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Education as a religion in the learning society

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Abstract:

There has been a strong faith in the power of education to create and maintain many kinds of progress in society: social cohesion and order, economic growth, equality, justice, etc. The history of education is in many ways involved in the history of religion and churches. Along with the rise of the lifelong learning policy, adult education has became a new form of 'educational religion' in the rapidly changing 'risk society'. In this paper is theoretically and empirically delineated both education in general and adult education in particular using the metaphor of religion. Religion is looked at from a Durkheimian perspective as a secular and social phenomenon. It is argued that the ethos of religion and church is still alive and influences education and the meaning learners attach to their studies in many ways. The research material consists of brief, structured educational autobiographies written by students (n = 99) in an open university. On the basis of the material the students could be divided into four groups along the dimensions solution-search and holy-profane, where the dimensions depict the significance studying had in the lives of the students. The groups were assigned the following names: (1) career people, (2) seekers of esteem, (3) the enlightened and (4) strivers.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/026037042000293425

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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