Over the course of this project I intend to answer the question, is Community Education a myth? To do this I will use my own experience of Community Education in a range of settings along with some in depth research to critically examine the question. I will start by defining the key terms in the question such a ‘myth’, ‘community’ and ‘education’ to ensure my purpose is clear. Following this, I will look at the origins of Community Education as a professional practice. From this point I will consider four questions involving whether or not Community Education was invented by community educators, how key terms like reflection and dialogue contribute to understanding Community Education. Alongside this, whether Community Education was constructed as a myth and the impact that it has on people who didn’t necessarily ask for it. Finally I will draw some conclusions from my analysis along with looking at the implications of the process for my future practice.
For the purposes of this project and to ensure that I have a firm understand of the title, I plan to use the following definition from the Oxford Dictionary for the term myth "a widely held but false belief or idea," (2011) in other words something that seems like it could be true but ultimately is not true. Ironically it could be argued that another commonly used meaning for the word... "a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people," (Oxford Dictionary 2011) has a basis in Community Education. The notion of people and communities from early history learning from one another through stories and legends could be seen as a type of Community Education. “Socrates, for example, wandered around Athens, stopping here or there to hold discussions with the people about all sorts of things pertaining to the conduct of man's life.” (Guisepi 2006) I would argue that Socrates using conversation to learn and grow is an example of informal education. Whether or not Community Education existed before it was given a name is something I will discuss further as my assignment progresses.
For now I want to examine the terms community and education and, by looking at their historical meanings, to better understand what Community Education is. To my mind the term community usually refers to a geographical area, and more specifically, the people who live in that area. However, since embarking on this course, I have begun to understand that communities can exist in far more diverse ways: from online to ethnic communities through to a global community. A short but interesting definition is “a shared understanding.” (Atkinson 2011) To me a shared understanding can unite people with similar viewpoints or opinions. This is key in identifying what constitutes a community. People from a geographical community can be united by their shared understand of the locality. Likewise my workplace, Henley College can be seen as a community because of the uniting purpose for attending a college.
“Community is a way of relating to other persons as brothers and sisters who share a common origin, a common dignity, and a common destiny. Community involves learning to live in terms of an interconnected "we" more than an isolated "I'. It involves making choices which reinforce the experience of relatedness and foster the sense of belonging and interdependence.” (Betz 1992) This definition relates to my understanding of a ‘community’ that can be associated with education because it focuses on the connection between the participants. The interconnectedness of the participants could be seen as a prominent factor in separating ‘Community Education’ from any other forms of education.
Bishop Mandell Creighton once stated that "The one real object of education is to leave a man in the condition of continually asking questions." (1902). This is something I can relate to because I learn the most when I am intrigued or puzzled by something. So...