This chapter delineates the origins of Western values that underlie prevailing adult education practices, calling for a critical analysis of assumptions that undergird our philosophy of adult education. It moves to provide an overview of an alternative, emerging blended shore theory/philosophy of adult education, which guides practitioners in exploring their praxis and creating a credo for it.
In our age of rapidly changing technology, we all too often get drawn into using a latest tool-du-jour or program innovation in our teaching practice without adequate analysis of the needs of learners, or of the appropriateness or usefulness of such a tool or program in the facilitation of the learning process. As practitioners in the dynamic field of adult education, we ought to be at the decision-making table of program design and delivery models to serve adult learners; and to make appropriate decisions with the utmost professionalism, we ought to have a clear philosophical grounding for our praxis. To be so effective, we must have examined our values and assumptions and built our practice on a thoughtfully constructed credo. Perhaps, most importantly, awareness of deeply embedded assumptions ought to be a precursor for discerning what constitutes a good practice. Honoring many traditions of educational philosophy does not preclude the existence of intersections that constitute common ground where disparate stakeholders in adult education may meet and collaborate toward the construction of a peaceful, sustainable, global society by means of a blended shore (Strohschen, 2009) adult education philosophy.
The last century took us from covered wagons on the prairie to rocket ships on the moon. Our world is one in a state of flux and educators are called to address the swiftly changing needs of adults in training, education, and development programs (i.e., adult education). One key lesson we have learned during the last century, when Einstein introduced his theory of relativity in 1905, was that nothing is immune to change. We claim that training, education, and development activities that constitute the field of adult education address the needs of adult learners and aid them in adapting to change. We need to recognize that change has many contexts and meanings. We may refer to change in community contexts or in our respective work environments to which one needs to adapt. In the latter, today’s adult learners need to re-engineer skills as career changes occur over their lifetime more so than in the past. In succession training in today’s workforce, for example, learning needs emerge and we are tasked with preparing employees, basing this on analyses of educational needs and appropriate design of curricula. We may refer to a new mind-set, sets of skills, or attitudes for living in a globally connected community as being change. Gardner, for example, framed his take on such change as “five minds for the future” which are pivotal “if we are to thrive in the world during the eras to come” (2006, p. 1). He highlights knowledge of traditional liberal arts disciplines; the ability to synthesize information and experiences; venturing into creating new questions and solutions; extending respect beyond tolerance of differences; and ethically engaging in good citizenship. In considering changing needs of and demands on adult learners, the adult educator is called upon to ground her practice in a clearly identified credo, because the goals of such adult education activities in a multi-layered context of change reach beyond skill training, knowledge dissemination, or development of particular mind-sets. The development of a credo begins with critically reconsidering our philosophical framework for adult education.