Oes the field of adult education serve to transform society or does it reinforce the status quo?


Instructions Sources:

1. Cohen, A. M. & Brawer, F. B. (2008). The social role: A response to the critics. In The American Community College (5th ed.) (pp. 417-446). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

2. Cunningham, P. (Fall, 1993). Lets get real: A critical look at the practice of adult education. Journal of Adult Education, 22(1), 3-15. Retrieved from: PhyllisCunningham_insight.cfm.

3. Mott, V. W. (2006). Is adult education an agent for change or instrument of the status quo? In Global Issues and Adult Education: Perspectives from Latin America, Southern Africa, and the United States (pp. 95-105). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

After reading the attached articles, please craft a 3-5 page response to the following question:

Does the field of adult education serve to transform society or does it reinforce the status quo?

Please utilize these resources plus an additional 3 resources from this term in your response, for a total of 6 sources. You will be graded on your argument, your use of sources as requested, and your writing ability.

Please submit your organized and detailed response as an attachment via this space only by Sunday, December 13th at 9PM. After this point the link will be removed and you will not be able to submit this assignment.


Lets Get Real: A Critical Look at the Practice of Adult Education
*Phyllis M. CunninghamNorthern Illinois University

I want to talk to you today about getting real. Real for me is critiquing what we do and recognizing and naming our social reality, and if we dont like it, doing something about it. To do this I first want to identify some myths of adult education, and then to indicate what I feel is the reality behind the myths. Also I want to analyze why we have these myths because certainly myths have a function. Finally, I want to talk with you about critical pedagogy and participatory research which I believe moves us towards solutions. To repeat, I want to do four things: designate some myths in adult education, identify the reality behind the myths, propose reasons for the myths and to suggest solutions.Myths and Their RealityThe first myth is about the humanistic goals of adult education. We perpetuate the myth that what we do is to help mature adults reach self-actualization and to reach their potential. Maslows stages of self-actualization are our code words for this humanistic goal. We make the case that we are making a better society because individuals become better through our humanistic program. The reality is that most adult education has little to do with self-actualization or with building a better society. Our discourse is framed instead by the work place: learning for earning is the goal. This vocationalizing of most of adult education practice is complemented by an array of educational leisure-time offerings. The fact is that most people in our society have little time or little opportunity for leisure in the most robust sense of that word: the ideal of the full development of the personal and social personality. Rather, leisure is often defined as escape from the tedium of work.A second myth we adult educators perpetrate is that we are narrowing the gap between the most educated and those least educated. We talk about Second chancelearning, lifelong learning and the importance of access. We have turned much of the education of adults into providing more education for the already educated. In fact the one variable that best predicts which adults come into our programs is the years of education they have. The more education a person has, the more likely they will appear in our adult education programs. This is called widening the gap.A third myth we have as adult educators is that we are learner-centered and that we empower learners. In actuality much of adult education has little to do with centering on and empowering the learners except as part of our processes. So while we may provide for student participation in the classroom, we are often in fact domesticating, not educating, our students. We have bought into the myth of education as a liberating experience to enhance and increase life choices. In actuality, those who had life choices before they came to our classes or program continues to have about the same life choices on completion. Those who had limited life choices before they entered our program often have few choices on completion of our program. We may make people feel better but that doesnt mean that they are liberated. In fact, it may mean we have simply put more nails into the coffin. For example, if we hold an open door to our educational program and individuals come in, try hard, and despite their work dont get that credential or that better job, whom do they blame? Nor us. In fact, we blame them with our language of deficiency, e.g. lack of motivation, poor self-esteem, inability to delay gratification. Our values of individualization teaches our students to blame themselves because success depends on the individual. If you dont get somewhere, then who is to blame? Not the system, not the educators; you are.A final myth I want to put on the table is the nature of our society–what we believe about how it works. We believe that our society is about equality. In fact, we believe our educational activities are about making society more equal because we do recognize at least some historic problems of inequality. We believe we are a meritocracy and that in any generation any one of us can become the political and intellectual elites, and thus the leaders. We do not own up to the fact that we live in a society in which race, gender, and social class are sources of inequality and these socially constructed inequalities work systematically to keep power relationships in place. Most of us do not question our privilege in society nor do we question the dominance of our knowledge, our culture or the fact that our centered-ness in the dominant discourse means we marginalize those from other groups. To be African American or Chicano or Native American or Asian American is to be often seen as different, though not in any positive sense, for we often conceptualize different as deficient despite the objective reality.For example, just last week a graduate student told me that she was coming back to nursing and that her last job had been one of Corporate wife.I wondered, is there a concept of Corporate husband?I doubt it. The fact is that this woman had a name for what she did: her job was to enhance her husbands business career. She didnt say she was a homemaker (which I believe is an admirable occupation) nor did she say her job was to enhance her husbands life (another admirable activity of marriage). No, the Bottom linewas the business success of the male because thats what is important: making money as an individual and making money for the corporation, which now this woman also saw as her husband and thus was defined as a Corporate wife.You may agree or disagree with me on whether these are myths. I have, in my forty years as a person dedicated to my vocation as adult educator, steadily developed my own analysis of our practice. I believe I have evidence that these myths exist. But Im open to disagreement and to your critical analysis. What I personally want to do is to engage you in a discourse about confronting reality. For me adult education is about critically assessing our reality, to name that reality, to devise strategies through adult education to change that reality, and to help students to do the same thing.That change means that we move towards a more democratic participatory egalitarian society where the values of all groups inform our decisions on practical problems. Let