For the Love of Learning Episode #21
Alternatives in Higher Education
Original Air Date:
Monday June 22, 2015 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
Tuesday June 23, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST
Bayo C. Akomolafe
Be sure to tune into tonight’s episode where we will look at some of the issues surrounding higher education and ask the question, “is college really necessary”? Have we reached a point in human history where higher education no longer works? Has the traditional setting of colleges function effectively today or has current technology been a game changer? Can universities be progressive enough to keep up with the growing needs of employers and do employers still overwhelmingly look to college institutions for their future employees? Outside of the formal professions that require a college education such a career in the medical profession or law, do those wishing to learn about technology, business, marketing and others still need a university degree?
Tonight, we explore the alternatives to higher education and ask the question, can students receive what was once thought of as a college education outside of the current format of an institution?
Bios of Tonight’s Guests:
I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, a thriving metropolis of social and cultural creativity permeated by hills, forests and the ocean. Rio is a place I regularly return to and draw inspiration from. Since my teens, I have also lived for most of my life in the UK where I studied Fine Art, International Development, and Social Anthropology. Over the last ten years I have been working in a number of universities in the UK primarily in the field of social anthropology. Through this time I also been involved in filmmaking and participative research projects with young photographers, researchers and activists from Rio, with First Nations’ artists and educators from Canada, and with curators and museum workers from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.
In earlier work, I engaged with young people, marginalization and social movements in Rio de Janeiro, focusing especially on the identities and life-histories of those growing up in urban poverty and how they develop creative approaches to engage with these conditions for both themselves and their communities. Working in Brazil has also led me to explore a more public, engaged and collaborative approach to social enquiry which I have been applying throughout my teaching and research work.
Working in a range of academic institutions has given me a sense of how much more the university could be, of how it could engage with students more holistically and nurture not only their capacity for critical reflection and understanding but also their transformative and creative involvement in the world. For me learning/teaching are ways of knowing more about ourselves, each other and the world we live but they are also transformative practices that encourage more caring ways of being and relating. This aspiration, for discovering ways of learning that can be transformative and cultivate a deeper creative engagement with the world, with community, with the land and its many inhabitants, is what prompted me to embark on this journey. At the same time, the seriousness of the environmental, social and economic problems we are encountering has led us to question how much our educational institutions are addressing these challenges or whether they may in fact be complicit in the state the world is in. As we are discovering from the places we are visiting, learning can also be an immersive activity that involves and nurtures the whole person, the community and relationship to place, rather than only about acquiring specialised skills in a particular discipline or for a job market. This broader vision of learning is what I aspire to in my own learning and in that which I create with others.
I spent my childhood years in rural southern Oregon, the ‘high desert’ part that is small in numbers of people and big in open space. Since finishing high school, I have ventured perpetually eastward – to university, to big cities like New York, and then further east to England and to even bigger cities like London and Birmingham, with periodic research work in big cities like Beirut, Karachi, Delhi and Dhaka. Although I’ve lived away from Oregon since high school, it is still the place I consider myself most deeply connected to, and I understand this deep connection as being foremost about the place, my family and the land.
My work over the past 18 years has been deeply embedded within the educational system, either as a student, a researcher, or as a teacher. During these years, I have, amongst other jobs, taught primary school for 2 years in the South Bronx, worked in an environmental non-profit in NYC as an educator with high school students from around the City to introduce environmental history and eco-political action projects, taught English in Chinatown and pre-school on the upper east side (also NYC), worked for an educational NGO in Karachi, Pakistan, acted as an educational consultant to the UK international development agency, researched sanitation, health and education projects in India and Bangladesh – and finally, most recently, spent 4 years working as a lecturer in the education and international development departments at the University of Bath. During this time, it is safe to say that I have become increasingly disillusioned by the opportunities that educational institutions do and can provide. You might say that I have even become a critical/anti-educationist. But, this does not mean that I am against education. Rather, I am against how education is often institutionally programmed to constrain creativity, critical engagement, community and action – in spite of its continual praise of being crucial for human development. I might better identify myself as someone who values learning outside of the confines of institutional constraint – learning that embraces and inspires deep connection to self and to place.
I passionately agree with the Portuguese scholar, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, who argues that to understand our current societal conditions, we must look to the edges, the margins, from not only those who on a daily basis experience domination and social injustice – but also those who successfully and creatively challenge the mainstream. It is these edges that the majority of us are often the least familiar with – the places outside the lens of the media, places that might inspire hope and renewal in terms of building community – which to me, means building relationships not only with each other (regardless of age and background) but also building relationships with the non-human world (plants, animals) that is all around us, through what a brilliant Blackfoot teacher recently explained, in a deep way that enables us to be truly human.
It is because of my own disillusionment and because of my passion to learn about ‘those places at the edges’ that I am undertaking this year-long journey of learning, of re-learning and of un-learning. And, as I look around and feel the ever-increasing speed at which we seem to be projecting ourselves ever more closely to ecological, social and economic collapse through our consumptive practices, the time for such learning is imperative, not just intellectually, but spiritually.
Lisa is a community and education expert with thirty years of experience working with alternatives in education in urban areas as well as rural communities. She got her start with community organizing in Seattle, moved from public education to unschooling in California, and for the last twenty years has been deeply involved with community activism and library support to promote lifelong learning.
More recently, Lisa has served as a special educational advisor to UnCollege.org and their Gap Year Program, an innovative higher education alternative. She has been invited to share her expertise on child-centered education at venues such as MIT. Her book, Ask Try Do, will provide support and strategies for people wanting to transition to joyful, self-directed learning and living.
Lisa is also the mother of grown unschooler Dale Stephens, the founder of UnCollege.org and the author of “Hacking Your Education.” Dale speaks around the world on the changing landscape of post-secondary education. In May 2011, he was selected out of hundreds of individuals around the world to be part of the first group of Thiel Fellows. The Thiel Fellowship, an alternative to higher education, recognizes the top changemakers around the world under the age of twenty.
Lisa is passionate about catalyzing change in education, community action and helping people discover alternatives to take charge of their learning.
My writing/coaching for parents and self-directed learners http://www.lisanalbone.com/
Bayo Akomolafe is a young clinical psychologist, lecturer, speaker and author from Covenant University in Nigeria. Last year, Adebayo was invited to be the Coordinator of the International Alliance for Localization, a project of Local Futures. Bayo is globally recognized for his poetic, unconventional, counterintuitive, and indigenous take on global crisis, civic action and social change, and was recently enlisted as the recipient of the Global Excellence Award (Civil Society) 2014 by FutureShapers (California).
Though young, he is a frequent keynote speaker and has been invited three consecutive times to be the only keynote speaker at the European Union-sponsored DEEEP/CIVICUS Summit on Building a World Citizens’ Movement.
Having co-founded a network called Koru with his life-partner, Ej, Bayo is writing his second book, ‘And We Shall Dance with the Mountains’ and a novel, ‘The Boy Who Stayed Outside’. Ej and Bayo are ecstatic parents of a girl, Alethea. His readings of ‘knowledge’, ‘development’, ‘progress’ and ‘truth’ as Eurocentric metanarratives led him to develop the first International Workshop on Alternative Research Paradigms and Indigenous Knowledge Promotion (WARP, 2011). He initiated a book project called ‘We will tell our stories: Reimagining the Social Sciences in Africa’ in 2011, and is currently publishing the book with Professors Molefi Asante (USA), Augustine Nwoye (South Africa) and Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), among other African intellectuals. He was appointed Visiting Scientist to Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (UK) in February 2012.
As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website RaisingMiro.com and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: ProjectWorldSchool.com. You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.
For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit:
Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement
For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.