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Adult education, lifelong learning and citizenship: some ifs and buts

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This paper suggests that the dominant discourse of lifelong learning is a political rather than an educational discourse. On this view, lifelong learning enables the deconstruction of welfare to be effected through the reconstruction of citizenship. Democratic citizenship properly understood, on the other hand, depends on determined progress towards a more equitable distribution of material and cultural resources among citizens. Education on its own can do little to ensure that such structural change takes place. It is, nevertheless, the task of critical adult education, as distinct from economistic models of lifelong learning, to raise such questions as urgent issues for democratic deliberation and debate, and to expand our notions of what it means to be active citizens in a democratic society. The paper contains the text of a talk given at the annual study conference of the UK's National Institute of Adult Continuing Education in April 2002.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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