Eduard C. Lindeman: a Father of Adult Education

Is adult education the formal classes hosted by institutions of higher education and for-profit training centers? Or is it the other side where informal training experiences help advance knowledge and cognitive understanding in a particular subject matter?

Eduard C. Lindeman was an early contributor to the study of adult learning and his reflections and teachings continue to provide a foundation for scholarly discourse within the field of adult education.

Lindeman (1926) seems to support both avenues of adult education in his broad definition. He states:

“If we are to make the most effective use of whatever quantity of intelligence is available, we shall need to grant the right of each personality to rise to its own level. This means that increased inventiveness will be required to discover the kind of education which will most effectively meet the needs of varying capacities. Formal educational discipline cannot be accepted as the criterion for ability to learn” (Lindeman, 1926, pg. 18).

Lindeman (1926) was right when he said that intelligence is an individualistic concept. And to achieve each persons’ actualization of intelligence, both formal and informal educational techniques are needed. For instance, the leader of a Girl Scout troop, with no formal education, can achieve a high level of status, power, knowledge, and intelligence through informal training techniques targeted towards areas related to fostering achievement and leadership in youth. This example supports Lindeman’s concept that formal education is not the only criterion to showcase the adults’ ability to learn.

Later in his book, Lindeman makes several statements which move into an idealistic concept of education and how education supports society. For purposes of this short discussion, I will focus on the second: “How can education supply directive energy for collective enterprise? By transforming the battle of interests from warfare to creative conflict” (Lindeman, 1926).

Creative conflict in a diverse society is often contrary to human instinct. Creative conflict certainly occurs in ivory towers and Paris coffee shops, but for those of us who live in the real world, warfare, of varying types, often makes the decision. While this may be controversial, I think it is real. It would be a wonderful ideal if education can strive towards developing future leaders to embrace creative conflict; however, in reality, I think this will be a struggle.

Lindeman, E. (1926). The meaning of adult education. (1989 edition). Norman, OK: Harvest House, Ltd.

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