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Flowers of argument and engagement? Reconsidering critical perspectives on adult education and literate practices

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This paper takes up an existing discussion around critical perspectives on adult education, in particular how empowerment and emancipation have been understood. Previously in this journal, concern has been raised with traditional understandings of critical adult education. The problem is that these tend to assume that learners require assistance from experts, be they teachers or researchers, in order to gain understanding of how they are oppressed. The purpose of this paper is to present a deeper engagement with this concern through an examination of how both empowering and emancipatory adult education have been understood and practised. The demarcation is examined in the context of the historical development of critical understandings and practices associated with adult literacies learning, as a significant field of adult education where the idea of empowerment and emancipation has been theorised. The ideas and practices associated with empowering literacies are defended as ways for learners to gain positions from which to speak and be heard, as well as support participation in work, community and family life. Informed by the ideas of Jacques Rancière, there is also acknowledgement that societal inequalities are increasing, necessitating a need to consider how adult education might encourage political transformation and emancipation.
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Keywords: Adult education; adult literacies education; critical education; emancipation; empowerment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

Publication date: July 4, 2017

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