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PIMA Bulletin No.37 (July 2021)

Editorial Chris Duke

An Australian sports commentator in this the land of sport recently headlined reflections on ‘the winning mentality’: ‘There’s only two types of culture: There’s either a good or a bad one’. He is right about that keyword culture mattering; but on less sure ground in saying it is either black or white. In the messy world of life, there are many shades of grey. Not only that: things can be both black and white at the same time.

Between sheer puzzlement, ‘fake news’, the dominant narrative of daily drama shaped by dominating media, and for now the C-19 pandemic, what happens to the traditional wisdom, common sense, and decency of ordinary people, as the still greater ecological crisis rolls on? What role for citizens’ applied learning?


One solution to the puzzles of being and living in strange and fast-changing times is for educators to treat education as existing only in institutions for education, not in the wider, more complicated ‘real world’ outside the Education sector: ‘there be dragons, not really our business as educators’. This is a death sentence for ALE.


We reject such retreatism in favour of the aphorism only connect. In the PIMA network, and with our closest collaborators, we recognise that ‘education’ in different cultures is more than formal schooling. It is one important subsystem of learning throughout life: at all ages, in many ways and places, with or without a formal ‘curriculum’: always with another ‘hidden curriculum’ of learning by observation, imitation, personal reflection, and in-the-world application at home, in employment, in the community and at play.

It is also learning for a purpose: never, strictly speaking, as just its own end. It may be properly individually self-serving: for survival, for wellbeing and for happiness, for relaxation as well as for production. It may be for a wider community. If it is a wholly owned servant of the Education system, however, it becomes corrupted. It is a means, not validly its own end.


To connect we first sub-divide and classify. Not to mention governance globally, classifying and connecting are a chronic teaser for the Bulletin, as this number illustrates. We seek to examine and hold in focus important and persistent themes through successive numbers, to, share, inform, enlighten, and move ourselves and others to action.


In this number and calendar year we again favour Climate Justice and the Extinction Crisis, which fire and flood, pandemic and failed governance show to be a real and present threat that cannot be boxed and treated apart from multitudinous other ‘topics’. This draws on the 5th Climate Webinar, on resilience [‘just a new word for the neo-liberal growth paradigm in disguise’?] and climate justice.


We also take up again and draw together the ordering principle of sustainable development via the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended as policy guides and targets worldwide and through to 2030. A lifelong learning perspective needs to permeate all the Goals, but we found no specific purchase where PIMA could then usefully contribute. Instead, we published a special issue, No.31, as a work-in-progress on a three-year EU-funded Project on the SDGs being carried out at RMIT.


Now however our Australian anchor institution RMIT has completed a EU-supported three-year Jean Monnet project on the EU’s contribution to achieving the Goals in the Asia-Pacific. That work is being reported and analysed elsewhere. Instead, in the second section we ask, somewhat unconventionally, what participation meant to some of those who worked on it. There are 9 contributions here; given her focus, Boulton’s is found instead in the Climate section. Another three will appear in the next issue No. 38. Davison will take a different, ‘elephant in the room’, form; the other two, from Emma Shortis, co-leader with RMIT Project leader Bruce Wilson, who contributes a personal reflection here, will take a more synoptic overview.


PIMA is active in a global advocacy campaign advocating for more recognition of and resources for Adult Learning and Education, (ALE). Our third section highlights preparations towards the twelve-yearly world ALE meeting CONFINTEA (another PIMA SIG interest): looking back for inspiration as well as out and forward for advocacy allies, into a hazy future.


The 4th section, on Later Life Learning, continues another special interest: the consequences of changing demography and the implications for social and economic policies. Brian Findsen, the SIG convenor, will welcome reports on policies and practices in different countries and regions as birth-rates fall, the ‘working age’ proportion of the population shrinks, and new questions and practices multiply to redefine ‘third agers’ from problem to resource.


Here we confront huge diversity of policies and practices; and behind them huge differences of culture and norms between different kinds of societies. For now, the Bulletin accepts as a current norm the C-19 pandemic; but in this very new situation the identity as well as contribution of older people is overdue for massive reappraisal – as is the impact of people’s movements within and between countries in this Covid world. All this may mean new learning and changing identity for whole societies and governance systems as well as by and for older adults.


Looking ahead, a new subject in the September Bulletin may be the tourist industry: not so much its fate in pandemic circumstances, perhaps collapsed internationally but thriving within locked-down countries; but as a ‘site for learning’. How far does tourism enhance mutual learning between visitors and ‘guest’ people and their cultures, individually or collectively? Are there good practices to be shared and amplified? It would be no surprise to find that high-quality ‘learningful’ arrangements are a de facto monopoly of the wealthy, with simpler hedonism and a dash of the voyageur for less cashed-up mass travellers.


The final 2021 Bulletin will be a Special Issue on Climate Justice and ALE; anyone interested in contributing is invited to contact Shirley Walters at ferris@iafrica.com.


Another special issue was intended for this year: a joint issue with the UNESCO Joint Chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education www.unescochair-cbrsr.org. It was intended to feed into the 3rd UNESCO HE Conference in Spain this northern autumn, which is now deferred to 2022, another victim of C-19. We have therefore deferred that also. Meanwhile, if you are interested to be involved in this, please contact Rajesh Tandon at rajesh.tandon@pria.org, Budd Hall at bhall@ubc.ca, or myself, dukeozenay@gmail.com.


Finally, you will have noticed that the Zoom Webinars mainly on Climate, link with and feed into the Bulletin as a discussion forum. We have also started publishing occasional book reviews on this open access site. If you have a book or report that you judge to be of interest to the Network, and would like to offer a review, please let me know, or just send a draft of the review when you can.


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