On Learning – by Krishnamurti

On Learning – by Krishnamurti

This is an excerpt from http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/


Authority Prevents Learning


We generally learn through study, through books, through experience, or through being instructed. Those are the usual ways of learning. We commit to memory what to do and what not to do, what to think and what not to think, how to feel, how to react. Through experience, through study, through analysis, through probing, through introspective examination, we store up knowledge as memory; and memory then responds to further challenges and demands, from which there is more and more learning. What is learned is committed to memory as knowledge, and that knowledge functions whenever there is a challenge, or whenever we have to do something.Now I think there is a totally different way of learning, and I am going to talk a little bit about it; but to understand it, and to learn in this different way, you must be completely rid of authority; otherwise, you will merely be instructed, and you will repeat what you have heard. That is why it is very important to understand the nature of authority. Authority prevents learning -learning that is not the accumulation of knowledge as memory. Memory always responds in patterns; there is no freedom. A man who is burdened with knowledge, with instructions, who is weighted down by the things he has learned, is never free. He may be most extraordinarily erudite, but his accumulation of knowledge prevents him from being free, and therefore he is incapable of learning. – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

Learning Has No Past


Wisdom is something that has to be discovered by each one, and it is not the result of knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom do not go together. Wisdom comes when there is the maturity of self-knowing. Without knowing oneself, order is not possible, and therefore there is no virtue.Now, learning about oneself, and accumulating knowledge about oneself, are two different things. A mind that is acquiring knowledge is never learning. What it is doing is this: It is gathering to itself information, experience as knowledge, and from the background of what it has gathered, it experiences, it learns; and therefore it is never really learning, but always knowing, acquiring.Learning is always in the active present; it has no past. The moment you say to yourself, “I have learned,” it has already become knowledge, and from the background of that knowledge you can accumulate, translate, but you cannot further learn. It is only a mind that is not acquiring, but always learning, it is only such a mind that can understand this whole entity that we call the “me,” the self. I have to know myself, the structure, the nature, the significance of the total entity; but I can’t do that burdened with my previous knowledge, with my previous experience, or with a mind that is conditioned, for then I am not learning, I am merely interpreting, translating, looking with an eye that is already clouded by the past. – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

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.”


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.


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.



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.



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


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)



Integral Education

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



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





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:



On conflict transformation:


A Changing Worldview:


The Split between Spirit and Nature in Western Consciousness:


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


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.



GLL – Gender in population education

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: on Gender in Population Education

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

Step 4 – Part 2: Adult education/learning in civil society organisations and social movements

Keywords: feminism, gender, popular education, women, civil society, democracy, oppression,

Link to blog

Link to forum


Walters, S.& Manicom, L.(1996) Introduction, in Walters, S.& Manicom, L. (eds) Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape Town: CACE Publications and Zed Books

  • What are the key elements of feminist popular education?

In Walters and manicom’s words, “feminist popular education developed in the early 1980s as a critique of the male-biased popular education that was dominant in social movements.” (p.5)

The authors cite the grammar used in related studies, which includes terms such as ‘popular education’, ‘community education’, ‘radical adult education’, ‘education for change’, ‘people’s education’, ‘liberatory’ or ‘emancipatory education’, ‘transformative education’ and ‘education for empowerment’. (p.2)

They also offer a definition that stresses the two intertwined dimensions of feminist populat education -– pedagogic and political

They see feminist popular education as “a participatory, democratic, non-hierarchical pedagogy which encourages creative thinking that breaks through embedded formats of learning. It valorizes local knowledge, working collectively towards producing knowledge, the principle of starting from where people are situated, and working to develop a broader understanding of structures and how these can be transformed. It strives to foster both personal and social empowerment. Feminist popular education obviously focuses particularly on the conditions and positions of women and the renegotiation of gender relations; but, given that gender is a social category, referring to the historically and culturally defined constructs of masculinity and femininity, feminist popular education must simultaneously engage with the ways in which the social categories of race, ethnicity, culture, age, social class, sexuality and physical ability are implicated in constructions of gender.” (p.5) They also define feminist popular education as “the struggle against gender oppression. But, since gender has been understood increasingly as constructed in relation to race, class and so on, feminist popular education has been working to integrate all aspects of power inequalities structured along social identities.” (p.6)

The bottom line seems to remain the support to “the struggles of women in oppressed communities.” (p.6)

The preceeding comprehensive paragraph expresses the complexity of relevant discourses, and the difficulties that may emerge when we try to address those issues. From my understanding of the reading, I believe that feminist popular education is primarily concerned with building “solidarity between women around the world” (p.1) That can be achieved through a serendipetous educational development based on participative, collective, non-dogmatic self-reflection aimed at the production of new knowledge. (p.12) That would also entail “deconstructing and constructing gender.” (p. 2)

For such educational approach to succeed, some key elements need to be in place. “Feminist popular education is embedded with social activism and democratic organizations of civil society working for material and substantive transformation of women’s lives and conditions. (…)Questions of state and civil society, their complex integration and their career shifting formations globally, as well as critical examinations of ‘the market’, are thus central preoccupations for feminist popular education.” (p.2)

One key element in such thinking 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, as explained later, is also seen as an overarching element in feminist popular education.

  • What are the relationships between the learning (or educational) practices, the organizational strategies and dynamics, and the macro and micro political contexts?

Walters and Manicom recognize how “new economic conditions emerging over the last two decades have exacerbated the economic problems of most women in all these situations.” (p.7)

In this globalized context, “it is the gendered aspects of these global economic processes that often provide the focus for feminist popular education and organization.” (p.7) That lead to “the growth of international feminism and global feminist networks” (p.7)

One issue is “the the local applicability of feminist ideas originating in Western Europe and North America.” (p.7)

At the local level, feminist pedagogy is pursuing a model of empowerment through training aimed at the development of “poverty alleviation strategies such as micro-enterprises, income-generating and credit schemes (…) oriented towards sustainable development.” (p.8)

This also entails working with differences, which requires the development of a kind of sensitive, self-reflective educational apptroach that “has the potential to be very generative and catalysing of learning and transformation.” (p.13)

While analyzing feminist popular education, the authors identified a set of themes that constitute the basis for effective work.


Starting from where women are

Feelings and emotions



Cotidiano, meaning the daily occupantions in every woman’s life, which can be as intrinsically political, and as integrated with broader social relations and hierarchies of oppression.” (p.10) That’s why it is important to develop a notion of empowerment to gain “more decision-making capacity, to deepen(ing) an understanding of the relations configuring one’s life and to control(ling) conditions affecting one’s life.” (p.12)

All these elements are interlinked through women’s experiences, and one cannot detatch the private, personal experience from its political and social dimension.

  • Why are there commonalities in popular education practices across such diverse local settings?

I believe that the key elements of feminist popular education imply a common cause that transcends class and political borders, as explained in the first part of this post. I hope to gain more insights into this particular aspect through our discussion.



Marie   wrote:

Considered from that point of view, grounding social transformation in individual identity change is key. But, everyone’s identity must transform.  Even the faciliator’s.  Even the oppressors’.  How one is to connect all these diversities into one cooperative collective is a long range goal of popular education that I seldom hear articulated. It comes back to those 2 questions:  “who is the subject” and” what is the goal?”

Hi Marie,

It’s 1 am in sleepy, noisy Seattle, but I want to write two lines to comment on your last post.

The last paragraph reminds me of the TRC (Truth and reconciliation Commission) approach, as experimented for example in post-apartheid South Africa. The TRC entails the seeds for conflict transformation as explored by Paul Lederach. Transforming is not providing an alternative; it is to allow the emergence of something new from the alchemy of prio-existing conditions that have ceased to be of value.




This is a comprehensive article in which lederach explores the four dimensions of conflict and injustice:

  1. the personal,
  2. the relational,
  3. the structural, and
  4. the cultural.

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.


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.


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.


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

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>                       <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

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?


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.







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.


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

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


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”.


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.


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:






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!


GLL – on Walters, S.Adult learning within lifelong learning

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, South Africa, Adult Education, Lifelong Learning, Adult Learning, Active Citizenship, Civil Society,

Step 2 – Part 3: Adult Education, Development and Transformation: South African case study

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Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light, Journal of Education, No. 39 Adult Education Special Focus Edition, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Identify and discuss the competing or contesting development theories within the paper.

he article doesn’t seem to discuss any particular development theory; instead, it deals with different approaches to education within a South African development framework. Issue of development surface during the discussion and are contingent to the author’s advocacy for a broader spectrum of adult learning policies and activities. One example: the white paper on “knowledge economy” in Western Cape, arguing for “an intimate relationship between economic development and learning.”

Are there competing perspectives on education, which you can identify in this paper? What do you think they may be? How do they relate to the development theories you discussed in Part 2?

First, Walters discusses Aitchison’s ideas, though I found it hard to follow her critique without having read his article. From my understanding, according to Walters Aitchison’s views stem from Dependency Theory, critical of neo-liberal policies, in that it sees educators as victim of global capitalistic practices, and Lifelong Learning as working to support them.

Walter uses Aitchison’s article as an introduction to her discussion of current perspectives of adult education and learning in South Africa.

First, her article considers the distinction between Adult Education and Adult Learning.

Adult Education:

This is a highly bureaucratized for of education that has two main functions:

  • Personal development for the middle classes;
  • Basic education for the poor.

In the South, Adult Education suffers from fewer resources, educational institutions and people’s expectations towards their personal ability and opportunity to learn.

I believe it’s premised on classical Modernization Theory

Adult Learning:

This is a holistic process “embedded in the political, social, cultural and economic processes of society.” It promotes the use of adequate, appropriate new language, and emphasizes the value of learning communities.

I believe this is premised on Populist Theories, particularly for its emphasis on people-centered education and the small-scale learning projects. It seems to me that Walters’ preference for this approach wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to the limitedness and fragmented scope of Populist learning venues. In fact, Walters considers the fragmentation of the last 10 years of learning activities in South Africa as a major issue, detrimental to the effectiveness of the relevant programs. However – so I believe – she suggests that Lifelong Learning is the kind of Adult Learning that can open the way to major changes in the difficult current living conditions in South Africa.

Lifelong Learning:

In the article it is presented as a contested concept rooted in two traditions:

Progressive tradition (Dewey) based on Social Capital Theory (my choice of terms):

Premised on the promotion of democracy and citizenship, it suggests a holistic approach to learning, and – from my understanding – it’s supported by Social Capital Theory. It covers activities such as `capacity building`, `staff development`, `health promotion`, `skills training` or `community development`, as identified in Walters’ analysis of learning processes in South Africa. (p.14)

This tradition appears informed by Populist theories, although, as I mentioned earlier, Walters seems to distinguish her position from the fragmentation and NGO’s dominance typical of Pupulism, advocating instead a more cohesive albeit diversified model for the South African national community.

This approach reminds me of Dewey’s ideas on social change, reform, democracy, and personal responsibility that we discussed in previous courses.

The ultimate goal of this tradition appears to be the promotion of widespread Active Citizenship beyond its functional support of the marketplace, as a way to implement people’s participation and growth in civil society, as postulated in the 1998 UNESCO’s Mumbai Declaration.

[Active citizenship] “connects individuals and groups to the structures of social, political and economic activity in both local and global contexts, and emphasises women and men as agents of their own history in all aspects of their lives.” (UIE, 1998)

To me, this is a particularly important point, which I would like to address more in depth in a separate post

Institutional, bureaucratic tradition based on Human Capital Theory (my choice of terms)

Premised on the promotion of human resources development, it suggests an economy-based approach that is informed by Theodore Schultz’ Human Capital Theory, and therefore supported by Modernization Theory. More specifically, it seems to relate to reformist and Social Democratic views within this latter theory.

Discuss how these competing perspectives are manifested in the policies discussed in this paper. Identify and discuss the global and local agendas which may be evident in the policies discussed in this paper.

I want to start with a reference to the old Apartheid system, and how its education perspective affected both the oppressors and the oppressed. Succinctly, I believe that the education system subjected the white majority indoctrination, whereas it served as a tool of repression towards the black majority. Both segments of society internalized the essence of such education approach, together with relevant discriminatory and repressive policies. In the end, in such context there were no winners, only losers.

Walters cites the 1994 ANC’s Policy Framework for Education and Training as laying out the vision for future Lifelong Learning policies according to the progressive tradition described earlier.

Later, with the establishment of the National Qualifications Framework in 1995, there was a shift towards an institutionalized for of Lifelong Learning policies, which apparently – according to Walters – were drafted on imported models from other “British” countries. Whatever the reason, Walters seems to have identified a line of continuity between the Apartheid-era education and the current bureaucratic conceptualization that has diverted from the initial “people-centered” ideals.

Walters present a variegated scenario of interacting perspectives. Civil Society Organizations carry out their Populist missions; governmental agencies are still acting within the context of their institutional/bureaucratic tradition.

There is also the example of local governments embarking on a voyage of discovery by implementing truly innovative ideas such as the Learning Cape Festival, trying to strike a balance between “home” and “global market” needs and priorities. In an attempt to provide a “troubled space of possibilities”, “the LCF has helped to move ideas of lifelong learning beyond ‘romance’, to ‘evidence’ and ‘implementation’.

To me, this latter case represents a real transformation of intents and actions – like in Startrek’s voyages – “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” It is in fact a great example of how local administrations may raise to the occasion and supersede the traditional role of states.  As I pointed out in a previous post: what is more effective and people-centered than a local government that is mindful of peoples’ needs and of the impact that political decisions have right there where laws are made? The flexibility inherent in such form of self-government also includes the recognition and inclusion of minorities and issues of marginality, but also the ability to engage in effective networking among all parties and stakeholders. This may result into a multileveled dialogue aimed at the development of experiences of lifelong learning towards the construction of professional competencies and active citizenship at the local, national, and international level.

True, at times this may sound like an experiment, but – in my opinion – it’s something worthwhile trying, also considering that over the decades there have been many examples of successful local governance.

Write a synthesis (2 paragraphs) of Walters’ main argument in this paper and share with your group.


Adult Education in South Africa still suffers from an overproduction of bureaucracy that reminds of Apartheid-era policies. To escape such conundrum, it’s necessary to move from Education to Learning. As a form of Adult Learning, Lifelong Learning represents a perspective of hope by which South Africans will be able to overcome current conditions of underdevelopment. In its progressive form, it will help shift education policies from an emphasis on centralized bureaucracy towards the benefits of active citizenship.

To establish a holistic approach to learning, it’s important to create opportunities for institutional structures to “connect up” with agencies and organizations that are the expression of civil society. As a model for this new, challenging framework of co-operation, Walters presents the Learning Region as a new “troubled space for possibilities.” Thus Lifelong Learning offers a way to merge “romance”, “vision”, and structural intervention in a diversified education framework that will eventually – and hopefully – transform current conditions. This holistic, systems-based, and increasingly complex scenario can only be understood through  “telescopic” lenses that will allow for broad and comprehensive analysis of this very rich field.

In my view, Walters seems to herald a more post-modern role for the state, one not necessarily premised on making executive policies, but rather on creating the framework and conditions for broad cooperation on a variety of issues among the most diversified universe of agencies, people, stakeholders, and individuals.


Aitchison, J. (2003 a) Struggle and compromise: a history of South African adult education. Journal of Education Number 29. Pietermaritzburg. University of Natal. 125 – 178.

Aitchison, J. (2003 b) Brak! – vision, mirage and reality in the post apartheid globalisation of South African adutl education and training. Journal of Education Number 31. Pietermaritzburg. University of Natal.  47 – 74.

Edwards, R and Usher, R. (2005) A troubled space of possibilities. Lifelong learning and the postmodern. In Sutherland Peter and Jim Crowther 2005 Lifelong Learning concepts and contexts. London, UK. Routledge. 58-67.

UNESCO Institute for Education. (1998) The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong learning, Active Citizenship and the Reform of Higher Education. Hamburg. UIE.

European Commission Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, 2002 www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/MemorandumEng.pdf

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