Over at fabulous infed I stumbled over a text that was first given as an address to the Commission of Professors of Adult Education AAACE at a conference in Milwaukee in November 2006 and has been re-produced as an infed-piece on adult education.
Part of the «talking-point» article previously known as the address is a dialogue which I have encountered too many times in too many situations; I could immediately sympathise…
Here it is, slightly adjusted for our context:
People constantly ask me: «But what do you teach?»
I would reply that I did not actually teach but that I organised educational activities for people.
«What kind of activities?» they would ask.
«Things like a series of meetings, seminars and training courses on European Citizenship or Human Rights,» I would reply.
«Oh, you teach philosophy,» they would say.
A lot of my work has to do with capacity building in the world of NGOs: Programmes on recruiting and managing volunteers, organising workplaces, running meetings, speaking effectively, campaigning, funding and managing projects. I remember persons looking in horror at me and saying: «You donâ€™t actually teach them to do that, do you?»
And when I started to train trainers and educators and people asked me what I did, I would reply: «I am training trainers and educators.»
«Oh,» they would say, «and what do you teach?»
«I train on youth and adult education.»
«No, I meant, what is your subject?»
«Well, I educate educators.»
«Yes, but you must have a subject like history, or maths, or science, or English literature?»
«I teach people about the processes of learning and organising learning.»
«Yes, of course you do,» they would say, «but what do you teach?»
Head over to infed to read the whole article which, admittedly, goes much beyond this dialogue to look at adult education and the role of adult educators.
It is an interesting read!