Saturday, October 26, 2019
Adult Education: Social Change or Status Quo? :: Argumentative Pesuasive Papers
Adult Education: Social Change or Status Quo? Some believe that adult education was focused on a mission of social change in its formative years as a field in the 1920s. As it evolved and became institutionalized, the field became preoccupied with professionalization. More recently, emphasis on literacy and lifelong learning in a changing workplace has allied it with the agenda of economic competitiveness. This Digest examines the debate over the mission of adult education: is it to transform individuals or society? It looks at whether adult education functions as a means of empowerment in a democratic society or as an instrument for maintaining the status quo. Individual or Society? One of the core tensions of adult education (Merriam and Brockett 1997) is whether the primary focus of the field should be on individuals or society. Beatty (1992) is unequivocal in her stance: "The individual and change within the individual are not only the necessary and sufficient beginning and ending points for all adult education but also the focal point for the educational undertaking" (p. 17). She argues that the individual-society dichotomy is false: educated, empowered individuals create social change in ever-increasing spheres. Hass (1992) agrees that social change is brought about by the individuals affected. Mezirow's transformative theory suggests that individual perspective transformation must precede social transformation (Merriam and Brockett 1997). In describing the ideas of Lindeman, Heaney (1996) and Wilson (1992) point out the complexity of the relationship between individuals and society. For Lindeman, individual growth and development take place within the social context, and changed individuals will have the collective effect of changing society. But Wilson states that it is unclear just how the social order is thereby changed. Others suggest that groups and communities, not individuals, create social change (Horton 1989), that personal autonomy can be achieved only through collective action (Welton 1993), and that the fully developed individual is the consummation of the fully developed society. Ilsley (1992) argues that, although equality in the United States has been defined in terms of individual opportunity, liberty and justice do not arise from individualism. Embedded in this argument is another debate over whether adult education actually did set out with a social purpose that has been lost. A strong practice of adult education for social change is apparent in the work of Paulo Freire in Latin America and Myles Horton at the Highlander Folk School. Their influence continues, although "well on the margins of the adult education mainstream" (Heaney 1996, p.