NLA Discussion: EFF
dheath at apex2000.net
Thu Nov 18 10:37:14 EST 1999
Sue Barton says, "My contention is that the spiritual, creative side of
an individual is incorporated into all three of the roles of an adult in
this society. Therefore when adult ed address these three roles, the
teacher uses methods that call the student's attention to a better
understanding of himself as well as increasing his knowledge base towards
functioning within this society"...(and in a follow-up post) "The role of
the church and the community is one of nurturing the spiritual / creative
side of an individual."
The defenders of EFF seem to consistently take two positions. They argue
that a dimension we could call self-actualization, self-knowledge or
simply the "self" is incorporated within the framework of the three
roles and the defined common activities and standards. (I would say it
is fused and not differentiated. That is the problem.) But defenders
also consistently contend that this dimension is more appropriately
addressed outside the purview of adult education. By taking these two
positions, they are admitting a dimension we could call the "self" (if
addressed in the EFF framework through the standards, common activities
and roles) is not comprehensively or fully addressed within this
framework. Nor do they seem to understand (and this is fundamental)
that it need be separately addressed in the EFF framework.
I believe this "self" dimension is addressed within the other dimensions
of family, worker and community. It is incorporated or fused within
those dimensions as a subset. But because it is not differentiated as a
distinct dimension, not only is it not clearly or fully addressed at the
policy level, it will not be addressed, in most cases, at the
instructional level. The positive side of modernity or the
Enlightenment paradigm is that, through reason, we differentiated self,
culture and nature. We recognized each as a distinct and adequate, if
limited, stream of knowledge and experience. This freed us from the
tyranny of the church, liberated us from mythic dogma and reductionism,
which dominated culture, and permitted both the self and science to
pursue its distinct, legitimate interests. Matisse could paint his
notion of spirit free of pope and king and Darwin could investigate
nature without being burned alive.
EFF, in my opinion, is faced with a similar challenge. The "self"
dimension cannot be merely incorporated or fused within the framework.
It must be differentiated as a distinct and legitimate dimension or
stream of investigation. Only then can it be adequately integrated with
the dimensions of family, worker and community.
Catherine King questions, "EFF IS definitely a step forward; however,
Ms. Barton's note shows clearly where EFF does not go far enough, and
where its role map falls short. My question is this: Where is the
'ROLE' of a 'better self understanding..."(and again) "Also, if the
creative, spiritual self is an important part of our existence and
development and is really a core part of what happens in someone's
lifelong education process, why would it NOT be mentioned in a
theoretical piece supposedly depicting the representation of the core
structural needs of an individual in society?"
Yes. Why would it not be? I have argued in other venues and on other
listserves that EFF does not adequately address our compound
individuality, and in not doing so, leads adult education policy into
problematic areas. I posted a critical analysis of this position with
possible solutions on the EFF listserv and I am cross posting it here as
I feel it addresses the issues raised in recent posts.
But first, a couple of comments:
Despite the perhaps unclear and confused uses of language we often
encounter when discussing these issues, I think most of us agree that
life, consciousness, knowledge, experience and literacy are complex
processes that are operative and instrumental across many dimensions.
Following Ken Wilber, I would suggest that we are a whole, compound
individuality, composed of and functional in at least three broad
dimensions: subjective / intersubjective / objective. I would also
suggest that any time we give too much authority to any of those parts,
we will encounter reductionism in some form. And this is, in my opinion
exactly what the EFF framework has done.
The following is a portion of a cross-post from the EFF listserv that
explains this position and offers some possible solutions.
I suspect this particular approach to adult education [EFF] has been
significantly influenced by two formative forces.
1) The framework was conceptualized and created using an idealistic,
limited, political, governmental directive to determine what was needed
to achieve the literacy goal that every adult American be literate by
the year 2000.
2) The framework reflects the postmodern idea that meaning is
significantly determined by language and by social and cultural contexts.
Due to these molding forces, we are seeing a federal initiative being
adopted by many states as the too often unquestioned window for viewing
This is potentially problematic for several reasons, but for
particularly one reason: the EFF framework appears to inadequately
address (despite its many positive, working definitions of purposes,
activities and skills) what it means to be fully literate or fully
Ken Wilber, arguably the most holistic, integral and respected theorist
in consciousness studies today, has pointed out that knowledge and
meaning is exhibited in three dimensions of I, we and it. He divides
these distinct and equally important dimensions into four quadrants of
meaningful investigation: intentional (individual / subjective),
behavioral (individual / objective), cultural (collective /
intersubjective) and social (collective / interobjective). Knowledge
would, according to this framework display itself in subjective /
objective and singular / plural dimensions. (Sex, Ecology, Spirituality,
A Brief History of Everything, The Eye of Spirit).
EFF values the social and cultural dimensions (collective) of how we
come to know. It values important functional roles, but seems to
undervalue the intentional dimension (individual / subjective) and
perhaps even, in some sense, the behavioral dimension (individual /
objective) of meaning and legitimate inquiry. The potential, practical
consequence is that art, philosophy and theology could be pushed to the
background (and perhaps even the hard sciences) or not addressed at all.
Both the subjective, individual "I" and the objective, individual "it"
appear to be inadequately addressed in the EFF framework.
Because of this, I perceive two dimensions of meaning and knowledge to
be at risk: self-knowledge (which includes critical introspection,
self-expression, the arts, psychological, philosophical and spiritual
truth) and certain aspects of world knowledge (the hard sciences that
are concerned with empirical, objective truth). When we fail to
consciously acknowledge and value literacy in these domains, aren't we
placing art, philosophy, psychology, theology and, in some cases, even
the hard sciences, consciously or unconsciously, in the shadows of
This tendency in adult education toward "functional" literacy is
pervasive. I am well aware that many adults need this education. Having
said this, isn't even some personal understanding of Nietzsche or Jung
as important as an understanding of the twelve steps to a successful
interview? Isn't the reading of Garcia Lorca or the critical viewing of
Picasso as valuable as an article in Newsweek? Isn't an introduction to
Eckhart as necessary as an introduction to domestic violence? Are we
hiding a secret assumption that adult education students are not up to
the task? Have we become so flat inside the head of popular culture that
we value only expanse at the expense of depth? Do we have an unspoken
agenda needing to be deconstructed?
In short, doesn't a more holistic definition of literacy require a more
complex definition of roles, at a minimum, a role that addresses
self-actualization or self-knowledge? A role that acknowledges and
values meaning and knowledge discovered through the investigation of the
interior, individual forms of consciousness. And don't we need to be
cognizant not to minimize the value of objective, empirical truth in all
the potential roles we define? Following Wilber, shouldn't content in
adult education be derived from all four contexts of knowledge, meaning
and experience, the interior and exterior of the collective and the
I do know this. When teaching advanced ESOL or ABE classes, Garcia Lorca
would consistently bring more joy, authentic enthusiasm and creative
participation than any twelve steps to a successful interview ever did.
Let's not lose this truth in the commotion toward functional literacy
and social roles.
If anyone within the EFF community has any sympathy for the potential
inadequacies I have only roughly suggested, I would strongly recommend
that they contact the Fetzer Institute where they are currently looking
into Wilber's pioneering work to determine how they might support and
promote an integral approach to education. The incorporation of his four
quadrant theory of legitimate knowledge is already being seen in
business (Motorola), politics (Jeb Bush and Michael Lerner), government
(NASA) and education (Michigan and Colorado).
It would be worth your time. I wish you the best in your noble but
extremely difficult work.
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