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Adult Education: A Myth?

by caribdirect
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Staff Writer - Katrin Callender

A long time ago I squealed with delight as my eyes fell upon what I thought was the cutest thing I had seen in quite some time. A university freshman, with short and a tee-shirt, sock and really clean sneakers and a school bag stuffed with new stationary, walked about campus looking for a class. What was special about this freshman was that she was about 80 years old.

Some years later I saw another freshman, also advanced in years, wearing a similar fashion. I remembered that as a child I too had worn such clothing. As I grew up, I ‘learned’ how I ‘should’ dress. Certain pieces of clothing could not be used- they were too childish or uncool or didn’t accentuate some of my newly developed curves. Jeans were the in-thing and fashionable tees with interesting graphics speaking to anarchy or sexual freedom. And sneakers, if worn, had to promote a leading brand.

Shockingly enough, I survived this period mostly by conforming, but occasionally I managed to assert myself and my independence from these affectations with a few rebellious styles. I did not think about the two freshmen unless I happened to see them about the campus.

Some years after that, I took a class where I found myself observing my classmates and lecturers and doing a bit of self-examination. I wanted to understand the relationships that were developing and the progress we all made as a result. I noticed amongst my peers and myself the tendency to regress to childlike versions of ourselves.

We were afraid of being wrong- we would not volunteer because of this paralyzing fear.  We wanted to be nurtured by our lecturers, we felt confused and abandoned when they left us to read and figure out our own answers- even when we had the tools to do so.

Photo courtesy ifailedmyfinals.blogspot.com

And above all we wanted to be protected when they were stern with us. Perhaps we did not cry to our parents and instead swore or seethed but at the heart of our rage was the desire to feel empowered and be encouraged to take on each new challenge. As time passed and my life and circumstances changed, I frequently mused over this phenomenon.

So recently when someone asked me to describe the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary education, I had my answer. I told him that I didn’t think there was a great difference in the information given but certainly we were different and how we responded to our environment was different.

I must alter the first bit of my response because the material is different insofar as educators attempt to meet the requirements of the student body in terms of meeting their level of understanding, and providing information that is relevant to the exams they will take among other considerations.

As for the latter part of my response, I think that when we find ourselves in the classroom we feel tempted to regress and become the students we were at an earlier stage- whether sullen or helpful or all knowing- in order to achieve success. Then a battle ensues. We have learned too much and grown too much to go backwards. So we struggle and find that although it is a huge challenge, we can extract the best parts of the past and the present, to work towards our future.

Perhaps Adult Education is not a myth, but it must be flexible.  Like Adolescence, Adulthood can also be a period of uncertainty. We may find that even as we try to shimmy into a cookie cutter to be molded- because it is ‘time to settle down’- we are still in flux. We evolve and want different things. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but requires adaptability.



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