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Participation in adult and community education: a discourse of diminishing returns

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The terms in which the dominant discourse of participation is framed systematically reinforces one particular view about the relationship between life and learning. It is one in which participation in learning is professionally and institutionally controlled and, consequently, defined largely in vocational, instrumental and individual terms. A significant absence in the dominant discourse is an understanding of participation which draws on the experience of the radical tradition in adult education. In a context where there is potential for greater participation in social and civic politics, as evidenced by the growth of social movements, reconnecting with radical ideas about participation in education can lead to rethinking the 'problem of participation' and its implications. We need to understand not only how the discourse of participation has generated knowledge but also excludes and limits what is known. A thorough critique is necessary and overdue and one that is critical of the 'regime of truth' which has been seeded, cultivated and harvested through the dominant professional discourse.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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