A work in progress edited by
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
the middle of the nineteenth century the co-operative movement was emerging in
Rochdale, England. Outside of England the movement appealed to those who saw the
potential to export the principles, known as the Rochdale principles, into their
community. In the early part of the twentieth century Jimmy Tompkins and Moses
Coady used the Rochdale principles in the means to develop the co-operative
movement into Canadian society. Their pioneering work and practice of adult
education was viewed as the approach that would improve the economic and social
lives of ordinary citizens.
1939 Moses Coady described the work that went into developing the co-operative
movement in Masters
Of Their Own Destiny. Coady describes in great detail the role of the St.
Francis Xavier University’s (SFXU) extension department to inform and educate
ordinary citizens of their co-operative rights and obligations as members of
society. Coady highlights how popular education and community organizing are the
means by which individuals can improve their lives.
the book, Coady describes the role of Adult Education as being both pragmatic
and political. Specifically, he states that social and individual action is the
means by which change can occur within society. In essence, individual action
sets the conditions for future change. However, one must learn how to recognize
the need for change. In other words, individuals must be skilled, must ask
questions, and must be willing to act on pressing issues. Coady outlines how the
Antigonish movement emerged through the collaborative work with SFXU in order to
inform and transform a community.
of The People and Willingness to Change
believes that individuals have difficult lives because they allow themselves to
be taken advantage of, which he refers to as “The Great Default of the
People.” In fact, Coady devotes an entire chapter on this topic. He contends
that the main reason people are disadvantaged is because they stand still and do
not take responsibility for their lives and the lives of others. As a first step
for change, Coady argues, individuals do not have to feel as though they cannot
control the impact of external forces on their lives. Coady also states that the
improvement of the self and others can occur through improvements to their
economic standing. Specifically, how they get their income and where they
purchase their goods.
to Coady, individuals become involved once they are educated and informed. He
states that Adult Education is the means to inform and can lead the charge for
personal and social change, and thus he enthusiastically adhered to the
the commitment of the extension department of SFXU to initiate a community
development program geared to educating the people. For Coady, any newly
developed skills and knowledge should lead to a putting ideas into action.
would this mass education take place? Coady focused his efforts at the level of
the community. He stated that education needs to come from a source that is
accessible both to the people and to the community. The role of SFXU extension
department was to go out into the community and provide an education to those
that were unable to attend the University programs for various reasons.
In order to get the information out there and to begin the process, Coady organized meetings of the people, both larger and smaller groups in order to expose individuals to ideas of personal responsibility and to create opportunities for participation. At these meetings the issues which are discussed should be directly relevant to the people present. Additionally, he would listen to the nature of the hesitancy by the people to get involved. Coady stated that the meetings was meant to change attitudes and thinking of those present.
is the overall goal of the initiatives described above? According to Coady, the
main goal is the creation of co-operatives. In a co-operative framework
individuals decide where they spend their money and how their goods and services
indicates that personal transformation and growth leads to social
transformation. For him, the social well being will be achieved and sustained
through the process of education and of the co-operative movement. He suggests
that to locate a problem politically requires the ability to ask important
questions and the willingness to participate in social change. He states that
individuals who locate a problem in the social order can initiate social action.
Furthermore, the problem often points to inequalities in the social system.
level of individual action will lead to the necessary changes at the social
sphere. The co-operative movement is an example of the power one has or could
gain through knowledge and education. This power is shown in the various ways
that the citizens of Antigonish made changes to their livelihoods through
co-operative action. According to Coady, the fundamental way that social change
occurs is through economic co-operatives. Any change that has direct relevance
to people’s lives, eventually will lead to personal and social transformation.
Coady distinguished between ideologies that at that time were commonly known as
communism and capitalism, and suggested that the co-operative movement should
combine the best elements of each.
the same time, the
impetus of the co-operative movement was to reclaim and reframe the power that
the industrialists have taken from the people. Coady suggests that the
industrialists have the power because the workers gave it to them. He states
that it is through cooperation that “we could take back what we have and take
advantage of the resources that have been the mechanism that has exploited the
people.” Coady believed that the key to the successful creation of
co-operatives was to implement a program of education, which includes a
well-defined role for Adult Education.
main point of the book is that individuals can be empowered through their
actions. Furthermore, individual actions will lead to change at both the
individual and social levels. At this point the main question is whether the
strategies outlined by Coady could work today. The issues which are highlighted
in the book resonate with what is happening in the world today. However, does
Coady’s approach offer the learner of today the means by which to deal with
the ills of modern society?
implementation of the neo-conservative agenda and of the growing trend toward
increased globalization has left individuals feeling powerless. In essence,
society is beginning to develop a profound sense of learned helplessness. What
could be done to empower society and to fight against unseen forces of control?
One option is to revisit Coady and other pioneers of the Adult Education and the
co-operative movements. The ideas espoused in this book are not meant to be
prescriptive. The strategies worked for the Antigonish movement because they
were developed within the community. What this book offers to the reader is the
sense that there are options and alternatives to merely being complacent to the
global changes. While the issues at the present time are far more complex and a
lot more is at stake, meaningful and powerful change emerges from the
grassroots. In this book Coady has described how individuals and groups became masters
of their own destiny, and there is no reason why we cannot take their spirit
and gather together today to discuss issues and coordinate efforts and become
the masters of our destiny.
Coady, M.M. (1939). Masters of their own destiny. New York: Harper and Brothers.
Prepared by Jorge Sousa (OISE/UT)
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