Daniel Schugurensky, Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


    Whenever and wherever people shall have occasion to congregate, then and there shall be the time, place and means of their education.
    Alfred Kilpatrick, founder of Frontier College, (1899).

    Schools are, indeed, one important method of the transmission which forms the dispositions of the immature; but it is only one means, and compared with other agencies, a relatively superficial means.

    John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916)

    [Adult education is] a co-operative venture in non-authoritarian, informal learning the chief purpose of which is to discover the meaning of experience; a quest of the mind which digs down to the roots of the preconceptions which formulate our conduct; a technique of learning for adults which makes education coterminous with life, and hence elevates living itself to the level of an experiment.

    Eduard Lindeman, What is Adult Education? (1925).

    Small groups of aspiring adults who desire to keep their minds fresh and vigorous; who begin to learn by confronting pertinent situations; who dig down into the reservoirs of their secondary facts; who are led in the discussion by teachers who are also seekers after wisdom and not oracles: this constitutes the setting for adult education, the modern quest for life's meaning.
    Eduard Lindeman, The Meaning of Adult Education (1926).

    Adult education will become an agency of progress if its short-term goal of self-improvement can be made compatible with a long-term, experimental but resolute policy of changing the social order.
    Eduard Lindeman, The Meaning of Adult Education (1926).

    In what areas do most people appear to find life's meaning? We have only one pragmatic guide: meaning must reside in the things for which people strive, the goals which they set for themselves, their wants, needs, desires, and wishes. Even here our criterion is applicable only to those whose lives are already dedicated to aspirations and ambitions which belong to the higher levels of human achievement. ... Viewed from the standpoint of adult education, such personalities seem to want among other things, intelligence, power, self-expression, freedom, creativity, appreciation, enjoyment, fellowship. Or, stated in terms of the Greek ideal, they are searchers after the good life. They want to count for something; they want their experiences to be vivid and meaningful; they want their talents to be utilized; they want to know beauty and joy; and they want all of these realizations of their total personalities to be shared in communities of fellowship. Briefly they want to improve themselves; this is their realistic and primary aim. But they want also to change the social order so that vital personalities will be creating a new environment in which their aspirations may be properly expressed.
    Eduard C. Lindeman, The Meaning of Adult Education (1926).

    Andragogy is the true method of adult learning ... life itself is the adult's school.
    Martha Anderson and Eduard Lindeman, Education Through Experience (1927).

    While ... the case for lifelong education rests ultimately upon the nature and needs of human personality in such a way that no individual can rightly be regarded as outside its scope, the social reasons (i.e. democracy and responsibility) for fostering it are as powerful as the personal.
    Basil A. Yeaxlee, Lifelong Education (1929).

    The technique was discovered by facing the actual situation and planning a way by which the people of eastern Canada could be mobilized to think, to study, and to get enlightenment. We found the discussion circle. This did not involve any teachers. It was in line with our whole co-operative idea. We would make people come together by themselves and discuss their problems.
    Moses Coady, The Antigonish Way (1943).

    Every social action group should at the same time be an adult education group, and I go even as far as to believe that all successful adult education groups sooner or later become social action groups.
    Eduard Lindeman, The Sociology of Adult Education (1945).

    Learning which is combined with action provides a peculiar and solid enrichment. If, for example, you are interested in art, you will gain much more if you paint as well as look at pictures and read about the history of art. If you happen to be interested in politics, don't be satisfied with being a spectator: participate in political action. If you enjoy nature, refuse to be content with the vicarious experiences of naturalists; become a naturalist yourself. In all of these ways learning becomes an integral part of living until finally the old distinction between life and education disappears. In short, life itself becomes a perpetual experience of learning.
    Eduard C. Lindeman, The Democratic Man (1956).

    [I deeply believe] that all human beings can be aided to become increasingly self-reliant and autonomous, that the most important single principle is that the learner be fully engaged, and that the main goal of adult-learning is to develop men and women who are, at the same time, compassionately sensitive and tough-minded.
    Roby Kidd, How Adults Learn (1959).

    Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.
    Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970, 1995).

    Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes 'the practice of freedom', the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.
    Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970, 1995).

    Is this not the time to call for something quite different in education systems? Learning to live, learning to learn, so as to be able to absorb new knowledge all through life; learning to think freely and critically; learning to love the world and make it more human; learning to develop in and through creative work.
    Edgar Faure et al., Learning to be: The world of education today and tomorrow (1972).

    [People] can find [their] vocation and happiness only by constantly expanding the boundaries of what [they have] already achieved. New horizons of cognition and new spheres of activity are made the source as well as the consequences of lifelong education.
    Bogdan Suchodolski, Philosophical Aspects (1976).

    A democratic philosophy is characterized by a concern for the development of persons, a deep conviction as to the worth of every individual, and faith that people will make the right decisions for themselves if given the necessary information and support. It gives precedence to the growth of people over the accomplishment of things when these two values are in conflict. It emphasizes the release of human potential over the control of human behavior. In a truly democratic organization there is a spirit of mutual trust, an openness of communications, a general attitude of helpfulness and cooperation, and a willingness to accept responsibility, in contrast to paternalism, regimentation, restriction of information, suspicion, and enforced dependency on authority.

    When applied to the organization of adult education, a democratic philosophy means that the learning activities will be based on the real needs and interests of the participants; that the policies will be determined by a group that is representative of all participants; and that there will be a maximum of participation by all members of the organization in sharing responsibility for making and carrying out decisions.
    Malcolm S. Knowles, The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy (Revised and Updated) (1980).

    We are beginning, I am afraid, to see encyclopedia articles dating the birth of Cultural Studies from this or that book in the late fifties. Don't believe a word of it. That shift of perspective about the teaching of arts and literature and their relation to history and to contemporary society began in Adult Education, it didn't happen anywhere else. It was when it was taken across by people with that experience to the Universities that it was suddenly recognized as a subject. It is in these and other similar ways that the contribution of the process itself to social change itself, and specifically to learning, has happened.
    Raymond Williams, Adult Education and Social Change: Lectures and Reminiscences in Honour of Tony McLean (1983).

    Now, thirteen years on from Education for a change and ten years after Learning Liberation I return to the frontline much like a dinosaur. To find the literature of journals and the rationale of conferences preoccupied with the management of the education marketplace. In which the talk is about strategic plans and targeting techniques, about franchising and credit transfers, about twilight shifts and accelerated degrees -delivered with the kind of tenacity devoid of passion that characterizes automatons released from business training schemes. The discussion is all about institutional adjustment and market forces, in which students have become another niche market in the post Fordist vision of flexible specialization. In which big and powerful institutions sub-contract less prestigious work to small and struggling institutions. And in which grey men in suits, with executive briefcases and brightly coloured ties, skilled in business speak, manage the decisions that deliver batches of new consumers in search of educational commodities into lecture halls and classrooms, staffed at the chalk face by contract labour whose terms and conditions of employments have been so reregulated as to ensure maximum exploitation at minimum cost... Does anyone, apart from other dinosaurs, discuss 'really useful knowledge', critical intelligence and conscionsness raising? Or reflect upon, with any degree of precision, what it's all about politically? ... May be others feel the same? I'd be glad to hear from those who do. And to find some ways together of putting the politics of resistance and transformation back onto the agenda of adult and continuing education.
    Jane Thompson, Learning, liberation and maturity: an open letter to whoever's left (1993).

    It is useful for the adult educator to be able to work with all forms of oppression simultaneously, facilitating the exploration of differences.
    Shirley Walters, Gender and Adult Education (1996).

    We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has.
    Margaret Mead

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Last updated on October 01, 2002.