GLL – On Nadeau, D. (1996): Embodying Feminist Popular Education in Global Restructuring

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Case Study on Embodying Feminist Popular Education in Global Restructuring

TOPICS: local global learning, feminism, empowerment, Popular Education

Step 4 – Part 3: Adult education/learning in civil society organizations and social movements

Keywords: feminism, popular education, civil society, democracy, oppression, informal learning

Link to blog

Link to forum

Case Study 1
Nadeau, D. (1996): Embodying Feminist Popular Education in Global Restructuring (Chapter Two), in Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape Town: CACE Publications and Zed Books

Instead of answering each question, I have written a comprehensive post that will touch on the issues raised in the questions.

Definition of popular education

Nadeau defines popular education “as a method of group education and organizing that starts with the problems in people’s daily lives.” (p. 3) This idea parallels concepts outlined by Walters and Manicom (1996). One key element in their model is experience. “Women’s experience is seen as the point of departure for feminist popular education.” (p.10) Pre-existing experiences closely interact with processes of experience building. (p.12) Experience  is also seen as an overarching element in feminist popular education and one cannot detach the private, personal experience from its political and social dimension. They introduced the concept of Cotidiano, meaning the daily occupations in every woman’s life, which can be as intrinsically political, and as integrated with broader social relations and hierarchies of oppression.” (p.10)

Role of society and political stance
Nadeau also emphasizes that “Feminist popular educators quickly recognized that women, youth, the urban poor and indigenous people were playing central roles in building popular resistance and in creating alternatives located not in political parties but in the social movements.” (p.3) The potentials of her idea of feminist popular education is therefore rooted in popular resistance movement, and in women’s movements in particular.

Emphasis on the connection of body, mind and spirit

In her article, she often refers to such connection as being the means through which liberation from oppression can be achieved. Particularly, this approach seems to offer itself as an alternative to male-dominated discourses. However, her argument transcends the opportunity for an attitudinal transformation and embraces a polarized crusade, as explained next.

A mixture of apparently unrelated approaches

Parts of Nadeau’s article reads to me like a Greek salad of several “techniques” for which she does not clearly define how they relate to one another. I hope I do not sound too disrespectuf when saying that her narrative betrays the kind of enthusiasm that many Westerners show when coming in contact with non-western customs and traditions. Some people have called that “going native.”

She offers a blend of guided imaging, bioenergetics, Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed”, and several forms of body work as a way for women to promote the mind-body-spirit connection that is necessary for the development of awareness with regard of their oppression and relevant course of action. Unfortunately, she presents these “techniques” acritically, as if they could provide some kind of miraculous panacea to the many problems faced by women.

With regards to bioenergetics, for example, I would like to make a comment, having done individual bioenergetic therapy myself for three years. The tenets of such therapy is indeed on “letting go” of emotional blocks that have become engrained in muscular tension. However, recent studies are critical of the actual benefits that may derive to someone who – through this kind of therapy – forcibly takes out her/his anger with the therapist’s assistance. A discussion on bioenergetics would certainly require more time and knowledge than I have. I just want to point out that the way Nadeau describes it is very superficial and denies possible complications. (Many years ago, in Amsterdam, I joined a group for a week-end of bioenergetics. The experience was very distressful, as I found myself dealing with a level of intolerable anger that was thrown around at whoever was there to take it. There was nothing liberating in that experience. It was traumatic, to say the least).

She also talks about Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed.” In 2005, as part of a Master’s on Peace Studies, I spent two days with Boa. Even though the experience was interesting, I could not say that I was hooked on it. Honestly, I barely remember what it was all about. To me, that was another case of lack of contextualization, a theme we discussed in the thread on Freire.

Walters and Manicom (1996, p.13) mentioned the connection between feminist popular education and psychotherapy. I certainly understand how – to many women – their experiences can be very traumatic, and believe that a therapeutic approach to that is appropriate. I am not sure – however – that the same approach should be employed in “education/learning” for the society at large.

Criticism towards other views of popular education; assumption on ACTION; essentialist perspective

Nadeau believes that “traditional popular education had failed to address the reality of women’s domestic and community lives: the invisible ‘private’ sphere and the specific problems and possibilities of women as worker both inside and outside the home (Fernandez et al., 1991).” (p.4) That seems to be enough justification for her to affirm the better position of her approach. To that end, she suggests Gender and Development (GAD) theory as the good approach towards the analysis of issues of oppressions:

“GAD analysis has shown how the intersection of multiple oppressions – race, class and gender as well as colonial history – has shaped women’s economic subordination. It also uncovers how the exploitation of women’s unwaged domestic and community work is built into the dynamic of global restructuring.” (p.4) Such approach, sustained by emerging conscientization, should lead to action towards change. But apparently increased awareness does not necessarily convert into action. (p.4) This sounds like a contested statement. In fact, it neglects to consider the assumption that action is indeed the desired outcome. I am thinking of the Taoist concept of wu-wei, which refers to

“behavior that arises from a sense of oneself as connected to others and to one’s environment. It is action that is spontaneous and effortless. At the same time it is not to be considered inertia, laziness, or mere passivity. Rather, it is the experience of going with the grain or swimming with the current. Our contemporary expression, “going with the flow,” is a direct expression of this fundamental Taoist principle, which in its most basic form refers to behavior occurring in response to the flow of the Tao. We heed the intelligence of our whole body, not only our brain. And we learn through our own experience. All of this allows us to respond readily to the needs of the environment, which of course includes ourselves. And just as the Tao functions in a manner to promote harmony and balance, our own actions, performed in the spirit of wu-wei, produce the same result.”

(http://www.jadedragon.com/archives/june98/tao.html)

Interestingly, the principles stated above seem to be consistent with Nadeau’s view on the body-spirit-mind connection. They differ – however – in their lack of forceful advocacy for action.  From my perspective, enforced action follows the path of a mainstream Western approach to problem solving. I personally disagree with this approach, as I favour instead processes of societal and personal transformation that are not entrenched in dichotomous discourses. These thoughts lead me to what I perceive as Nadeau’s Essentialist view.

In my opinion, the following quote from her article clearly express the limitation of her approach, by positioning it firmly inside a specific camp.

“Women are involved daily in maintenance and care of the body: in nurturing their families, transmitting culture, providing health-care, preparing food and generally sustaining body and soul in family and community. Much of women’s work whether reproductive work, productive work, or community work, revolves around the body and its needs. The political economy of women’s bodies revolves around women’s work as consumers, sex partners, sex trade workers, and as reproducers of workers in their roles as mothers, teachers, nurses, day-care workers and so on. This labour is so critical that church and state try to manage women’s bodies – their reproductive capacities and freedoms and their sexualities. Men as individuals and groups try to discipline women through rape, beatings, disappearances and murder, that is, through the body. In many ways the body is the key site of struggle for women.” (pp. 4-5)

The language in this paragraph presents a string of gender-specific roles that strongly remind me of essentialist views. She talks about “women” and “men” as if she was referring to all women and all men. Having spent many years of my life trying to overcome similar schemata, I find a discussion premised on such stereotypes not very productive. I believe in the power of learning and education as tools and contexts for transformation, and not as means towards a self-perpetuating “alternative”. (An alternative implies replacing something with something else; transformation implies transmuting something into something new).

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>FORUM DISCUSSION

Ginger wrote:

Hi Marie,

Thanks so much for your break down of Nadeau’s views.  It was so helpful to push my thinking.  I wonder if the gender based duality is more ‘masculine/feminine’ than ‘men/women’, recognizing, as you say, that both men and women can be located in our bodies, but masculine socialization has disembodied lots of men as well as women. Accentuating a more feminine approach, with respect for emotions, non-verbal communication, personal experience, then can help both women and men to embrace more holistic learning, combining emotions and feelings with rational thinking and analysis.

Anita wrote:

A resounding “Bravo!”, Oscar. I agree. I have been a little perplexed throughout these reading that authors do not seem to feel the need to define what they mean by action, or the range of actions that they might consider successful results of their popular education efforts. Conscientization, to use Freire’s word, results in changes to one’s identity, and therefore to how one lives one’s day-to-day life, which is a powerful action individually, and unstoppable if there is a critical mass.

Anita

I agree with Oscar that this paragraph from Nadeau essentialized both women and men. I am not denying that some men, acting as individuals or as a group, control women through violence. But as the paragraph begins with what is clearly intended to be a generalization about women, the statement about men is either also intended as a generalization about men (which seems unreasonable), or is an example of very careless writing. In either event, the over-generalizations lead to both the essentializing and polarizing of experience. This, and treating ‘church’ and ‘state’ as monolithic, has the effect of erecting boundaries to thinking that are limiting and therefore unhelpful if the goal is social change.

Anita

Anita,

Thank you for reviewing my post and for all your comments above. You eloquently reinforced many of the points I was trying to make.

Like Ginger, I also believe that the issue is not to try to draw a line between men and women, but it is to try to understand the nuances that abound between the masculine and feminine. It’s more about attitudinal perspectives than gender-ascribed roles.

The concept of Yin and Yang comes to mind as a useful metaphor for what I tried to express in my post. Academically speaking, instead, I think of the definitions ascribed vs. avowed identities, which I discussed in another course. (see this link to view my reflections on this)

The terms highlight issues of essentialist definitions of identity, which I believe relates to Nadeau’s discussion on “women vs. men.”  Needless to say that, like Anita and others, I do not share such entrenched views, which remind me of a movie called Classified People about racial profiling in Apartheid-era South Africa.

Best,

Oscar

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Integral Theory and Transformation

INTEGRAL THEORY AND TRANSFORMATION

Posted on e-portfolio

In recent posts I noticed a growing discomfort related to possible future scenarios that would break through currently employed discourse. I would like to share some information I gathered over the past few days, as the result of a search that was no doubt prompted by some comments in the forums.

I believe one of the issues that emerged from the discussion is the search for something that would allow us to take a leap of faith and move beyond the current paradigmal thinking. (I like to call it Cartesian world view).

The second issue, directly related to our current course, is transformative learning.

I believe the two things can be looked at together. I spent hours on the web researching these issues, and eventually contacted several people working on transformation and Integral Theory. This is the great thing about the internet! As a result, I have now some initial information that gives more substance to my claim that there is more than just a dichotomous approach to today’s problems.

Here is a summary of some resources that I thought I’d share with you.

Transforming wholeness

INTEGRAL THEORY

Ken Wilber defines integral as:

“to integrate, to bring together, to join, to link, to embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all of the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and zags of a rainbow-hued humanity, but in the sense of unity-in-diversity, shared commonalities along with our wonderful differences.” (A Theory of Everything)

“The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”

You can explore Integral Theory at:

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/sites/default/files/integraltheory_3-2-2009.pdf (paper)

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/vision

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/source

Integral Education

http://i-edu.org/articles-resources.php very comprehensive collection of articles

http://i-edu.org/Articles/Integral-Education-Esbjorn-Hargens.pdf

MACROSHIFT

If you are interested in learning more about Dr Ervin Laszlo’s Macroshift check out the suggested links:

http://www.worldshiftnetwork.org/home/index.html

http://www.clubofbudapest.org/

http://www.wie.org/bios/ervin-laszlo.asp

DIALOGUE

I believe that learning and dialogue may be key tools in such paradigm shift. For now, we are still dealing with a world premised on the industrialization era where people in general are reluctant to move into uncharted land, and instead prefer to linger on whatever we have, in spite of its obvious failures.

As Richard Evanoff writes in an interesting paper on Intercultural Dialogue and Education,” “From the point of view of intercultural education the alternative model of development advocates democratizing the decision-making process in a way that fully takes the interests and concerns of non-elites into consideration.”

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/evanoff-s5.pdf

On dialogue:

http://www.transcultural-dialogue.com/documents/dialogue_process.pdf

TRANSFORMATION

On conflict transformation:

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/transformation/

A Changing Worldview:

http://twm.co.nz/Harm_wldview.html

The Split between Spirit and Nature in Western Consciousness:

http://twm.co.nz/West_Consc.html#Western

Another scholar that addresses transformation in education is Mezirow, whom we encounter in our FLIP course.

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These are examples of wholistic, non-essentialist approaches. I hope it’s clear that I am sharing this information not in an attempt to proselytize, but just to provide some examples of a different thinking paradigm.

Best,

Oscar

GLL – on Transformation

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Freire

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: Critical Consciousness

Keywords: Critical Consciousness, Freire, Laszlo, Macroshift,  Merirow, Youngman, enactivist orientation, transformational orientation,

Link to webpage

Link to blog

Link to forum Link to Forum 2

Why is critical consciousness a necessary dimension of transformative adult education

Hi there!

Although our thoughts across the many forums may at times sound  redundant (mine included). I would like to add some “old” ideas that i had previously posted on Our Samarbeta discussion on Youngman , which already dealt with issues of transformation.  I am a bit hesitant to re-introduce these thoughts but I am doing that as I believe it is relevant to this particular forum, also considering that the audience has changed.

Here is a summary of what I believe TRANSFORMATION in Adult Education may be.

I suggest two levels of transformation: 1) personal/local, and 2) local/global. Not everyone and not every context may necessarily become part of either transformation process.

1) TRANSFORMATION AT THE LOCAL/PERSONAL LEVEL (a.k.a. personal growth)

Constructivist progressive orientation

I believe that in this perspective the “educator helps link disparate experiences into a coherent whole.” (Dewey cited in Fenwick, p.3)   Learners are made aware of the level of responsibility required for their educational path. They engage in problem-solving activities to become successful in their chosen fields. The teacher acts as a guide and promoter of critical change geared at reforming and redressing system imbalances through a process of understanding civil responsibility and issues of active citizenship.

2) AT THE LOCAL/GLOBAL LEVEL

This level is more relevant for our discussion. It incorporates the personal growth of the previous step and takes it to a higher level.

At this stage an educator may engage in the following practices:

  • Promoting the discussion of complex and “delicate” intercultural issues
  • Promoting awareness and recognition of issues of – among others – governmentability, self-subjugation, oppression, and discrimination.
  • Promoting awareness, recognition and critique of socially-relevant dimensions, including cultural assumptions. (Intercultural dimension)

I believe that this level, which has a strong political accent, may be approached in different ways, or even a combination of ways. Contextualizing and framing conditions of oppression and inequality is a prerequisite to adopting the most effective approach to global transformation. The role of the state, civil society, stakeholders, and other actors is a defining factor at this complex level of transformation. I have the feeling that most of the actions premised on transformation combine one or more of the following approaches.

Constructivist radical orientation

Here the teacher acts as a promoter of conscience and an external force that can empower students and facilitate social transformation. Freire’s pedagogy of conscientization seems to move in this direction, beyond the stiffness and the oppressing dictates of banking education. However, his ideas – as many of us have realized – are based on a set of dichotomous axioms that may not agree with changed conditions and discourses on transformative education of our time.

I also believe it’s important, for example in the case of South Africa, to consider the intercultural dimension. I believe that a radical approach would be very suitable to examine, discuss, and challenge cultural discourses, assumptions, issues of cultural representations and otherization, and personal narratives. Ultimately, a radical orientation could be more effective at uncovering and possibly overcoming issues of oppression, cultural relativism and essentialism, and eventually at addressing the imbalances that are still part of our social and educational models.

However, this approach may entail possibilities for culture clashes and it may be of difficult application within the dominant world view, given the level of psychological and cultural embeddedness of current educational paradigms and relevant social frameworks and discourses. That’s when dialogue comes in, as a means and context for critical consciousness (awareness would be another word that comes to mind) building.

Constructivist transformational orientation

Here the teacher acts as a promoter of transformation processes. According to Merizow (1991), this approach leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 13)

This orientation is suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection, as suggested by Freire. However, one has to recognize that not everyone is interested in shifting perspective, or capable of reflecting cognitively, in which cases this approach may feel to some like a piloted operation.

From a practical point of view, I believe intercultural dialogic communication as envisioned by intercultural thinkers such as David Bohm, Martin Buber, Fred Casmir, Muneo Yoshikawa and many others belongs within this perspective. It aims at the development of a high level of dialogue competence that can benefit intercultural understanding. (Matoba, 2002, p. 143)

Enactivist orientation

This perspective promotes a new paradigm of learning derived from whole systems thinking. It transcends the confinements of the established world view and its embedded traditional education practices. The educator is viewed as a communicator, story-maker, and interpreter. (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49)

This entails an investigative, open-ended approach to learning that is not separate from teaching. The language used in this perspective is conducive to understanding relations between systems, including the interplay between actors and issues in the education universe. This presides over the co-emergence of an interrelated pattern, in which “each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49)

Since this approach is linked to the broader, global perspective of whole systems thinking, it allows one to relate her/his professional practice to the emergence of a new thinking paradigm, which I consider central to the role of an educator.

Enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium.” (Fenwick, 2001, p.50) This resonates with views of a paradigmal change such as those presented by Dr. Ervin Laszlo, founder of The Club of Budapest, in his work on macroshifts. (Laszlo, 2001)

This perspective, however, may be of difficult application under today’s established educational circumstances, as it requires reframing current paradigms, discourses, and world views. But this is exactly the challenge of transformative education, which is experimental, forward and critical thinking. Freire certainly caught the essence of the imbalances that affect our societies (then, and today). The question for us, I believe, is to incorporate his ideas into the changing context of the third millennium.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Laszlo, E. (2001). Macroshift: Navigating the transformation to a sustainable world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Matoba, K. (2002) “Dialogue Process as Communication Training for Multicultural Organizations” in Bohnet-Joschko, S. (2002). Socially responsible management:

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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Zelda Writes:

Dear All

I have read Oscar’s additonal posting.  Thanks so much.  I have asked this question previously, and am asking it again.  What do Mezirow and Youngman propose to change, through transformative adult education (Youngman) and transformative learning (Mezirow)?  is it the same?

Zelda

Hi Zelda,

Sorry for not answering those questions earlier. Here are my thoughts in that regard.

Youngman: his idea of transformative adult education stems from a political analysis of issues of oppression, ultimately from a perspective derived from political economy. He views transformation through adult education as a collective process through which people (the “masses” as Freire would have said) are able to conquer issues of social inequality, disenfranchment, marginalization, discrimination, etc. To a lesser degree than Freire’s theory of conscientization, Youngmans displays a dichotomous perspective that is still heavily influenced by the juxtaposition of capitalist and Marxist class views of a political economy, even though he has come to include many aspects of social issues that cannot be examined from a traditional class perspective. (Feminism, environmentalism, etc) His thinking is the product of 19th and 20th centuries political economy discourses.

Merirow: The core of his transformative learning is the individual learners’ ability to construe, validate, and reformulate the meaning of their experience. The emphasis is on “perspective transformation” as a means to promote personal growth and, eventually influence the emergence of a new society. Rather than a society based on Youngman’s dichotomous views, Merirow envisions a society that would display the traits of a Third-Culture, where the new is not just a better version of the old, but is instead a transformed thinking paradigm. Merirow’s transformative learning is dialectic, suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection (it leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them”); (p. 13)

“Others’ views can act as mirrors for our own views, opening dialectic, helping us “unfreeze” our “meaning perspectives” (Mezirow 1991) and assumptions.  This is very different from Youngman’s exclusion of juxtaposed views. In Merirow’s case we confront and challenge the taken-for-granted norms— what’s wrong with how I am seeing what happened and how it happened?—leading to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.

To summarize, I believe that Youngman’s views on transformation are driven by political discourses and focus on social issues from a political economy perspective. Merirow instead views transformation as an individual process of growth derived from self-reflection and a dialectical approach with the other that will eventually transcend individual differences and give raise to something new akin to a Third-Culture. In this regard, Merirow’s theory is undoubtedly systems-based.

Best,

Oscar

USEFUL LINKS:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Mezirows-Transformational-Learning-Theory&id=937072

http://www.ericdigests.org/1999-2/adulthood.htm

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GLORIA wrote:     link to forum

While oppression remains, so Freire’s ideas remain relevant and more sophisticated, complex or modern concepts serve only to cover up the basics – poverty, inequality, exploitation etc.

Hi Gloria,

Thank you for adding some additional thoughts. Your posts are always interesting.

I’d like to comment on the above, as I am not sure I can agree with you on that hundred per cent. You are absolutely right that the issues remain the same, taking us all back to the overarching role of power in our societies.

During the past century we witnessed a ping pong game between Marxism and Capitalism. They were just two sides of the same coin: they shared the same basic world view. When I consider other options is mainly because such dichotomous game didn’t really change much for marginalized people. It even created additional marginalization and oppression that are more difficult to be detected, as they are so much based on the victims’ “willing” co-operation. (Consumerism, to support the socialist or the capitalist economies, is all about “free” participation.)

I certainly agree that mere philosophical speculations on alternative solutions are not going to feed the starving masses, nor are they going to “solve” anything per se’. I believe, however, that we need to move beyond the Cartesian discourses that have dominated the scene since the age of the Enlightenment. If we don’t do that, we remain stuck.

Oscar

GLL – on critical consciousness and transformative education

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: Critical Consciousness

Keywords: Critical Consciousness, Freire, Laszlo, Macroshift, enactivist orientation, transformational orientation

Link to blog

Link to forum

Discuss the relevance of “critical consciousness” as a dimension of transformative adult education. Why is critical consciousness a necessary dimension of transformative adult education

EPOCHAL TRANSITION

Freire’s ideas offer a valid approach to transformative adult education although they often sound too dichotomous (see my previous comments). Freire supports the transition to a new epoch in which oppressed people will eventually enjoy the benefit of just-for-all participatory democracy. His ideas remind me of Ervin Laszlo’s Macroshift, which describe the kind of all-encompassing change that occurs at certain points in human history.

I believe that epochal transformations may also happen independently from people’s actions, and that people are not necessarily able to control such epochal shifts. We can – however – try to understand the processes, so as to feel less “victims” and more “participants”.

Conscientizaçã

Freire’ relies on critical consciousness to rid society from oppression. As suggested in the quotes above, education plays a pivotal role in such process. It seems to me that what Freire proposes sounds like what many have called “critical thinking skills.” Freire’s approach is however more political, possibly entangled in the contextual conditions of his time and place.

Nevertheless, I believe that his ideas are valuable as a platform for transformative education.

For this course I have looked at other sources outside of the provided readings, only to find out that the ideas around transformative education emerge as an interconnected web of thoughts. Freire talks about active participation, which reminds me to the concept of Active Citizenship we discussed earlier in the course. Freire’s idea of critical consciousness is not unlike what others have written on transformative education, in particular Merizow’s “Transformative Learning Theory” advocating a societal emancipatory change achieved through individual transformation. Lena Wilhelmson believes that “perspective transformation leads to a revised frame of reference, and a willingness to act on the new perspective.”

In a web-like, holistic, interdisciplinary fashion, these ideas resonate with Intercultural Communication discourses on transcending constrains in our current mind frame, and reconstructing dominant narratives through dialogue and self-reflection.

I believe that the complexity found in transformative adult education requires a systems-thinking approach. It is very interesting for me to notice how many of the discussions we had in the past provide a broad framework for understanding these issues. To conclude this post, I believe Freire’s approach fits into a radical orientation to education. In order to implement societal and personal transformation, we can move on to a transformational orientation (as suggested by Merizow), and eventually transcend the political aspect that still pervades Freire’s writings through a highly participative enactivist orientation that states that “learning cannot be understood except in terms of co-emergence: each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, p. 49)

Like in Freire’s advocacy for the emergence of a new era, enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium,” (Fenwick, p.50) the system breaking point sometimes heralds the start of a paradigmatic macroshift, as suggested by Ervin Laszlo.

BIBLIOGRAPH

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Wilhelmson, L. (2002) On the Theory of Transformative Learning, In Bron, A. & Schemmann, M. Bochum (Eds.) Social science theories in adult education research (180-210) Studies in international adult education, v. 3. Münster: Lit Verlag.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr Laszlo’s Macroshift check out the suggested links:

http://www.worldshiftnetwork.org/home/index.html

http://www.clubofbudapest.org/

http://www.wie.org/bios/ervin-laszlo.asp

DISCUSSION FORUM:

>>>>

Anita wrote:

I agree. Fenwick (2001) identified some critiques of the criticial resistance orientation to adult education:

  • the repressive potential in boundaries (e.g., monolithic “dominant ideology” that is manipulative and evil, mass of passive, homogeneous non-critical victims)
  • the need to examine our positions as the “good liberator”, our right to impose grand visions for people’s lives, or to essentialize, simply, or problematize people’s experience
  • the focus on power

and I think these apply to Freire to some extent.

Helga Wrote:

While we are debating theory, it might be useful to look at actual results of intervention programs. Friere tried to transplant his ideas to Guinea Bissau without taking into consideration the social differences between Brazil and that African country.

“in 1980, the Department of Adult Education of Guinea-Bissau declared the following:

We could say that literacy in the years 1976 to ’79 involved 26,000 students and the results were practically nil.

(This statement was taken from a government document dated at Bissau, November 8, 1980. A military coup took place on November 14, 1980. Frank Tenaille, Las 56 Africas (México: Siglo XXI, 1981), p. 134.)”

My comments:

Thank you Helga and Anita for your strong reminders!

Yes, while we are sitting here discussing poverty and education, with a cup of coffee steaming on the table, people out there – many of them! – are feeling the blunt of modern days’ politics of exclusion. In my case – from my rented space in one of the richest places on the planet, surrounded with all kind of examples of wasteful habits and capitalist mismanagement and exploitation – I fee ill equipped to approach issues of survival that sound and look so alien to the world I live in. I can, as we all do in these forums, discuss those issues, maybe hoping that something at some point will change, although it is clear that my term papers are not going to provide for safe shelters and food for anyone.

Today I was doing some web search on the concept of Ubuntu. I came across a video of Nelson Mandela.  Soon after that, I found a pamphlet that brought back, with awakening intensity, all the drama that does not transpire in the kind of intellectual discussions we are having. Here is an excerpt:

“They always want to talk for us and about us but they must allow us to talk about our lives and our struggles.

We need to get things clear. There definitely is a Third Force. The question is what is it and who is part of the Third Force? Well, I am Third Force myself. The Third Force is all the pain and the suffering that the poor are subjected to every second in our lives. The shack dwellers have many things to say about the Third Force. It is time for us to speak out and to say this is who we are, this is where we are and this how we live. The life that we are living makes our communities the Third Force. Most of us are not working and have to spend all day struggling for small money. AIDS is worse in the shack settlements than anywhere else. Without proper houses, water, electricity, refuse removal and toilets all kinds of diseases breed. The causes are clearly visible and every Dick, Tom and Harry can understand. Our bodies itch every day because of the insects. If it is raining everything is wet – blankets and floors. If it is hot the mosquitoes and flies are always there. There is no holiday in the shacks. When the evening comes – it is always a challenge. The night is supposed to be for relaxing and getting rest. But it doesn’t happen like that in the jondolos. People stay awake worrying about their lives. You must see how big the rats are that will run across the small babies in the night. You must see how people have to sleep under the bridges when it rains because their floors are so wet. The rain comes right inside people’s houses. Some people just stand up all night.”

There is more. Read on if you want at: http://www.eblackstudies.org/ebooks/ubuntu.pdf

As you see, the global web connects us in interesting and powerful ways, allowing us a glimpse into otherwise hidden aspects of others’ experience.

Participating in this course has been good and very interesting. Nevertheless, I cannot hide my discomfort when I open the Pandora box of “the world problems” and realize how powerless I feel. We talk about transformation, and we debate whether Merirow’s or Freire’s ideas would work better. It all seems so irrelevant when we stare real-life cases in the eyes.

Ubuntu to everyone!

Oscar

GLL – What’s transformative education?

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: What is Transformative Adult Education?

Link to blog

Link to forum

Reading:

Youngman, F. (1996) A Transformative Political Economy of Adult Education: An Introduction in Wangoola, P & Youngman, F (eds) Towards a Transformative Political Economy of Adult Education Theoretical and Practical Challenges, USA:LEPS.

Keywords:

Political economy; pedagogy of transformation; capitalism; Marxism; social change; systems thinking; SAP (Structural Adjustment Program); Imperialism; Post-industrial society; civil society; popular education; destatization; state;

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Youngman presents a post-Marxist view of the world, where he envisions a transformative pedagogy of adult education that will eventually transcend capitalism. He believes that “The role of adult education in social transformation is to help challenge the dominant ideologies of capitalism and to build a counter hegemony which will embody the ideas and practices that prefigure a new society.” (p. 11)

“The chapters exhibit an opposition to the following: economic exploitation and accompanying divisions between classes and na­tions; imperialism and maldevelopment in the South; uncontrolled industriali­zation and environmental destruction; poverty, inequality, and social domination; the exclusion of the majority from decisions which affect their lives; the processes of globalization and homogenization of cultures; injustice and violence; values of competitive individualism and ideologies of racism, ethnocentrism and sexism.” (p. 10)

“social action for change is conceived not in terms of incremental improvements within existing structures but in terms of fundamental transformation.” (p.10)

To that extend, he advocates for a systems-thinking approach and a “multidimensional analysis” to address the several levels of entwined inequality and oppression, “namely, those deriving from imperialism, class, gender, and race-ethnicity.” (p. 10)

CRITIQUE

Even though he emphasizes the need to overcome the language of socialism, in order to move beyond capitalism (p. 10), Youngman makes it clear throughout the chapter that the main goal of a transformative pedagogy of adult education is the eradication of capitalism and of its global, imperialistic agenda.

His writing, dating back to the mid-nineties, does not cover important developments that have occurred over the first decade of the new millennium. His insists on analyzing the state of the world through the lenses of the capitalist-Marxist dichotomy, failing to see that that dichotomy itself may be partly to blame for our current conditions. He seems preoccupied in not sounding like an old-fashioned socialist, but does little to suggest a model that would transcend his class-based view of the world. This is not to say that his remarks do not have merit (one can certainly agree on his analysis of the factors of exploitation that affect both development and education), only that his approach does not depart from the perennial struggle between Marxism and capitalism as it unfolded in the 19th and 20th centuries.

STRENGTH OF TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION

First, I want to say that I do believe in education as a transformative force. However, I do not fully agree on the model suggested by Youngman, which I see as stemming from an inherent rejection of capitalism based on established Marxist discourses.

I would prefer a different approach that could leave “old” diatribes behind, not because they cannot be supported by relevant discourses, but simply because I favor a more refreshing and experimental approach. (e.g. Learning Cape).

In a non-performance-driven learning environment, I favor a transformational approach to adult education that would also address the intercultural learning dimension; free the discussion from established, stereotypical essentialist views of cultures; and explore and clarify issues of identity, assumptions, otherization, representation through thick description of discourses and personal narratives. That would include issues of oppression and marginalization as enumerated by Youngman. (see quote above)

Here are two orientations that I believe could influence relevant transformative adult learning approaches: a constructivist transformational orientation, and an enactivist perspective.

Constructivist transformational orientation

Following this orientation, educators could act as promoters of transformation processes. According to Merizow (1991), this approach leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 13)

This orientation is suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection. However, one has to recognize that not everyone is interested in shifting perspective, or capable of reflecting cognitively, in which cases this approach may feel to some like a piloted operation.

Enactivist orientation

This orientation promotes a new paradigm of learning derived from whole systems thinking. It transcends the confinements of the established world view (what Youngman is not yet ready to do) and its embedded traditional education practices.

This entails an investigative, open-ended approach to learning that is not separate from teaching. The educator is viewed as a communicator, story-maker, and interpreter. (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) “The educator’s role might be first, a communicator: assisting participants in naming what is unfolding around them and inside them, continually renaming these changing nuances, and unlocking the tenacious grasp of old categories, restrictive or destructive language that strangles emerging possibilities. Second, the educator as story-maker helps trace and meaningfully record the interactions of the actors and objects in the expanding spaces. Third, the educator as interpreter helps all to make community sense of the patterns emerging among these complex systems and understand their own involvements in these patterns of systems.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) In this way, issues of social, gender, national, ethnic, and racial inequality (to mention just a few) would be discussed within a framework that does not forcibly support Marxist-capitalist juxtapositions.

The language used in this perspective is conducive to understanding relations between systems, including the interplay between actors and issues in the education universe. This presides over the co-emergence of an interrelated pattern, in which “each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) The Marxist-capitalist dichotomy would not make much sense in such devised learning context.

I view this orientation as linked to the broader, global perspective of whole systems thinking that envisions the emergence of a new thinking paradigm. Accordingly, enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium.” (Fenwick, 2001, p.50) This resonates with views of a paradigmal change such as those presented by Dr. Ervin Laszlo, founder of The Club of Budapest, in his work on macroshifts. (Laszlo, 2001)

This perspective, however, may be of difficult application under today’s established educational circumstances, as it requires reframing current paradigms, discourses, and world views.

THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY

Youngman has highlighted the role of certain kind of people’s organization. Defining the role of Civil Society, however, entails to first understand what Civil Society is, and how it related to established agencies (state, local government, international institutions). I hope to get a better understanding of this point from our discussion. Here I would like to make some comments of the term “role”. During the last U.S. presidential elections “civil society” crossed over into politics in support of Barak Obama’s “agenda for change.”

After he became president, the “popular movement” (was it really a movement, or just a campaigning strategy?) dropped out of sight, and did not transition into a government role. Something similar happened to the Easter European people’s organizations that were instrumental to the demise of the Communist regimes. I want to add that, when W.G. Bush got elected, he actually brought into government those very interest groups that had helped him get elected. This did not happen in the case of Obama. With regards to these developments, there is also a confusion of terms. Obama rallied around a platform of “change”, but when he got into office, that quickly changed, as he has presented him as a “reformer”, as one that can fix the broken system. This is a contradiction in terms which should stress the importance of clarity in the language we use when addressing education/learning and transformation.

POSSIBLE BARRIERS TO TRANSFORMATIVE ADULT LEARNING PROPOSALS

As I mentioned above, transformative orientations are not good for everyone. Does that mean we need ‘consensus” before we can proceed?

I would like to bring up the following three issues, as I believe they have a huge impact on the effectiveness of adult learning transformational practice

Governmentability: defined by Foucault (1991) as “A form of power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, which results in the formation of a specific governmental apparatus.” (Fenwick, p. 42)

Self-subjugation: Chappell et al (2003) recognize that in many traditions the existing social frameworks remain unchallenged, as individual identities remain anchored in established socio-cultural assumptions. This in turn perpetuates issues of subjugation and domination resting on “false consciousness.” It is important to recognize this, as often established discourses override one’s awareness of mechanism of power and discrimination. (p.6)

Confessional education: defined by Usher and Edwards (1995) as “practices such as journaling, life planning, self-evaluation, portfolios, and counseling that are commonly associated with experiential learning.” They believe that people become “objects of scrutiny” as they follow their educators’ advice on issues of identity definition. (Fenwick, 2001, pp. 41-42)

When we discuss transformative education we also need to be mindful of the educators’ role and how that may concur in reinforcing entrenched patters of discrimination and inequality.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chappelll, C., Rhodes, C., Solomon, N., Tennant, M. and Yates, L. (2003) “Selfwork” in Reconstructing the Lifelong Learner: Pedagogy and identity in individual, organisational and social change (2003) by C. Chappelll, C. Rhodes, N. Solomon, M. Tennant & L. Yates Routledge Falmer, London

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Laszlo, E. (2001). Macroshift: Navigating the transformation to a sustainable world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Usher, R., and Edwards, R. “Confessing All? A ‘Postmodern’ Guide to the Guidance and Counselling of Adult Learners.” Studies in the Education of Adults 27, no. 1 (April 1995): 9-23. (ERIC No. EJ 504 441)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>FORUM DISCUSSION<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Ginger Norwood wrote:

The role of adult education in social transformation is to help challenge the dominant ideologies of capitalism [or power, or imperialism or or ] and to build a counterhegemony which will embody the ideas and practices that prefigure a new society.” (11)  I’ve been pondering the idea of whether adult education can be both transformational and initiated by the State, and this sentence would make me say no.

This is a point that I also raised in my post. I actually challenged Youngman’s view of transformation as being too concerned with “fighting capitalism.” I believe that such view keeps us inside a repetitive loop of thinking based on the Marxism-Capitalism dichotomy. Youngman’s article does not mention that the 90’s saw a (re)birth of discussions/activities/meetings/literature/experiments/education enterprises/exchange programs that transcended such dichotomy, although they recognized the factors of discrimination/exclusion/exploitation mentioned in Youngman’s writings. This new movement for change and transformation emerged – so I like to believe – from the need to step beyond what had brought us to where we are now, which includes also the perennial diatribe between communism and capitalism (which are actually part of the same worldview). In previous posts I mentioned David Korten as one of those that have been engaged in such approach, but also Vandana Shiva, Ervin Lazslo and many many others.

Ginger Norwood wrote:

It reminds me of Audre Lorde’s famous quote ‘the masters tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ – the State, as an institution, is interested in preservation, and transformative education implies critiquing the very power that preservation yields.

The quote, like many quotes, may refer to a specific situation, but I am not sure it can be generalized to all contexts. As an example, I remember when Gorbachev introduced his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost. I believe he did that as a way to “reform” the Soviet Union. Instead, his intervention unleashed the demise of his own state, which ceased to exist just a few years later. The same happened when Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk agreed on dismantling Apartheid and, with it, the old South Africa. There is no doubt in my mind that they both knew they were taking a leap of faith and shelving the old system for good.

Cheers,

Oscar

Here is a paper on perestroika and glasnost and Gorbachev’s “reform” of education:

http://www.friends-partners.org/oldfriends/education/russian.education.research.html

>>>

Elizabeth Saunders wrote:
From the little history I have learned about Hilton Head, it would seem like an example of a sector of civil society having succeeded in maintaining the white dominated way of life, being more right-wing and conservative than the State. This group’s values, life style and behaviour certainly represent a barrier to societal transformation.

Anne

Anne, what a great post! Your considerations about that place remind us that class transcends borders. It also reminds me of something I thought when I first came to the U.S. and people were wondering why it was taking the white minority in South Africa so long to relinquish Apartheid. I though that, unfortunately, the same people who were asking that of white South Africans, would have been by far less adamant at relinquishing their privileges in this very U.S. of A. Around the same time, people were asking of the Russians to just dump their “old system” and embrace the glory of Capitalism. Just like that. Now I have been here long enough to know that, when it comes to making NOTICEABLE social changes, Americans are very good at dragging their feet (not all of them, of course. I am talking about societal change)  Health Care “reform”, public transport, building codes, are just some of many examples I could come up with.

At that time I also thought – whether I was right, I don’t know – that the difference between Apartheid-era South Africa and the States was that discrimination in South Africa was codified into the law, whereas the U.S. had a democratic framework. But at the end of the day I couldn’t fail to think that the two countries shared a history of oppression and imperial conquests. Both countries considered territorial expansion as a God-blessed mission. (In downtown San Francisco explicit references to “the American Empire” are visible on several monuments for everyone to ponder on.) The Voortrekkers saga reminds me a lot of the theory of Manifest destiny and the conquer of the frontier so loved in certain American circles. There was – however – a difference. While in U.S. Native Americans were subject to genocide because they were not willing nor able to integrate into a Western-style exploitative system, in South Africa the colonists found a way to integrate the autochthonous population into the perverse economic system that was decades later to become codified as Apartheid.

I am therefore not surprised to hear your story about Hilton Head.

Oscar

>>>>>

Marie wrote:

My question is: as an era ends and another begins, when changes are happening to us all so rapidly, who educates the educators?

Hi Marie,

I hear you, and share your concern. I believe – like in our case in the ALGC – we are actually educating ourselves. But of course, this is a rather simple way to answer your question.

I have a link to share. It is an article I found at the Linköping University on-line library (http://www.bibl.liu.se/english/default-e.asp): you will need to log on at Linköping University Library to access this:

http://muse.jhu.edu.lt.ltag.bibl.liu.se/journals/journal_of_college_student_development/v048/48.3landreman.html

A Phenomenological Study of the Development of University Educators’ Critical Consciousness

Journal of College Student Development | May 1, 2007| Landreman, Lisa M; Rasmussen, Christopher J; King, Patricia M; Jiang, Cindy Xinquan

The abstract says that “The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how multicultural educators known for their expertise in this area acquired the capacity to effectively serve in this role and to explore the kinds of experiences that facilitated these educators’ visions of social justice.”

Click here to go to the file:

A Phenomenological Study of the Development of University Educators’ Critical Consciousness.pdf

This article emphases the use of self-reflection, aha moments (remember Brookfield and Chappel and our discussions on reflective teaching/learning?) to engage in social justice action and coalition building through the development of critical consciousness. (basically Freire’s views). Although I have just taken a quick look at the article, I have the feeling that it connects several aspects of my learning in the ALGC by waving together Freire with issues of intercultural dimension of globalized society (the work of M. Bennett on Ethnorelativism is cited).

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