I've been heartened by the discussion that has ensued as a result of my essay on a New Policy Approach for Our Education Work in the WEA following the discussion of it in Henry Tam's blog Question the Powerful.
I and other colleagues have been party to a range of discussions which see the debate and the actions that stem from it as part of a renewal of the WEA's social purpose. I was part of an inspiring discussion in the WEA's senior management team the other day where there was a clear direction towards ensuring that our courses had "bite" as well as interest, that they helped to leverage change in communities as well as individuals. I was told that there was also good discussion and appreciation of the examples of courses following the critical action approach at the Association Committee, the WEA's senior representative body. There is growing feedback and interest within our wider membership and outside the WEA as other adult educators begin to discuss the ideas.
Henry Tam cited the example of R.H. Tawney, former WEA president and distinguished British Social and Economic Historian in his blog and it pushed me to go and re-read one of his pieces. I downloaded Tawney's Acquisitive Society published in 1920 and I am struck by the quality of his analysis. It could have been written yesterday in the light of the most recent global banking crisis, rather than as it was nearly 100 years ago. He makes a cogent case for subverting economic interests to the needs of life and society and recognises the dangers of turning this the other way round. Try reading it yourself (Click the link above) to see why we need serious analysis of our world if we are to articulate meaningful proposals for changing it.
Providing that analysis through adult education was a role that the WEA tried to develop through Tawney's teaching and leadership all those years ago. It is a role that we need to fulfill once again today.