OWN’s ‘Lifeclass’ could take a lesson in educating adults


Watching “Lifeclass” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) is a welcomed change from other shows, because it teaches what the true meaning of reality tv should be: About real problems with real people for real change.

While well intended, the lifeclass still promotes a traditional method of lecturing, preaching, even pontificating that although entertaining, misses its mark in producing the real-life changes that the classes profess.

The most recent example comes from the session on “fatherless sons,” which should be wholly commended for confronting a key societal issue in America.  Although I grew up with a loving father, I see areas that I can become a better father myself.

More to the point, I am also a professional in adult learning.  Which may not mean much, until there are issues revealing that adults learn different from children and require a different approach within education.   In the fatherless sons’ session, Drs. Geoffrey Canada and Steve Perry were featured guests, but their professional backgrounds have been traditional elementary and secondary schooling.

Adult education is not schooling or college.  It does not require achieving a degree of credentials, rather its aim is the highest degree of self-worth, lifelong learning, experience-sharing and problem-solving together with fellow adults.

One of the best teaching approaches in adult learning and education is the discussion method.  In essence, it is an organized way of talking that is not idle conversation, panel format, or oratory performance.  It requires examining situations by drawing from adults’ experiences, sharing knowledge, and allowing adults to identify next steps for action and experimentation.

Instead, Dr. Canada prescribed eight ways that fathers could “reconnect with their sons” as if all of these men were his 8th-grade kids in Harlem.  Some of these men do have deep-rooted and unidentified pain as fatherless sons, but they also bring a resourceful depth of experiences to draw upon, which can help them learn to become better men, fathers, sons, and needed leaders in our American society.

Adults being parents (fathers or mothers) could be better served by discovering their own steps through organized discussion, and creating the “life class” as a lifelong learning community  to support their journeys.

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