Everything old in education is new again

Welcome to 2014

Having had forced down time (with an injury), I have had time to reflect a lot on education and its application across the ages.  I have also been able to engage in conversations with various people about the ‘latest trend’ in education; particularly in the field of adult education where I dwell.  While I sit and listen, I am oft reminded of the expression “everything old is new again”.

So, with that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to look at educational views/approaches from the old days.  Some of the people I will present are still cited and invoked today, e.g. John Dewey, Eduard Lindemann.  But before this, I thought I would present what I think about “what education is…”

Some years back, before I started on my academic journey education was a means to an end.  By that, I mean, that it was something that needed to be done to move onto the next task or journey in life.  For example school and high school was something that I was legally required to do.  It was something that in my world at least, did not have the same gravitas or ongoing pressure attached to it as it does now.  Or, perhaps, I did not take that much notice because I was more interested in leaving school and getting a job.

This is the second area where education became a means to an end.  Whenever I started a job I learnt what I needed to do to do that job-nothing more nothing less.  This even included my journey into policing.  Whilst at the Academy I studied what I needed to do to pass, graduate, and become a police officer.  On reflection I wish I had taken a little bit more time to understand the concepts; but when I think back I do not think of any instructor who truly presented information conceptually.

In 2004 when I started my degree, it was also a means to an end.  By that I mean the only reason I started my degree was a recruiter told me that I would not get a job in the fields that I was looking without a formal qualification.

What I did learn through my degree was how much I enjoyed learning.  Perhaps it was because I was significantly older than when I left high school, but, I found that reading other people’s theories and trying to apply them to my real world caused me no end of consternation, but also great reflection on how my workplace, my work colleagues, and myself were behaving and interacting with each other.  This was the start of a journey that continues today.  The key focus of my journey is to understand how other people think and learn.  And this is in surface level learning, but deep learning, learning that changes the person.  Also learning that helps the person achieve a goal.

My masters looked at how others engage with adult learning principles and in doing so it caused me to reflect on challenge myself on how I engage with adult learning principles.  My doctorate, which is only just commencing, is investigating thinking-critical thinking-in the emergency services.

So, for me, education is something which shapes and changes a person, and educators at all levels need to be aware of the impact they have on how their students view their educational journey.  The educational journey should be engaging, educational, interesting, and at times just fun.

I am not one for looking at and subscribing to a particular theoretical and/or conceptual ideal behind education.  By that I mean what is affectionately known as the “ologies” and the “isms”.  I am an educational pragmatist at heart and in practice.  I do not subscribe to one particular theory or approach but rather as Denzin and Lincoln subscribe I have become a bricoluer.

Education is a personal, individual lifelong journey.  It is something that if we all stopped and thought about we would discover that it is true, and the latest trend to use the phrase lifelong learning is, in my view, recognition of this being true.

The next post will outline the view of Eduard Lindemann from his seminal work “The Meaning of Adult Education” printed in 1926.  I hope you drop by to read that.

In the meantime, let me know what education means to you.

Have a great day.


4 thoughts on “Everything old in education is new again

  1. education to myself is what you make it, I diversified a lot as I changed vocation. We need to look at our lifestyles, our work environment to determine how we educate our self. Even picking a different coach for our sport is a form of education.

    • I agree, but there need to be a foundation for education. What is it? Why is that foundation better than others? These are the issues I hope to explore over this year.

      Thanks for commenting and keep following.

  2. I appreciate the expressed desire to stay away from a particular theory of education. But the old saying about the practicality of a good theory lurks. I’m guided by social learning theory in its broadest sense. I like to read the various interpretations but primarily I’m interested in informal social learning. I did some work on this in policing until struck down by illness and had to leave my research programme, never to return, unfortunately. I’m in adult education now, primarily lit/num but I can still see informal social learning at work every day.

    • Hi Peter, I preferred not to have a preference as I felt that to be true to the intent of the blog, I need to not impose my view. But it is getting harder and harder not to express a view. I think it is easier to say that I am swayed by Dewey and others of that ilk.

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