Adult and Community Education: A Model for Higher Education?
Connolly, Brid (2006) Adult and Community Education: A Model for Higher Education? In: What Price the University? Perspectives on the meaning and value of higher education from the National Universityof Ireland, Maynooth. A Special Issue of Maynooth Philosophical Papers . National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Maynooth, pp. 36-46. ISBN 0901519766
Any discussion about the nature and meaning of higher education has to take place in the context of enormous changes in society, probably on the scale of the Industrial Revolution. However, while the Industrial Revolution was driven by the economy as a social institution, with subsequent social and cultural transformations, the knowledge revolution is driven by technology and social change pivoting on democratisation. As a society, we are moving closer to individuation, within community and the social, amid discourses that construct our sense of reality and of our identities. This article will consider the key question for higher education: in what way ought it serve society? For those who defer to market forces, the value will be in terms of laws of economics, profit and loss. However, the meaning and value of higher education is underpinned by a basic ideological stance, if the answer includes priority for fostering places and environments for learning and scholarship in order to improve, ultimately, the lives of people in society. This is the position that I take, in my work in adult and community education. In this article I will consider the parallels between liberation movements-such as the women's movement--and adult and community education, as adult and community education has developed over the past twenty years in Ireland. The women's movement, for example, has been pivotal in changing discourses around femininity and masculinity, problematizing both, but simultaneously enabling individual women and groups of women to reflect critically about their individual lives, drawing conclusions and insights that may be generalised, not only to the total cohort of women as a group (if such an entity can be said to exist), but also translated, as it were, for other oppressed or marginalized groups.' The article will draw on the learning from social movements to illuminate the place of citizenship education, in the context of radical humanistic discourses conducted through lifelong learning, Finally, it will argue that higher education, underpinned by the moral positioning around justice and equality, could learn fiom this model, in order to reassert the meaning and value of its role in society.
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