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PIMA Bulletin No.33 (November 2020)

Editorial 2020 - Annus horribilis and a new beginning? Chris Duke


The expression used by the Queen of Britain of the death year of the 'people's princess' in the nineties well applies as 2020 departs. That was a one-family crisis; this is a people's crisis world-wide. It is the first truly global pandemic for a century, following World War One. Governance seems close to collapse: globally in the UN system; and in weak, near-failing nation-states or under harsh authoritarianism. Outbreaks of civil disobedience approach civil war, heavy oppression, often full-blooded hot war across many parts of every continent; so many as to suggest that we are in a different kind of '3rd world war’. Thirdly, there is belated recognition, and evidence, on land and sea, of the fact and effects of climatic catastrophe reaching even to 6th continent Antarctica and into the greatest oceans.

What may we expect of 2021? What as practitioners and proponents of adult learning and education (ALE) do and should we do in this unfamiliar world?

Back to normal?’ - or ‘Don’t let a good crisis go to waste?’

Do we critique and demolish prevailing ideologies? Pragmatic gradualism or a cathartic break and renewal? Do we go for top-down policy and resourcing; or grassroots community empowerment and rebuilding from the base - or both? Does salvation rest with innovation, new technology, and magic bullets, or the rediscovery and revaluing of old wisdom – or both?

Whatever we do personally and collectively, the seasons of summer and winter still come round in each hemisphere in their turns, with next month marking an end and a new beginning for the dominant northern half of 'planet A'; with the dark time of review and rebirth in the North, come the summer and long school breaks in the south: for some their holiday time, for many a continuing time of fear and famine, fire, flood, and flight.

This Bulletin issue is a subject-player and object in each of these tensions. This is a rare 'paradigmatic moment' on a par with the post-World War Two years. Most states and their citizens must balance the value of human life and the threat of COVID-19 (C-19) scourge with damage to 'the economy', conventionally understood in numbers of GDP, per capita income, government intervention, and debt, or community self-reliance, wealth, health and happiness. Civil society more than ever needs the empowerment of ALE to enlighten, inform and inspire.

PIMA is searching for the best ways to support, equip, and engage the interest and energy of its members; to contribute to choosing pathways and finding connections and partners through today’s interactive crises: only connect?

We begin with PIMA VP Heribert Hinzen’s review of international trends and events, and the part PIMA plays there; and by taking up a theme from Bulletin Special Issue 31 on the global aspiration and strategy of the SDGs – the sustainable development goals, responding to Debbi Long’s crucial critique ‘oxymorons and ethnocentrism’. [see Debbi Long's paper in Bulletin Special Issue No. 31. Ed.]

As an engaged global ALE network, we continue considering how we are experiencing C-19 and behaving, with four contributions from different regions and perspectives. This thread interweaves naturally with exploring 'life-deep': a dimension of long fashionable, important but often confused and abused 'lifelong learning (LLL)'. Our exploration started at the PASCAL annual conference in Suwon, R of Korea, two years ago, and will be ongoing.

LLL includes not only the lifespan from the earliest years to '4th age’ and life-end. It also means life-wide (in community and workplace as well as within the walls of education); and now life-deep: a dimension of self-reflection and discovery as lockdowns and travel bans of C-19 force more of us to live alone more, to look more in and on ourselves, and also perhaps our families and close neighbours; as well as freeing space not only for loneliness but also for reflection on values, feeling and beliefs and lifestyles. Back to normal? Or regeneration?

Every cloud has a silver lining, so we are taught: conversely, perhaps each silver lining carries a cloud: witness the mass media, social media, instant information and big data, intensification, efficiency, audit and assessment, innovation… The final section of No. 33 reveals continuing purpose, campaigning, and steady effort, in the struggles for gender equality, for workers' education in the Global South, in Hong Kong's 'little cousin' Macao, and, for Ireland echoing similar success in New Zealand as reported in Bulletin 32, a sizeable government grant win for ALE.

For us, as John Aitchison signs off his correspondence, aluta continua - the struggle continues (followed by ‘victory is certain’), we handle disappointment and delay, and carry on, as Daniela Bavkandzi shows.

We celebrate the addition of two new members, and a cloud of sadness within the joy, note the passing of two great ALE workers. Dr. Wijetunga of Sri Lanka was long the faithful Secretary-General of now-mighty ASPBAE; and Scotland's Jim Gallagher is honoured in the remembrance by Mike Osborne.

As an editor’s confession, my takeaways from annus horribilis are of hope, fascinations, and a restless search for answers: like how do things change? Is 'culture' not the true nerve centre?

How can we all be in the same boat globally yet each people and place is unique? All in the same boat and yet not? - asked President Shirley Walters in South Africa

Will ‘regenerative farming’, the big new thing, win out? - Along with revaluing indigenous knowledge and wisdom in the mass and social media?

In Australia, we now have Farmers for Wildlife fighting the extinction of species – who are the good and bad guys these days? And yet a 2003 world best-selling garden book advises: until quite recently scientists smiled at all the wonderful medicinal powers claimed for garlic: but recent research has shown that there is some truth in a few of the old wives’ tales. ‘Some?’ ‘a few’? ‘old wives’? – no tribal elders?

I will still fret about the blunting of our tools: the casual abuse and eroded meaning of words; not just 'fake news' but also our sloppiness; like 'learning' when we mean 'education'. And I will be fascinated to watch the liberal vs vocational (VET) dichotomy crumbling as they merge within communities in the post-C-19 era.


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