Hi, today I write about the fact that adult education exists outside the formal system, and the educational journey one takes, and how the educational industry fails to take heed of this. I take my leave from one of my favourite texts being Eduard Lindeman’s (1926) The Meaning of Adult Education. (It can be viewed and downloaded here or here.)
For anyone interested in understanding the transition from childhood education to learning for earning, self-development, to make life more interesting, or sharing skills to keep them alive and improving them; should read this wonderful text. It is acknowledged that Lindeman’s work influence Malcolm Knowles’ work on Andragogy – which forms the principles of adult learning. Background to Lindeman and his text can be found here. To understand his contribution to the realm of adult education, read this.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Over my academic journey, almost 11 years from undergraduate degree to halfway through my doctorate, I have always considered that some of the learning I was compelled to undertake had no practical or day-to-day activities. I often wondered why I was not getting it, and then I read this from Lindeman, “We shall discover our meanings when we are engaged in the process of adult education, not in advance (p. xix).” I then came to realise that without engaging with the learning, I was just studying not learning.
Learning for me is the engagement and practical application of the knowledge in a real world situation. This way the knowledge can be tested and either accepted or challenged and adapted. This way I avoid the “vicious circle” of education being “something to be endured” (Lindeman, 1926, p. 3).
However, to me, the modern education system seeks to have students endure education and appears to ignore the fact that “education is life – not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living” (original emphasis, Lindeman, 1926, p. 6). I make this assertion that having now been studying at three different universities and being bombarded with all the rhetoric about how they are preparing their students for an unknown future.
Over my years of formal study I feel that more and more that I study it is not so much about the who, what, where, why etc, and more about how the educator wants the student to do things. Or, as Lindeman stated in the “conventional education the student is required to adjust himself to an established curriculum” (p. 8); but in life, unlike the adult education system, the “curriculum is built around the student’s needs and interests” (p. 8). We seek out things that amuse or bemuse us.
Just recently, I was travelling to a workshop with a colleague. Part of the conversation led to how he knew so much about certain things. He replied that he liked to read a lot, especially when he realises that he does not know something. For him, learning (or education) is not about promulgated subjects or courses, but gaps in his knowledge. So, for people like him formal academic institutions hold merit for him.
However, in today’s view that education is garnered at a formal institution, how does he go about proving his ongoing development? How can he prove that he has learnt many new things since leaving school without the all important piece of paper? Your thoughts?