Chapter 23 » 23.80

The individual and the community


Increasingly we see education as part of living rather than as preparation for living, and the motivation for educating ourselves and others grows more intrinsic than extrinsic. At Woodbrooke, which in some respects I still think is a prototype for much modern adult education, we have tried to build a small community to which people come in response to their own need for reflection or new skills or time to read; where proper attention is paid also to the needs of the neighbourhood; where staff and students and domestic workers and gardeners address each other without titles; where teachers and learners often exchange roles; where qualifications for entry are the ability to follow some courses, the wish to study, and the will to make community work; where the tasks are largely self-chosen; where conversation is expected between all age-groups between 18 and 80; where differences of nationality are seen as enrichment rather than as barriers (for one of the tasks of education is the enjoyment of diversity); where the rewards are existential, being visible chiefly in renewed courage or energy or the ability to re-launch oneself or to perform more adequately some of those unpaid services that make up the fabric of society. Of course we do not succeed all the time. But failure is also what we have to educate ourselves for – the humiliating, stimulating experiences of failures that we and our students must learn to use as stepping-stones rather than to deplore as obstacles.

William Fraser, 1973

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