Transformative Learning and Empathy Politics: Adult Learning and the Mitigation of Conflict

Transformative Learning and Empathy Politics: Adult Learning and the Mitigation of Conflict

Marianne Robin Russo, Viktor Wang
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6260-5.ch008
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Transformative learning theory can create an emancipatory effect for the learner. Therefore, this chapter focuses on how the public can transform their own learning in a more empathetic manner and in a less desensitized manner to become the catalyst for positive change and the mitigation of death or war-related health issues that follow. The research focuses on how to help others and ourselves regarding an empathic learning path, which can bridge health, adult, and transformative learning in order to assist the public in turning their attention toward Vietnam vets. A framework of Freire, Mezirow, Piaget, Kohlberg, and Noddings is garnered so the public may be able to put pressure on politicians to conjure the idea of empathy politics, or one away from aggressive acts and towards the trajectory of diplomacy.
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Transformative Learning theory has a component of emancipation (Dirkx, 1998). Transformative learning may be taken one step further in that if one cannot be emancipated on their own, it is the responsibility of those around them to assist in this process. In essence, transformative learning has a positive and beneficial result, and in this sense, if an individual is either incapable or unable to participate, taking care of our brethren to assist in this transformation may be essential to allowing another to reach full potential. In its truest sense, this type of transformation and emancipation is by proxy to help not only the individual, but to assist in the common or public good. It is when one person reaches optimal performance, do all benefit. Therefore, to transform an individual ultimately positively benefits and transforms society.

In order to reach a transforming learning experience, a cognitive dissonance must take place that changes the individual paradigm. In this sense, the public’s paradigms must be changed to assist Vietnam veterans and prevent war through the mitigation of apathy. Cranton (2008) took this a step beyond and speak of “soulfulness” that allows for unconscious or constructing meaning with critical self- reflection (Cranton, 2008). Life is a process of learning and a soulful attitude to our own fellow, assisting each other along life’s traverses, will expand the human experience.

“Our understandings and beliefs are more dependable when they produce interpretations and opinions that are more justifiable or true than would be those predicated upon other understandings or beliefs” (Mezirow, 2000, p. 4). If these beliefs are developed during life experiences, this is key if individuals learn by experiential situations. It is unfortunate that individuals may have to experience a life situation that may allow them to learn and possibly become more empathetic. Individuals may only learn when the learning experience is ascribed to them and not to others. In order to broaden this individual learning experience, individuals may need to deepen their own empathy towards others, and we may have to teach this within adult education.

The empathy that may accompany from this adult learning experience may be augmented when we think of the concept of war and fighting. It seems there may be a desensitization of war, and all the horror that accompanies it, in the last 80 years or so of media. War seems to be glorified and acted out in a heroic sense, and individuals and the public are not aware of the true problems with health and death that correlate with it. In this way, transformative learning, or a paradigm shift away from war is that much more difficult.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Agent Orange: A dioxin created by the Monsanto and Dow Corporation used as a defoliate in Vietnam and Indochina.

Ethic of Caring: An sense of obligation that motivates individuals to assist and care others.

Homelessness: A condition where an individual does not have a home or shelter in which to reside.

Moral Development: The development of values and ethics as prescribed by Piaget and Kohlberg.

Empathy: A concern and caring for others.

Transformative Learning: Beliefs developed through a shift in adult thinking causing adult emancipation.

Post Traumatic Distress Disorder: A psychological stress disorder predicated by a traumatizing event.

US Department of Veterans Administration (VA): A Federal department that assists veterans in terms of health, residence, and employment.

Vietnam War: A war or conflict the US was involved in within Indochina lasting over a decade and beginning in the 60s.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): A Federal department that issues housing and other assistance for American citizens.

Vietnam Veterans: Those military troops drafted during the Vietnam War.

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