The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education
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The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education

Sharan B. Merriam, André P. Grace, Sharan B. Merriam, André P. Grace

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The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education

Sharan B. Merriam, André P. Grace, Sharan B. Merriam, André P. Grace

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THE JOSSEY-BASS READER ON Contemporary Issues in Adult Education

With contributions from leading experts in the field, The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education collects in one volume the best previously published literature on the issues and trends affecting adult education today. The volume includes influential pieces from foundational authors in the profession such as Eduard C. Lindeman, Alain Locke, and Paulo Freire, as well as current work from authors around the world, including Laura L. Bierema, John M. Dirkx, Cecilia Amaluisa Fiallos, Peter Jarvis, Michael Newman, and Shirley Walters.

In five sections, the book's thirty chapters delve into a wide range of compelling topics including:

  • social justice, democracy, and activism
  • diversity and marginalization
  • human resource development
  • lifelong learning
  • ethical issues
  • the meaning and role of emotions
  • globalization and non-Western perspectives
  • the role of mass media, popular culture, and "social learning"
  • technology
  • health, welfare, and environment

Each piece is framed within its larger context by the editors, and each section is accompanied by helpful reflection and discussion questions.

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Part One
Defining a Field of Practice: The Foundations of Adult Education
Giroux (1996) asserts, “History is not an artifact” (p. 51). From this perspective, the history of adult education is alive, bringing issues of who is represented and who works for change to bear on theorizing, research, and practice. In our field of study and practice, a turn to history enables us to explore people, politics, and ideas that have defined modern practice. It becomes a way to reflect on what has been perceived as a divide exacerbating fragmentation of our field. On one side is adult education's tradition as social education in the spirit of initiatives like the Highlander Folk School and the Antigonish Movement. These social-learning endeavors variously focused on education for citizenship, community building, recovering from economic and other hardships, and fighting oppression in the name of social justice. On the other side is the field's pragmatic tendency to respond to outside pressures to become more instrumental and vocational in nature. However, we view engaging field history as more than investigating this divide: It provides us opportunities to explore the degree to which adult education can be spacious and filled with possibility as we set goals to meet the instrumental, social, and cultural needs of learners. As well, a turn to history also enables us to think about what adult education might look like in the future:
At issue here is a vision of the future in which history is not accepted simply as a set of prescriptions unproblematically inherited from the past. History can be named and remade by those who refuse to stand by passively in the face of human suffering and oppression. (Giroux & McLaren, 1988, p. 176)
This vision, aimed at extending human possibilities, situates foundational studies as dynamic, open, unsettled, subject to revision, and worth struggling over.
Such a view of history is reflected in the selections in this section that includes pieces from the original writings of three field icons: Eduard Lindeman, Alain Locke, and Paulo Freire. In Chapter 1, Lindeman, framing education as life, positions the field as a potentially liberating space for adult learners as he engages what adult education means. He provocatively suggests that adult education begins where vocational education ends. His work will appeal to reflective practitioners concerned with holistic forms of learning and education that address current economic, social, and cultural turmoil. Throughout his influential book The Meaning of Adult Education, Lindeman (-NIL-) cast true adult education as social education that helps learners thrive as citizens living in community with others. From this perspective, Chapter 1 considers motivations, concepts, and methods that shape the learning process as it focuses on situations that require learners to draw on their experiences as they participate in problem solving.
In Chapter 2, Locke, a social and cultural educator who became the first Black president of the American Association for Adult Education from 1945 to 1946 (Stubblefield & Keane, 1994), contests the historical notion of the Black American as a “problem” and speaks to the transformation of modern Blacks in early 20th century U.S. culture through migration augmenting urbanization and the intensification of race consciousness and solidarity. Locke's work will speak to readers interested in the social history of recovery of Black morale through political participation aimed at attaining civil rights. Importantly for those interested in revising the place of Black citizens in U.S. social history, his work explores the emergence of the Black American amid deterrents to this recovery including racial tensions, injustices, and the rapid spread of policies of segregation.
In another classical contribution to our field of study, Freire in Chapter 3 presents his “banking” concept of education as a springboard to think about the roles and interactions of educators and learners in adult education, where the key goal of social education is justice for all that starts from building critical consciousness of worldly realities and systems. Freire's anti-oppression work has been a major influence on critical pedagogy and critical adult education in North America. What reflective practitioners can gain from this piece is a set of themes to guide the development of a democratic social practice of adult education. These themes include education as the practice of freedom, education as transformation through praxis, and education as a proactive space for problem solving. These themes are central to Freire's goal for adult education: to help educators and learners build partnerships through critically reflective dialogue and action to create a better world.
In Chapter 4, Grace explores the emergence of U.S. academic adult education during the quarter century following World War II when knowledge production was deeply influenced by an array of economic and cultural transitions. This article is informative to those exploring how adult education has to readjust to cope with the fallout from the ongoing economic crisis that hit with full force in the fall of 2008. While the present is different, the article and the current crisis both raise the same basic question for adult educators: What knowledge has most worth? Grace considers how adult educators answered this question pragmatically after World War II so they might increase the presence and value of adult education in mainstream education and culture. This article, exploring such constructs as liberal adult education, provides food for thought for those concerned with the decline of social education and its emphases on democracy, freedom, and social justice in a more instrumentalized lifelong learning world.
In a social historical analysis in Chapter 5, Glowacki-Dudka and Helvie-Mason locate adult education at the margins of the university and society. Their work speaks to readers concerned with assaults on academic adult education. Glowacki-Dudka and Helvie-Mason reflect on purposes and goals of adult education tied to the dichotomy of adult education as social education and as a professionalized practice. For readers concerned that adult education is a weather vane responding to social, cultural, and economic change forces, their analysis leads to a hopeful conclusion: While adult education is a marginalized enterprise, it can be energized by the field's natural tendencies toward collectivity, flexibility, and diversity.
Johnson-Bailey's Chapter 6 parallels themes in Locke's analysis. She explores the steady and committed participation of African Americans in adult education, surveying available research on the sociopolitical and cultural aspects of this educational movement. In particular, she focuses on African-American involvement in the Harlem Renaissance (1920–1945). Themes emerging from her study include education for assimilation (linked to addressing the Black “problem”); education for cultural survival (associated with Black efforts to build self-esteem and cultural importance in the context of nation); and education for resistance (focused on minority rights and addressing injustices). For educators and learners who may think adult education is neutral, Johnson-Bailey's article challenges them to interrogate the field's political nature and the ways that modern practice has been exclusionary.
Any reflection on the foundations of adult education ought to include a focus on ethical issues and practices. In Chapter 7, Gordon and Sork consider arguments for and against the development of codes of ethics across professional practices. They compare views of Canadian and U.S. adult educational practitioners regarding the scope and functions of codes of ethics. They survey practitioner encounters with ethical issues and dilemmas, listing frequently cited issues like confidentiality and learner-adult educator relationships. Gordon and Sork's research will have import for reflective practitioners grappling with codes of ethics, attitudes toward them, and their implications for the field of study and practice.
As the selections in this section demonstrate, traditional adult education has been marked by a commitment to education for social purposes. The social history of the field reminds us of a long-standing critical concern with issues of democracy, freedom, social justice, and ethics. Sometimes these issues have been sidelined in instrumental moves to professionalize modern practice. We hope that readers consider the selections in this section to be an appetizer for further engagement with the foundations of adult education.
For Reflection and Discussion
1. Inspired by the theme living and learning for a viable future: the power of adult learning, the UNESCO-sponsored Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) was held in Bélem do Pará, Brazil, December 1–4, 2009. CONFINTEA VI noted that a significant portion of adult learning and education is deeply rooted in everyday life, local contexts, and grassroots initiatives focused on addressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges (UIL, 2010). Provide some examples of such contemporary adult education from your own knowledge and experience. How does adult education today compare to ways it was constructed in the historical articles in this section?
2. While CONFINTEA VI positioned diversity as a necessity in adult learning and education, does it exacerbate field fragmentation? Are there ways to value diversity and still describe the field as strong, coherent, and organized?
3. How might we address the long-standing divide positioning adult education for social and cultural purposes against adult education as a professionalized practice tied to economic interests? Do social and economic interests have to be in opposition?
4. How might learning from the history of education for Black adults in the United States inform and revitalize more dynamic and inclusive contemporary forms of adult education focused on social justice?
5. How important is it for the field of adult education to have a code of ethics? With the enormous diversity of programs and constituencies that exist, is it even possible or realistic to have a code of ethics?
Giroux, H. A. (1996). Is there a place for cultural studies in colleges of education? In H. A. Giroux, C. Lankshear, P. McLaren, & M. Peters (Eds.), Counternarratives: Cultural studies and critical pedagogies in postmodern spaces (pp. 41–58). New York: Routledge.
Giroux, H. A., & McLaren, P. (1988). Teacher education and the politics of democratic reform. In H. A. Giroux (Ed.), Teachers as intellectuals: Toward a critical pedagogy of learning (pp. 158–176). New York: Bergin & Garvey.
Lindeman, E. C. (1926/1961). The meaning of adult education. Montreal: Harvest House.
Stubblefield, H. W., & Keane, P. (1994). Adult education in the American experience. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). (2010). CONFINTEA VI–Sixth international conference on adult education: Final report. Hamburg, Germany: Author.
Chapter 1
For Those Who Need to Be Learners
Eduard C. Lindeman
“We need, then, to reintegrate, to synthesize, to bind up together the different forces and influences in our national life. We need a greater courage: seriousness, a greater courage in self-knowledge, a greater unity, and changes in the machinery of our education which leave our religious and political life in their existing incoherence, or even add to it, will not serve our purpose.”
“The principle we wish to establish is that the important thing in this connection is an increased demand on the part of all kinds of people for educational facilities, which may roughly be termed non-vocational, since they are concerned really with restoring balance to a man who has, of necessity, developed to a great extent one or other of his characteristics for the purposes of his livelihood or for the satisfaction of his reasonable desires.”
Education conceived as preparation for life locks the learning process within a vicious circle. Youth educated in terms of adult ideas and taught to think of learning as a process which ends when real life begins will make no better use of intelligence than the elders who prescribe the system. Brief and rebellious moments occur when youth sees this fallacy clearly, but alas, the pressure of adult civilization is too great; in the end young people fit into the pattern, succumb to the tradition of their elders—indeed, become elderly-minded before their time. Education within the vicious circle becomes not a joyous enterprise but rather something to be endured because it leads to a satisfying end. But there can be no genuine joy in the end if means are irritating, painful. Generally therefore those who have “completed” a standardized regimen of education promptly turn their faces in the opposite direction. Humor, but more of pathos lurks in the caricature of the college graduate standing in cap and gown, diploma in hand shouting: “Educated, b'gosh!” Henceforth, while devoting himself to life he will think of education as a necessary annoyance for succeeding youths. For him, this life for which he has suffered the affliction of learning will come to be a series of dull, uninteresting, degrading capitulations to the stereotyped pattern of his “set.” Within a single decade he will be out of touch with the world of intelligence, or what is worse, he will still be using the intellectual coins of his college days; he will find difficulty in reading serious books; he will have become inured to the jargon of his particular profession and will affect derision for all “highbrows”; he will, in short, have become a typical adult who holds the bag of education—the game of learning having long since slipped by him.
Obviously, extension of the quantity of educational facilities cannot break the circle. Once the belief was current that if only education were free to all, intelligence would become the proper tool for managing the affairs of the world. We have gone even further and have made certain levels of education compulsory. But the result has been disappointing; we have succeeded merely in formalizing, mechanizing, educational processes. The spirit and meaning of education cannot be enhanced by addition, by the easy method of giving the same dose to more individuals. If learning is to be revivified, quickened so as to become once more an adventure, we shall have need of new concepts, new motives, new methods; we shall need to experiment with the qualitative aspects of education.
A fresh hope is astir. From many quarters comes the call to a new kind of education with its initial assumption affirming that education is life—not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living. Consequently all static concepts of education which relegate the learning process to the period of youth are abandoned. The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings. This new venture is called adult education—not because it is confined to adults but because adulthood, maturity, defines its limits. The concept is inclusive. The fact that manual workers of Great Britain and farmers of Denmark have conducted the initial experiments which now inspire us does not imply that adult education is designed solely for these classes. No one, probably, needs adult education so much as the college graduate for it is he who makes the most doubtful assumptions concerning the function of learning.
Secondly, education conceived as a process coterminous with life revolves about non-vocational ideals. In this world of specialists everyone will of necessity learn to do his work, and if education of any variety can assist in this and in the further end of helping the worker to see the meaning of his labor, it will be education of high order. But adult education more accurately defined begins where vocational education leaves off. Its purpose is to put meaning into the whole of life. Workers, those who perform essential services, will naturally discover more values in continuing education than will those for whom all knowledge is merely decorative or conversational. The possibilities of enriching the activities of labor itself grow less for all workers who manipulate automatic machines....


  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Sources
  5. Preface
  6. Overview of the Contents
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. The Editors
  9. About the Contributors
  10. Part One: Defining a Field of Practice
  11. Part Two: Positioning Adult Education in a Global Context
  12. Part Three: Adult Education's Constituencies and Program Areas
  13. Part Four: The Changing Landscape of Adult Learning
  14. Part Five: New Discourses Shaping Contemporary Adult Education
  15. Name Index
  16. Subject Index
Estilos de citas para The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2011). The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education (1st ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2011)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2011) 2011. The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education. 1st ed. Wiley.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2011) The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education. 1st edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. The Jossey-Bass Reader on Contemporary Issues in Adult Education. 1st ed. Wiley, 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.