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Un-branding “Standard Brand Adult Education”
for Continuing Professional Education
Gloria E. Cruice, Ph.D.
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Dr. Ohliger’s article addressing adult education, “Straight Time and Standard Brand Adult Education,” published in the most recent issue of the MSPP News. Situating experiences of adult education within alternative conceptualizations and experiences of time, Ohliger provides us with an opportunity to rethink adult education from historical and socio-cultural perspectives and to question some of the assumptions underlying modern society’s view of learning. In essence, he invites us to THINK, an activity that I believe is seriously devalued and curtailed in contemporary western culture and in most versions of modern education.
Ohliger suggests that the “increasing hegemony of standard brand adult education” is associated with the dominance of linear time in Western culture, “straight time,” as he puts it. In my view, this version of education is characterized primarily by institutionalized programs of study taught in classrooms, and follows from a positivistic notion of science, where knowledge is quantitative and objectively measurable. Learning is thus conceptualized as taking in portions of knowledge that have been accumulated, categorized, and labeled in the past, and stored for consumption in the future. Situated within the context of industrialized society, such educational programs are packaged, marketed, and sold to consumers whose needs justify the demand for such products. Ohliger reminds us that adult education consequently requires increasingly greater amounts of time, primarily to benefit the “administrators of the economic system while stealing the time of everyone else.”
Ohliger also implies an insidious ideological trend that I believe is even more threatening to the intellectual climate in our culture than the unrelenting adherence to the positivistic, temporally linear versions of education and learning characterized by modernistic thought. I am referring to the erosion of individual responsibility in educational pursuits, particularly post-degree learning, that follows from institutionalized, “standard brand” education and educational requirements mandated by the state. Such versions of education seriously undermine freedom, so highly valued in our society, because upholding freedom requires individual vigilance, awareness, and responsibility. Education narrowly defined as conforming to standards and institutionalizing knowledge not only discourages free thinking and creativity, it also stifles responsible decision-making and, I submit, is antithetical to learning.
In the near future, psychologists in Michigan will most likely be required to earn continuing education credits in order to maintain licensed status. While such requirements have been long established in other professions and have been a national trend in psychology for quite a few years now, I believe that this action signifies an entrenched acceptance of deprofessionalism that undermines the exercise of sound judgment and ethical decision-making in all aspects of one’s profession--from accepting psychologists into graduate school . . .to taking responsibility for keeping up on new issues in one’s specialty...to carrying out one’s professional duties in practice... .
Empowering the state to mandate preordained packages of ‘thought rations’ in order to ensure professional survival, as if thinking and learning are to be distributed rather than cultivated, places responsibility for the quest for learning with the Other in authority. This devaluing of individual responsibility in educational pursuits threatens some of our most precious natural resources: our abilities to reason and to make informed decisions as well as our desire and enthusiasm for actively and independently using our minds.
Contextualized within a positivistic, temporally linear frame of reference, adult education of the continuing professional education “brand” prioritizes counting and measuring amounts of ingested knowledge over the processes of thinking, reasoning, questioning, and learning. From this perspective, linear time and the clock indeed dominate the picture of adult education and opportunities are scant for posing questions and creating time and space for new ideas.
While the concept of state-mandated continuing education for psychologists has apparently taken root on a national level and may soon be realized in Michigan, the form such education takes need not be of the pre-packaged and “standard brand” variety. Ohliger directs our attention to how education is conceptualized in other cultures and to alternative approaches to learning that are associated with nonlinear experiences of time. By considering the implications of such alternatives for our own educational pursuits, we as professionals have opportunities to structure such endeavors according to our own versions of learning and to take active measures in shaping the continuing education that may soon be mandated.
Questions I would like to pose for discussion among my colleagues include the following:
What do alternative concepts of time offer to re-conceptualizing the forms adult education could take?
How might we redefine education to include an appreciation for history, awareness of socio-cultural context, and meeting the challenges of changing issues relevant to professional practice and everyday living?
How might “continuing education” pursuits be organized according to alternative versions of education and learning? How can such education be structured according to approaches such as existentialism, constructivism, and chaos and systems theories?
What are the possibilities for arranging self-directed studies relevant to our professional pursuits that might also satisfy licensing requirements?
As professionals, what steps should we take next to implement our ideas about adult continuing education?
Gloria E. Cruice, Ph.D.
MSPP Past President
This letter was originally published in the February 2002 issue of the newsletter of the Michigan Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology, the MSPP News. It is reprinted here by permission of the author.
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