17 October 2006

Reflections of an Adult Educator - Part 1

One of my final courses is a doctoral-level seminar on the Political Economy of Adult Education. We were asked to answer a series of questions that were the subject of a conversation between Ian Baptiste and Tom Heaney (1996). As people are sometimes interested in my philosophy of education, I thought I'd post my reflections on the four Baptiste and Heaney questions, one post per day.

Do I refer to myself as an "adult educator?"
I consider myself an adult educator, but it wasn’t always so. As I have reflected on my life, I realize that I have always been a teacher irrespective of the various roles I have played and jobs I have had over a 20-plus-year corporate career, and for the decade thereafter. My practice has become one of creating specific environments for participants in the enterprise of education in which they acquire some of the necessary tools to achieve new awareness and insight into the world and the meaning they make of it. The key differences between the before and the after may be several, but I will emphasize the one that I consider most informative to my practice.

I had always assumed that education necessarily carried with it a certain instrumentality and emphasis on content. However, inspired by the work – but more importantly, the method – of Marshall McLuhan, I have come to realize that, in his words, “the ‘content’ … is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 18). This inspiration suggests that what I do in performing the role of adult educator has little to do with the subject matter of what I may be teaching, or the specific instrumental use to which the so-called learner may make of it. Rather, the only “training” aspect of my enacting of this role is training “the watchdog of the mind” to create the ability to perceive that which is deliberately or systemically ignored, and to “think things that no one else can think about those things that everyone else already sees” (Schoepenhauer).

(more tomorrow)

  • Baptiste, I., & Heaney, T. (1996). The political construction of adult education. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, October 17-19, 1996, Lincoln, NE.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The extensions of man. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

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