Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with André P. Grace

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André P. Grace

If you or someone you know has returned to school to change careers or enrolled in continuing education courses as an adult for interest's sake, then you'll want to check out André P. Grace's Lifelong Learning as Critical Action: International Perspectives on People, Politics, Policy and Practice (Canadian Scholars Press).

André's research covers the changing trends in lifelong education as we come to view education not as a process but as a commodity. We speak with André about the role of globalization in the changing education climate, considerations for those of us who are considering further classwork and what he is working on next.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Lifelong Learning as Critical Action.

André P. Grace:

Lifelong Learning as Critical Action is about holistic learning in both lifelong and lifewide contexts. I have been an educator for over three decades, and I have worked in K-12 education, adult education and higher education. As a lifelong educator, I believe that learners need to be recognized, respected and accommodated across power relationships and the contexts that locate them in life, learning and work. From this perspective, I believe in focusing on holistic learning and its instrumental, social and cultural purposes.

The book explores these purposes in the face of neoliberalism and globalization, which are pervasive forces driving learning linked to the economy rather than the whole of life. This link is clearly evident in much of formal education. However, as the book also indicates, learning as a lifelong and lifewide venture is alive and well in many nonformal and informal learning spaces. In critical mode, the book looks at an array of learners in international contexts, examining the challenges and successes that mark their learning as a complex technical, social and cultural venture. Learners’ experiences are examined across an array of countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States. Within this exploration, the politics and realities locating specific learners groups, including young adults, older women, middle class learners, learners with disabilities, Aboriginal learners and sexual and gender minority learners, are considered.


Do you feel there has been a shift towards viewing higher education as a career-focused investment? If so, why do you think this has happened?


There has been a shift towards viewing higher education for such extrinsic purposes as career preparation and learning for new economies from local to global contexts. This is inextricably linked to the fact that, in the new millennium, lifelong learning has become a large-scale international policy-and-practice phenomenon. The OECD, multinational corporate interests, national governments and an array of educational interests have ardently linked learning for life and work across the lifespan to the demands of neoliberalism, privatization, globalization, individualism, corporatism, competition and progress as it is defined within a burgeoning knowledge economy. In this milieu, the tendency is to sideline learning for social and cultural purposes.


Why was this the right time for this book? What motivated you to write about lifelong learning now?


With a culture of neoliberalism and globalization ascendant, there are limitations on lifelong learning as a way forward and a way out. This culture needs to be interrogated. It is even more vital to do this in the present moment as citizens across nations continue to live with the fallout of the extraordinary panic that first sped through the global financial market during October 6-10, 2008. These pivotal dates ushered in a global recession that is sorely testing the economic logic of neoliberalism into the present moment. This vast economic debacle has ramifications for lifelong learning, which, for several decades, has been largely technicized and commodified under neoliberalism. It is the profound overemphasis on the economic and the instrumental and the consequential sidelining of the social and the cultural in these difficult times that drive my call for lifelong learning as critical action in this book. Such lifelong learning is holistic, encompassing and nurturing social engagement, political and economic understanding and cultural work to benefit citizens as learners and workers.


How has globalization changed our approach to education?


Globalization has narrowed our view of education and what it ought to encompass. The upshot of globalization and the neoliberal tendency to separate instrumental learning from social and cultural learning is a lifelong-learning paradigm that is limited both in scope and in terms of access and accommodation for learners mediating a curious mixture of calamity and progress in our contemporary change culture of crisis and challenge.


What strategies would you recommend to adults interested in continuing education?


What is required as a countermeasure is a more holistic approach to education for instrumental, social and cultural purposes. Adults in continuing education should proceed from this perspective. They ought to view lifelong learning as an inclusive medium and a set of principles and practices that help individuals learn their way out in diverse life and work contexts. As they make learning choices, they should question what constitutes worthwhile learning, quality work and the good life.


What have you been reading recently? What are some of your recent favourites?


I have been immersed in the literature on resilience in children and youth. I have really enjoyed two edited collections by Linda Liebenberg and Michael Ungar: Researching Resilience and Resilience in Action.


What are you working on now?


Right now I am working with Kristopher Wells on two companion books focused on sexual and gender minority — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — children and youth in Canada. The first book is entitled Youth at Promise: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada. It is a biopsychosocial and cultural analysis of realities for this population, and it considers an asset-based approach to enabling them to grow into resilience. The second book is entitled Sexual and Gender Minorities in Canadian Education and Society: A Handbook for K-12 Educators. It reviews law, legislation and educational and other institutional policymaking and implementation important to meet the needs of this multivariate vulnerable population.

André P. Grace is Director of Research at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services and Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta.

For more information about Lifelong Learning as Critical Action please visit the Canadian Scholars Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the On Writing interviews in our archives.

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