Late Bloomers: A great thing for adult learners

No longer should being a “late bloomer” feel like a back-handed comment, or receiving an unflattering pat-on-the-back. But alas, now you’re a productive person after supposedly wasting years, even decades, in unproductive idleness. Some in society may see late bloomers as those who finally made good on their wasted potential:

They got it wrong; for the times are a-changin’.

For example, CBS News Sunday Morning recently aired a segment on late bloomers (beautifully done by Susan Spencer) that took the gardening and flowering analogy (associated with the term) and re-planted late bloomers as a great thing, a natural occurrence, even an American event worthy for all ages to respect and appreciate.

Stories of people becoming a huge success later in life (40, 50, 60 and older) are countless to name, some are widely celebrated.  Yet there is something about what the author Katz wisely-witted, “old age comes at a bad time,” which may reveal the actual fear about blooming late: losing life and dying without ever leaving something significant.

Surprisingly, what makes being a late-bloomer great is not measured by time, age, or level of success.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The flower analogy can mislead us in thinking that late is bad, when early-blooming could be as equally worse. A more accurate assessment sees the celebration, the simply joy in itself, in a lifetime of learning that a flower blooms!

In this way, we understand the analogy for a new time and a new season. As lifelong learners, we are all flowers, budding, blooming, continually blossoming as our learning grows whenever and however:

So happy season.

How realistic is #leanintogether?

Facebook COO, SHow Men Can Succeed in the boardroom and the Bedroom on the New York Times and #leanintogether is generating buzz online these days. This movement has began educating society by offering “tips” on how men can work toward gender equality at home as fathers and at work as employees and managers. As a SAHM and a feminist academic, I remain skeptical about how this can be translated into action in workplaces and homes across America and around the world. While I applaud the movement in involving and challenging men to step up, I wonder how sustainable this initiative is? Without organizations embracing the idea, without managers seeing the improved morale of their workers, without breaking the perceptions about workers with children, without more men speaking out about needing more time with their newborns, without women returning back to work six weeks postpartum, #leanintogether will remain just a viral hashtag.

Learning without end: So where are we going?

Let’s take a road trip: Imagine a group of your closest friends are traveling together, passing mile-after-mile, wandering for countless hours until one of your friends asks: “Where the hell are we going?”

Everyone nervously laughs, but no one has an answer, not even you.

Notice that in this story the name of the driver of this road trip is not yet mentioned (mainly because it was not written in the script). But you can probably assume it’s you or one of your friends, but the fact remains, there is no destination with no end in sight.

(My advanced apologies), since the intent of such a story is not to set the stage for some kind of twisted horror flick; although I admit there is a scariness about going to who knows where, without any destination.

Likewise, it may appear just as uneasy about saying learning without an end, where an activity would go on aimlessly without any clear purpose or stated objective.

Anyway, let’s get back to the story. This time, all of you actually know where you’re headed, and who’s the driver! In fact, you are going to the “big city,” driven and ushered by an experienced and exceptional tour guide who knows all the sites: the best restaurants, the coolest music, and the most popular attractions.

Suddenly, the road trip is not scary at all; it’s rather exciting, inspiring, passing place after place wondering about pointing at new things at every turn that your friend smartly asks: “Where on earth are we going?”

Everyone joyfully laughs, not knowing how to answer, still somehow not caring just the same.

So the point is, what if “Learning without end” was just like that?

Going to a “Learning City” that welcomes you with all it has to offer, accompanied by a tour guide (called facilitators in the adult learning practice) seeing together the endless trip as an intellectual journey throughout a lifetime, enjoying each attraction every stage along the way.

CCP Teaching & Learning

CCP Teaching & Learning.

Educating for Cosmopolitan Ideals and Reducing Hegemony

Educating for Cosmopolitanism and Reducing Hegemony

 The world is becoming more global and American diversity is increasing. Therefore, we need educators today who are comfortable with diversity and passionate about fostering cosmopolitan ideals without becoming hegemonic (Childress, 2010; Diamond, 2006; Friedman, 2005; Jarchow, 1993).

David Hansen (2009) describes cosmopolitanism as a controversial and multidimensional construct. Hansen explains that many scholars feel that the utopian approach and array of variables included within this term make it too broad and unrealistic for serious discourse. However, he also points out that as a concept many scholars have found it useful, and have engaged in deconstructing the topic. Hansen further notes that cosmopolitanism is interdisciplinary in nature and scholars and practitioners may never completely agree on its essence or application. Hansen (2009) deconstructed cosmopolitanism which includes some of the following orientations: 1) political (including: global citizenship, transnationalism, and humane responsiveness), 2) moral cosmopolitanism (including: justice, equality, and open-mindedness), 3) rooted (including: local tradition, personal dignity, universalism) and 4) cultural (intercultural fusion, cultural critique, and choice).

In a recent study I am working on, 23 faculty at two community colleges were interviewed about globalizing their work (research, practice & service). The key part of cosmopolitanism they tended to agree on was the ideas of global citizenship: being part of one global community and the importance of engaging in global morality. This included the idea that there are numerous global problems to solve (environmental decline, poverty, human rights issues, access to education….) and working together across academic disciplines and societies we will have a better chance of solving them. This supports the idea that educators need to facilitate learning around these global problems and inspire students to interact in a meaningful way with their local community and the global world.

One important consideration in moving to a cosmopolitan educational pedagogy at any level is the moderating variable of hegemony. Hegemony the idea that a single dominant group has control over all others (Litowitz, 2000; Nartowski, 2003). Teaching about cosmopolitan ideals may unwittingly embrace hegemony if the educator is not privy to this concept. For example, Americans embrace volunteering and philanthropy. This is a wonderful characteristic to have as a country. The issue comes in when we want to “tell” others what to do to help themselves instead of working with them to find a sustainable solution that works in their environment. Also, giving can be one sided which may take away individual control, identity, and self-efficacy in the recipient. Therefore, promoting exchanges where people from a privileged class and/or country give and receive from another group.

For example, two faculty in the study I am working on felt that the privileged class in the U.S. sees community colleges as places for second class citizens; and is not so concerned that these students will transfer two four-year universities and engage in community leadership positions (local to global). These faculty participants felt that this dominant focus on community colleges as predominately training centers and technical schools, for the poor and marginalized, produces an infrastructure that places heavy teaching loads on faculty without the time and support to focus on major complex, intellectual, and global pedagogy. Being able to do so, they argued, would better prepare students to rise above their current constraints, improve their lives, and contribute to the betterment of the global society.

Therefore, I am interested in learning more about specific ways educators can globalize their practice by incorporating the concepts of cosmopolitanism and hegemony into their curriculum and pedagogy. I am especially passionate about using service-learning in a way that builds people up in a disadvantaged situation by allowing them to give as well as receive. I think taking part in a reciprocal exchange with people from different backgrounds and/or countries can be a powerful learning experience for the privileged and marginalized.