Andragogy and Cultural Competency

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In an increasingly diverse learning environment, cultural competence may be considered to be an essential tool of the lifelong learner. The ability to navigate a varying landscapes of perspectives and approaches to knowledge, problem solving and relationships is vital for the success of students and graduates alike. Perhaps one function of education could be to equip students to build bridges instead of walls at the points of difference.

That said, I think it is impossible to teach from a value-neutral perspective. Education takes place in the context of a vast web of interconnected ideas, lifestyles, beliefs, etc… Parker Palmer in “The Courage to Teach” makes a strong case against disconnecting the individual from the learning experience in pursuit of a pure objective truth. Basically, don’t try to be value-neutral. Recognize the differences and learn to value them as they provide valuable insight into the subject being studied.

Andragogy in its current form probably deserves a criticism of its generalizations that do not account for cultural variations.  But does this make its ideas irrelevant?

I would suggest that the proponents of andragogy as well as the critical/feminist/africentric educators all have a similar agenda: to create an educational experience that more effectively serves the needs of its diverse learners. The issue is that andragogy in its current form does not solve this problem for anyone besides me: a western male with white skin. Thus, its uncritical adoption creates an unfair advantage and promote the continuation of injustice simply by maintaining the status quo. But how many different angles do we have to consider in order to create an alternative to andragogy that effectively confronts the status quo? So far we have explored Eurocentric, and Africentric ideas. What would the American Indian perspective be? What about the Alaskan natives? What about Arabic, Hindu, or Chinese cultures? All of these have a significant cultural presence, but have we considered their implications for education yet? I wonder if we ever will…

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