Newer Approaches in Social Issues

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Updated: Aug 20, 2023
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The adult learning process has undergone several transitions from the historical discourse statistics. This paper presents sociocultural perspectives alongside critical theories affecting adult learning in contemporary society. The first part addresses the essential implication of race theory in adult education. The second part discusses gender socialization, with a close look and discussion on feminist theory. The third part addresses privilege existing based on gender concerning the film. The fourth part assesses the essential critical theory considered as challenging for adults. The fifth part addresses the importance of postmodernism in education and society.

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The sixth section uses a caption to describe the learning theories with a selection of appropriate context in the image. The final part addresses the selected learning theory challenges for the caption.

The critical theories on sociocultural perspectives have favored the predominant orientation of specific individual learners in a particular society (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007). In this aspect, the interactive context of learners is influenced by the social structure by the majority and superiority of social factors such as race, gender, and class among others in society. The Critical Race Theory was developed to limit the application of racism in adult transformative learning for decades (Closson, 2010). The USA has spearheaded the role in enhancing cultural diversity in education. Despite the diversity of the nation, people tend to promote Western Europe values over other values from communities from different parts of the world (Gozawa, 2009). Education has been a foundation for the adult learning process and a tool to shape children’s view on who matters, what matters, priorities in life, and how to interact with others.

From this learning discourse, one is either empowered or marginalized depending on the backgrounds. For instance, people may be grouped depending on their social, economic, and political aspects (Witztum, 2012). In the USA, marginalized groups such as African Americans, Asian Americans are affected by the cultural mismatch in their learning environment and their historical values (Guy, 1999). On a positive note, adult education helps learners especially from the identified marginalized communities to take full control of their life situations and set goals for good living standards to improve their conditions (Witztum, 2012).

Nevertheless, critical race theory has promoted political rejuvenation that enhances inclusiveness and representation of the marginalized group’s interests. For instance, in the USA, President Clinton proposed for the inclusiveness of the African American for a unified nation (Brookfield, 2011). This was a subject of concern in the US Congress which later gave rise to African American politicians. The inclusivity has been a source of African American empowerment which acts as multicultural inclusivity of the minority groups in the USA (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007).

Gender socialization is said to be the learning of behavior, its course development, and process learning, whereby individuals behave socially depending on their gender at birth. Precisely, it’s the behavior and attitude attributes of boys learning to be boys, and on the other side, girls learning to be girls (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007). Feminist historians have discovered various thoughts regarding the identity of women, alongside empirical evidence of their potentials in society, resulting in a historical transition of defining capabilities among women in society (Scott, 1996). According to Brookfield (2011), feminism is defined as advocacy where women attempt to liberate themselves and fight against interlocking systems associated with racism, classism, and sexism in society.

Therefore, I define feminism as the recognition of women in society, to have equal rights and abilities as men. Gender socialization has been a profound source of gender stereotyping and has served as a platform for the development of feminist theories, creating more awareness concerning this issue (Merriam, et al., 2007). Brookfield (2011) states that gender differences have given rise to skepticism regarding gender characterization and the essentialism of assumptions about capabilities in society. Scott (1996) further supports this by stating that feminist advocacies have elevated women’s positions and their skills in society.

Adult education has given rise to various discoveries that enhance empowerment related to gender differences. The feminist theory views gender inequality by focusing on female empowerment (Brookfield, 2011). In the 18th century, feminists championed the operation of the mind to have no attachment to sex. During this period, women demanded citizenship inclusivity and political rights, which resulted in women in power, such as Joan of Arc (Scott, 1996). Precisely, feminist orientation addresses issues and roles of women in society, such as their rights which comprise their economic empowerment, sexual, education, and voting rights. The feminist theory has advocated for political and social development for several decades, supporting movements for gender equality in society, with a close focus on women.

The first historical feminist movement in the early 20th century integrated human rights, such as domestic violence, abortion rights, sexual harassment, and workplace rights (Scott, 1996). It has been a platform for the transition to women empowerment since the 20th century. From this aspect, adult learning has enabled women to take control of their lives and given rise to women in leadership positions, translating to women empowerment and recognition of their capabilities (Scott, 1996).

While some might agree that gender-based privileges exist, I believe that feminism often receives more attention in society. In today’s workplaces, men still have more opportunities, but the gap is getting smaller due to rising waves of feminism that fought for equality and protection. Feminist historians have presented several empowerment plans for women, seen predominantly across the USA and France (Scott, 1996). Today, organizations are more proactive in protecting women’s rights than four decades ago. The video “Trouble with Women,” revolving around the Aluminum Company of America, presents a masculine, discriminating ideology concerning feminism at work (Jaaash, 2009).

Despite the work records of the female workers at the Aluminum Company of America plant, their supervisor refuses to recognize their capabilities. He expresses negative views, particularly after receiving an official letter concerning a new female worker in his department (Jaaash, 2009). The supervisor has aired his concerns, stating that the women in his section are unprofessional and incapable of completing their tasks. According to him, they have a high tendency of being absent from work. Additionally, he implies that women are troublesome, citing that they use work tables as dressing places. The supervisor’s view is openly discriminatory as he expresses a preference for male workers. This film highlights the privileges that women receive in the workplace and implies they misuse these privileges, focusing more on personal activities rather than their professional roles.

Having observed the video “Overcoming Gender Biases in the Workplace,” it’s clear that the supervisor maintains a biased perspective regarding women in the workplace. This kind of gender bias constitutes unethical practice at work. It is crucial to address issues affecting employees’ competence and professionalism rather than simply blaming women. Related to the critical theories examined in this paper, the implications of race emerge as the most significant in the context of adult learning.

I consider race as the most complex theory because issues of racial segregation, notably in the USA, significantly impact adult education. For many decades, African Americans have been marginalized, with various political movements attempting to ascertain their place in society (Abrahams, 2016). Racism is consciously expressed by institutions, groups of people, and individuals within the community (Brookfield, 2011). In America, for example, racism has deterred economic development, with marginalized communities overrepresented in low-skilled jobs, leading to low incomes and inferior living standards (Witztum, 2012).

According to studies by Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) based on a U.S. Department of Education survey conducted in 2000 and 2001, out of a total of 144,447 adult educators, 22,186 were black, 21,337 were Hispanic, and other groups accounted for 10,393, while the rest were white. These statistics show that most adult educators, predominantly white, have limited interaction with marginalized groups, signifying a gap in the relationship between whites, Hispanics, and minor groups (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007). This gap, which continues to grow, is leading to increasing discrepancies faced by marginalized groups throughout the USA. I believe that the issues of race and racial segregation will remain concerning for many years in the USA, Britain, and France (Brookfield, 2011). Adult education’s focus on racial identity will persist, but its impact on addressing racial inclusivity may be limited due to the underrepresentation of other groups in adult education compared to the marginalized members in the USA.

Postmodernism is crucial as it suggests that the world is disjointed, with several theories specifying particular insights of a community. The postmodernism education in this aspect attempts to question arguments spoken and written without justifications and consideration of issues facing the society (Brookfield, 2011). As a result, postmodernism has no single idea regarding reality and truth. In this case, postmodern adult learning attempts to address phenomena across all individuals and settings of society (Schied, Mulenga & Baptiste, 2005). Moreover, postmodernism offers broad perspectives, often contrasting views. These contrasting ideologies are essential in the development of concrete opinions regarding issues existing in society today.

According to Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007), postmodernism is characterized by the global changing of activities due to social, political, and economic factors. Adult education has been instrumental in presenting the new world order of factors that have led to uncertainties in society. Adult education has spearheaded the reconstruction of sensitive issues facing the community, such as technological revolution, multi-skills development, and the cohesion of multicultural practices in the community. Postmodernism plays a critical role in adult education by promoting diversity and respect for multicultural practices (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007). The context of diversity and multicultural practices result from the interaction of people, a learning process that allows people from diverse locations to acquire cultural practices from one another.

Therefore, postmodernism has facilitated the inclusion of marginalized communities in society and promotes tolerance on issues facing society (Gozawa, 2009). Finally, postmodernism encourages individuals to take control of their lives and determine the development of knowledge in the community, irrespective of the various disciplines (Brookfield, 2011). Learning in this context helps individuals realize their social orientations and equip them to cope with societal challenges and crises (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007).

Learning theories strive to enhance understanding and theorizing of thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. The humanist orientation theory considers adult learning by determining the potentials of learners (Freud et al., 1953). I chose the humanistic orientation theory to reflect a vivid example of the learning process from the image below. The cartoon figure clearly shows the potential of the learners to be like the educator, in terms of innovation, critical thinking, and independence. The educator sets the cognitive experience and uses it to influence the behavior of learners.

Freud et al. (1953) suggested that the psychological aspects of a learner, with a subconscious mind, can easily manipulate their behavior. The educator tends to influence behavior determined by the learner’s subconscious, allowing them to control their destiny (Freud et al.,1953). In this context, the educator’s goodwill forms a foundation of inherent goodness that leads to a better world. In the discourse of learning, learners are free to act based on their experiences, revealing their unlimited potential for creativity, innovation, and independent decision-making (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007). The humanistic theory motivates learners to rely on their values and needs in relation to their learning process. The learning goals are the driving forces for learners and are typically dependent on their attitude towards issues.

I selected the humanistic theory because it symbolizes achievable outcomes derived from the accomplishments established by the educator. In the humanistic theory, educators utilize their potential to influence behavior and attitudes, thus inspiring learners to diligently follow their steps in finding meaning in life. Consequently, setting an example is a practical necessity that learners will harness in their learning journey.

Considering the cartoon image, the first challenge relative to adult learning has significantly been impacted by historical discourse on racial segregation. This is where the learning process often gravitates towards the superiority complex (Abrahams, 2016). For instance, in America, educators have less interaction with marginalized groups like African Americans or Asian Americans, compared to whites. The appropriate response in this context is to cultivate inclusivity and interaction among educators and learners, regardless of their racial identity.

The second challenge is that educators have instituted a specific form of cultural bias, narrowly focusing on western culture without considering minority groups in society (Gozawa, 2009). It is essential for educators to foster cultural inclusivity in learning experiences through interactive methods to encourage an open community. In most instances, educators tend to influence learners without giving them an opportunity to share their experiences.

The third challenge is the tough condition adult learners face in dealing with social, political, and economic obstacles in society. For example, social development often poses an uncomfortable moment during interactions where learners and educators cannot engage in mutual communication. As Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) pointed out, postmodernism programs play a critical role in understanding current affairs riddled with uncertainties.

Fourth, the humanistic orientation in the learning process complicates the evaluation of learners’ experiences. This can pose a challenge for educators as they attempt to discern the learners’ experiences (Freud et al., 1953). Strategies such as delivering inspirational speeches can either influence learners’ behavior and attitudes, or fail to inspire them. Additionally, humanistic learning behavior may not be the most suitable method for all learners, as the learning process could be challenging for some yet easy for others. In this case, educators must understand the capabilities of learners to facilitate effective learning processes. Moreover, educators need to assess the learning process continuously and select the most suitable methods to influence learners effectively.


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Newer Approaches in Social Issues. (2021, May 14). Retrieved from