Early in the twentieth century, adult education was often described as a "movement," a spontaneous emergence of study circles, town hall meetings, and learning groups, all engaged in better understanding their world to build a better one democractically. Education in its broadest sense––learning to name the world––was at the center of that movement.
At the same time, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, were those who made the leap from lifelong learning to lifelong schooling. Collapse of the almost–movement was inevitable. Educators in the workplace and in formal institutions of learning sought to shape minds, rather than free them. Consequently, adult education grew up alongside a practice that devalued learning for democratic action and stressed adaptation to the workplace, corporate America, and a consumer economy.
Perhaps nostalgia is a lingering desire to return to a past that never was, but many adult educators, including the authors represented in this volume, have been attempting to reclaim their birthright––a critical but steadfast commitment to building democracy.
This is the 128th volume of the Jossey–Bass higher education quarterly report series New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Noted for its depth of coverage, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education is an indispensable series that explores issues of common interest to instructors, administrators, counselors, and policymakers in a broad range of adult and continuing education settings, such as colleges and universities, extension programs, businesses, libraries, and museums.
1. Leading Democratically (Stephen Brookfield).This chapter explores the attributes of a democratic leadership that carefully attends to the extraordinary knowledge of ordinary people and to the voices of those most affected by the decisions the leader must make.
2. Democracy Is in the Details: Small Writing Groups. Prefiguring a New Society (Janise Hurtig, Hal Adams).This chapter describes the role of popular educators in creating educational spaces in which members of oppressed groups are able to give voice to their experiences spaces that are fundamentally democratic and dialogic.
3. Everybody Had a Piece . . . : Collaborative Practice and Shared Decision Making at the Open Book (John Gordon, Dianne Ramdeholl).Through retelling the story of an adult literacy program in New York the Open Book the authors describe the possibilities for establishing and sustaining democratic communities in the context of today s literacy programs.
4. Radically Democratic Learning in the Grounded In–Between (Mechthild Hart).The author asks us to consider what happens when capitalist and global markets have rendered democratic institutions both dangerous and predatory and how can we counter these socioeconomic forces in our democratic relations with each other and with nature.
5. Productive and Participatory: Basic Education for High–Performing and Actively Engaged Workers (Paul Jurmo).This chapter describes the barriers to democracy in the workplace, while challenging workplace educators to develop programs that contribute to organizational efficiency and enable workers to attain high levels of control and responsibility.
6. Race, Power, and Democracy in the Graduate Classroom (Dianne Ramdeholl, Tania Giordani, Thomas Heaney, Wendy Yanow).Three graduates and one faculty member reflect critically on their experience in an adult education doctoral program that placed democratic practice at the forefront of its curriculum.
7. Democracy, Shared Governance, and the University (Thomas Heaney).This chapter examines the possibility and potential for the democratic practice of shared governance in a major venue of adult education the academy.
8. Democracy and Program Planning (Arthur L. Wilson, Ronald M. Cervero).This chapter recounts the ambiguities of extending the practice of democratic program planning to academic leadership and decision making in the administration of departments and programs in the university.
9. Blues Is Easy to Play But Hard to Feel (Jimi Hendrix) (Wendy Yanow).In reflecting on the various experiences of authors in this book, this final chapter concludes that democracy is messy and complex, but nonetheless a project that adult educators have a responsibility to move forward.
Dianne Ramdeholl is an assistant professor in educational studies at the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies, Empire State College, New York.
Tania Giordani is a professor of adult education at the College of Lake County, Grayslake, IL.
Thomas Heaney is an associate professor and director of the Adult Education Doctoral Program at National–Louis University, Chicago.
Wendy B. Yanow is adjunct faculty at DePaul University, School for New Learning, Chicago and National–Louis University, College of Arts and Sciences, Chicago, and a consultant in adult education.