative cooperation of all those who are interested. Adult education should be pioneering in the development
of this real form of education, the dialogic form of education."
[Robert Theobald. See Bib item # 145 in Ohliger (1971c)]


III D. EDUCATION IS NEVER NEUTRAL, POLITICALLY OR OTHERWISE.

"We declare education to be neutral . . .
as if people were not beings in history. . . .
Furthermore, all we do in affirming this neutrality
is to opt for domestication which we simply proceed to disguise."
[Paulo Freire. See p. 18 in Lister (1974)]


III E. STANDARD BRAND ADULT ED IS GENERALLY THE MOST CONSERVATIVE AND REACTIONARY OF THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF INSTITUTIONALIZED EDUCATION.

"Adult education has exhibited
all the worst features of the education of adolescents
without acquiring any of its virtues."
[Robert Maynard Hutchins in Ashmore (1989), p. 246]


III F. ADULT ED IS BEST SEEN, NOT AS A FIELD, DISCIPLINE, OR PROFESSION, BUT SIMPLY AS THOSE ACTIVITIES OF THE CHRONOLOGICALLY MATURE WHERE LEARNING IS INVOLVED. The "problem" of people who call themselves, or are called, adult educators is to decide under what circumstances they as people (and less as representatives of institutions) can or should cooperate with others in activities so defined. Cooperation can include mutual assistance. The "problem" is not generally best seen as one of "designing a program."

"Adult education is friends educating each other."
[B.A. Yeaxlee in his book SPIRITUAL VALUES IN ADULT EDUCATION
as quoted in Lindeman (1926)]


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